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El Bulli 2006 reports


mukki
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So here it is... my long over due post on El Bulli! As it happens, much of what we had was similar to Mukki's, but I’ll post the lot, so that you can get an idea of the flow of the meal. It’s interesting to see that Tamszen’s menu on her report here was quite different.

After a tour of the kitchen – three stations, the bulls head stared out from the middle one, Ferran Adria gave a quick wave and got back to tasting, 30 chefs worked away calmly (45 for the last 3 months of the season), and we shamelessly posed for our picture - we moved into the dining room.

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I was amazed at how rustic it is; I had expected a self-conscious, minimalist, techno space. I loved the dichotomy, and it really relaxed me… because, to be honest, I was a bit nervous. Everything about El Bulli… the difficulty in getting a reservation, reading about the food, the hype, the wait, the journey… potentially sets El Bulli, and the diner up for a fall. I’m no culinary coward, I like surprise multi-course meals and have had the Kaseiki menu in Kyoto, and I’ll try just about anything once… but bizarrely, before I went to El Bulli, I actually had a nightmare about getting there and not being able to eat a single thing! If there’s a culinary equivalent of diners’ stage fright… well, that’s what I had. But as I sat down in a very comfortable chair at a large, round, linen-clad table by the window in the far room, I felt a lot more relaxed. And Luis Garcia, the Maitre d' was just lovely; he really made us feel at home.

Even though the email we received confirming our booking had asked us to list anything that we didn’t eat (we said we ate everything), any allergies etc; Luis did a second check on our likes and dislikes, mentioning - among some other things - that we’d be having chickens’ feet… did we mind? I was happy to give it a shot, and Steve had no problem, having already crossed that boundary in China.

And then the show began!

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Fesinha Our welcome cocktail was first presented to us in a vacuum pack, with a flavour exchange going on; the strawberry apparently taking on the flavour of the mandarin.

It was then presented as a light frothy cocktail with gin, and we were told to eat the strawberry first (in one bite) and follow with the drink. So, nice and refreshing, but a fairly low key start.

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The table for eight in the middle of the room got the frozen cocktail specials, and if you look closely, you will see a table with two young children in the background.

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The snacks followed.

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Acetunas verdes sfericas-1, the legendary olive spheres. Even though I had read plenty about them, and how they are made with sodium alginate, I still felt surprised as they burst into wonderful little explosions of flavour in my mouth.

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Marshmallow de pifones, unbelievably light with pine nuts on top. You could hear them collapse, like the sound of suds in your mouth (at the back).

Pan de gambas, a cracker dusted with prawn powder. This was like a Chinese prawn cracker, with the flavouring served separately (centre left).

”Croquante” de cacahuete, a peanut curry cream (firm, nearly turron blando consistency) with a tiny dot on it that tasted like kimchi. I loved that touch (centre right).

Mantecado de cacahuete, an ethereal wisp that just dissolved in our mouths. I think the fruit it was made from was a custard apple (front)

Wagles de oliva negra y cerazas, a light olive waffle with sour cream filling. This was simple, the wafer was really light and it tasted really, really good. We seem to have missed a picture of this.

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Uevo de oro and essence de mandarina, a golden egg on a spoon: a delicate casing of some type of caramel filled with essence from madrarin flowers. We were instructed to hold it in your mouth. It dissolved and it really felt like a flower bursting into bloom (I’m sorry if this sounds pretentious, it was quite magnificent). We then followed with the spoon of mandarin essence which was deliciously refreshing. Forget Prozac, this has to be the happiest fix going. I couldn’t stop smiling. If I had this first thing each morning, I would be a new person!

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Tempura de aguacate, was avocado with a swipe of wasabi underneath, wrapped up in a featherlight tempura batter with young coriander shoots on top. This was so simple, yet clever; with the Japanese and Mexican influences working wonderfully together. As Tamzen mentioned, this is certainly one that you could try out at home.

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Caviar sferico de melon, the famous melon caviar. It’s a really lovely, fresh palate cleanser, and had some passion fruit in it to add an edge. Really charming, and the caviar tin is such fun. Another dish to make you smile.

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Brioche al vapour de mozzarella al perfume de rosas, this was more like a dumpling, with melting, salty mozzarella inside. The texture of the dough seemed like it had been poached, or maybe it had been cooked sous vide, but it definitely was quite different from a typical baked brioche. I thought it was a bit heavy for a snack, but the rose air was heavenly. It was so fragile and ethereal, it was barely a structure; and the flavour was evocatively old fashioned and delicate.

And so, on to the “main courses”.

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Migas de almendra, tomate raff, sauco y gele de almendruco, an elderberry foam with tomatoes and an intense almond powder (made presumably from a Pacojet). We were told to alternate between eating the tomatoes with the foam and the almond powder. The almond powder was very intense, and slightly warm. This fascinated me, because I thought that it actually warmed up in my mouth. But it was a bit too strong for my palate; it was my least favourite of the dishes. I just didn’t feel that the almond powder had a particularly strong affinity with the tomatoes.

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Esparragos en escabeche, two spears of crisp, white asparagus; in a cabbage foam, with tiny amber, salty dots of dried fish clinging to the top (like dissolving dried bonito flakes), and a few tiny basil leaves kicking in. There was a lovely balance about the intensity of the fish and how subtly it was used.

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Guisantes de jamon con ravioli cremosa a la menta fresc, split peas in a mint broth with a liquid ravioli and a eucalyptus foam.

Next up was a wave of seafood dishes.

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Mejillones sferifacados con sopa de patata al bacon y or, The dish was presented first with the mussels (encased in a clear jelly, which bizarrely looked a bit like eyeballs) and small quenelles of sour cream, with a few tiny cubes of apple, and then the consommé of potatoes and bacon was poured over at the table. The idea was that there are two sauces. One is the jelly around the mussels, made from the sea water in which they were grown and cooked, and the second was the consommé. A very resolved dish, an inspired burst of land and sea. It struck me, that with the combination of mussels, bacon and potatoes, this would work very well in an Irish restaurant.

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Ventresca de salmon con encuridos, a few pieces of lightly cooked salmon (probably sous vide), with pickled vegetables, foraged leaves, and flowers from the local hills. Simple and accessible.

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Escalopa de ostras con foie-gras de pato, fine slivers of the meaty part of an oyster (almost like abalone) in a frothy foie gras sauce, the richness cut nicely with passion fruit.

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Percericos en dos estados, crudos y cocinados fine slivers of raw mushrooms in a mushroom consommé, with tiny spheres of egg yolk, two black walnuts and a sweet, citrusy pine cream. This dish acted as a nice pause between the seafood and the more powerful savoury courses to follow.

Our sommelier suggested that we move onto a glass of red wine, and then, the crescendo kicked in.

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Wonton campestre. A Japanese style cast iron pan was brought to the table, filled with a deep brown, “French onion soup”, with puffed up wanton balloons floating on top. This had great drama. We were presented with a bowl of parmesan foam and two spoons. We were told to use the perforated spoon to lift out the wanton onto the foam, and follow with the soup when we were finished.

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The wantons were deliciously delicate, half filled with the lightest of herb mousses. We both thought that this dish was outstanding in every way. The soup was unbelievably good, but was taken away before we could gorge on it and ruin our pace completely.

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Colmerillas a la crème, morels in a cream with a square of citrusy, sweet jelly.

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Petano “Marchand du Vins” con pan. Another outstanding dish. Two rounds of delicate bone marrow were topped with a fragile sphere of Marchand du Vin; each round to be taken in a single (very large) bite, which was soft, savoury, and deliciously flooded with the bursting sphere of sauce. Between the two spoons of marrow was a toasted round of bread with sour cream on top, obviously to be taken between the two bites, cleansing the palate for a second savoury hit.

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Patas de pollo. chcken feet served in a foam. This was a fun dish, served with a knowing smile, and the little feet added a nice crunchy finish to the savoury courses. They tasted just like pork crackling, and all the hard work had been done, so we didn’t have to negotiate the bones or toenails, which is customary in China. That was a relief!

And next up was the pre-dessert, so we knew we were on the home run.

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ta Canarejal con merengue de miel was a soft round of sheep’s milk cheese. The top was cut off at the table, and we dipped our delicate, honey meringues into the deep creaminess of the round. This was unbelievably good cheese, but it was taken away before we could finish it and leave no space for what was to follow. A wise move.

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Liquid de melocton, a frozen bon bon, which was intensely cold. We were told to put it in out mouth quickly, and hold it. It dissolved and drenched our tongues with peach liqueur; which we washed down with a spoon of peach essence, so fresh, we could almost feel it dribbling down our chins.

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Colibri, was a complete show-stopper of a dessert. A beautifully crafted hummingbird was draped across each plate, its long, pointy beak formed from caramel, extended from a bubble of a head which was filled with sweet, liquid sesame. We were instructed to crack the head with our spoon and spill its contents over the fruit sorbets, ice creams and tiny cubes of clear jelly that formed its body and wings. The sorbet and ice cream was deliciously smooth, and didn’t seem to be as “fluffy” or loosely packed as you sometimes get from a Pacojet. One of the ices had a particularly interesting texture, as if it was made from curd. It seemed to have flecks in it, a bit of a bite, and it was wonderful. The jelly cubes were similar in style to Can Roca’s (I don’t know who did them first), and the flavours were exotic and floral, with lychee and jasmine notes. And dotted around the plate were pockets of crunchy, dried sesame, in two textures and a tiny drift of yellow powder, tasting of mandarin flowers. At first, I thought this dessert had an Arabic influence with the sesame brittle, but with the ices and jellies, it tasted quite Chinese and oriental. It was sensational!

At this point, we bumped into eGullet Society Member Simon_S and his girlfriend Hazel whom we’d never met before. They were great fun, so we joined them for coffee and some intensely flavoured meringues (the morphings), which rounded off the evening very nicely. Steve also bumped into an American couple we had met briefly in Rafa’s the night before (the had turned around to tell us that Rafa’s chocolate cake is extremely good, and also mentioned that they had a particularly good cheese there the previous night). There was a great buzz in the place at the end of the evening. It seemed like everyone was having a great time..

The thing that surprised me most about the whole experience was how unpretentious El Bulli is, and it’s actually very difficult to get this point across. Because the headline grabber on El Bulli will always be the “science bit”. But It’s not all about techniques, mad science or a culinary conspiracy on the other side of the fence. Despite how it may sound, the food is incredibly accessible and absolutely delicious. The staff are warm and friendly, and the whole experience is quite simply, a load of fun.

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Spectacular report, Corinna! I believe you nailed the various aspects of El Bulli that make it so wonderful. It is amazing that they can approach food the way they do and be so great and so comfortable and unpretentious at the same time. Your menu looked sensational.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Spectacular report, Corinna! I believe you nailed the various aspects of El Bulli that make it so wonderful. It is amazing that they can approach food the way they do and be so great and so comfortable and unpretentious at the same time. Your menu looked sensational.

I wonder if all of you realize how lucky you are to have eaten such thoughtfull food! I was recently invited to the congress in NYC where Albert is doing a demo and I can not wait to grace these guys presence! Im pumped to say the least, but I want to thank all of you who have shared your dining with us! I dig! I must say one thing - watch out Spain, here comes Texas!!!! At the same time, thanks! I am in total ahhhhh!!!!! The Spanish have it all figured out, I wish I had time to get away, but reality is sitting in and I have to make bread for brunch! Doc, your the man - and I hope to see you in Texas!!! laidbackmanor.net

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Spectacular report, Corinna! I believe you nailed the various aspects of El Bulli that make it so wonderful. It is amazing that they can approach food the way they do and be so great and so comfortable and unpretentious at the same time. Your menu looked sensational.

I'm with 'doc!

Amazing!

2317/5000

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Corinna,

I'm just back from hols, slowly catching up on everything, but I have to say I loved this report. I'm so pleased that I finally get to see all your photos. It's incredible to me that, despite the fact we dined at El Bulli on the same night, we had very different menus. Of course there was some overlap, but not nearly as much as I would have imagined.

Your last paragraph perfectly captures my feeling on the experience -- the "fun" is the memory that lingers most for me. In recent weeks though, now that the initial glow of the meal has faded, I've been asking myself what I *really* thought of the food at El Bulli. My reaction to these photos has answered that question. In truth, I'd forgotten just how good it was, and now I'm salivating all over again.

Here's to meeting at El Bulli in 2007, eh? Fingers crossed!

Si

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Thanks for the awsome reports Corrina and Mukki. The food looks great and seems that both had a wonderful experience. It's intersting that he decided to keep the olive sferico dish from last year. I sure never forgot it.

Regarding the fish dishes, they most certainly CAN cook fish and the price is still a bargain. I do agree that their fish dishes esp. mussles and oysters are more briny and ocean-like than any I've had before. They are not fishy in a bad way, just very intense. My wife could not finish her mussle with algea salad last year and did not like her oyster for the same reason Mukki listed. I, on the other hand thought, they tasted like the essence of seafood. Very briny, very rich and delicious. Needless to say I was happy to finish her mussles (an later her lamb brains with sea urchin :smile:).

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I had to add one more thing after re-reading and goggling the pictures some more. If I had to point out one weekness in our menu last year it would've been the cheese/dessert bit. It felt too short to me and too few on dishes. This year it seems these final courses are one of the strongest, look at that awsome hummingbird. WOW!

I do agree, at El Bulli we felt so relaxed an laid back as well. I would say unpretentious and friendly are two very good adjectives to describe it.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  • 2 weeks later...

As mentioned by an earlier poster, the reservation confirmation e-mail asked them to list any foods they could not eat or were allergic to.

I'm just curious if anyone has ever heard of a vegetarian eating at El Bulli? I can see from this post that they have several vegetarian dishes, but could they expand that number to a full menu?

I ask because my wife is a vegetarian (no fish either) and I hate to think I may never be able to experience el Bulli because of this. As I would probably not go alone. Thanks.

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I'm just curious if anyone has ever heard of a vegetarian eating at El Bulli?  I can see from this post that they have several vegetarian dishes, but could they expand that number to a full menu?

I ask because my wife is a vegetarian (no fish either) and I hate to think I may never be able to experience el Bulli because of this.  As I would probably not go alone.  Thanks.

I remember Ferrán Adrià telling a story about a couple that asked for a vegetarian menu and they left the restaurant kissing every single cook in the kitchen thanking them for the wonderful dinner that they had.

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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In recent weeks though, now that the initial glow of the meal has faded, I've been asking myself what I *really* thought of the food at El Bulli. My reaction to these photos has answered that question. In truth, I'd forgotten just how good it was, and now I'm salivating all over again.

Here's to meeting at El Bulli in 2007, eh? Fingers crossed!

Simon, this is an interesting point. As I had been writing a number of pieces on El Bulli, I had become completely immersed in the subject (and the closer you get to it, the more fascinating it becomes; the obsession is infectious), so I didn’t really get a chance to step back from it until I went on holidays to Maine.

Strangely, it all seems like a bit of a dream now, somehow surreal. I suppose the polar opposite experience of lobster served on a cardboard tray from a lobster shack on the edge of the ocean (no reservations required!), provides a stark contrast. And maybe this is the point. El Bulli is a once in a lifetime experience, definitely on the “top 10 things to do before you die” list. But for my last meal on earth? Well, that would have to be the shore dinner of steamed clams, an ear of corn and two soft-shelled lobsters.

I agree with some of the comments upthread about the fish at El Bulli being quite intense, in particular the mussels dish. This, I think, was partly because of the two sauce approach, with the mussels wrapped in the seawater in which they were cooked. I also think (totally unscientifically) that the female palate is possibly more sensitive than the male’s. I don’t think it’s a case of El Bulli not being able to cook fish. In many ways, it sums up the very essence of El Bulli… they cook things differently, and these dishes are not designed to be eaten everyday of the week. But they are incredibly thought provoking, and the stimulus of food ideas that flow through your mind for weeks afterwards is incredible. I think the residual benefit from dining at El Bulli, even once, will last a lifetime, and that’s what makes it so special.

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This is our menu from last night, copied from the ticket. (I really hope to write a more comprehensive post soon.)

1. <i>Gin-tonic de pepino.</i>

2. <i>Aceiunas verdes sféricas.</i>

3. <i>Hojas de mango y flor de tagete.</i>

4. <i>"Animals."</i>

5. <i>Waffles de lechuga de mar y sésamo blanco.</i>

6. <i>Yo garrapiñado: plátano con sésamo a la nuez moscad.</i>

7. <i>Polvorones de nuez.</i>

8. <i>Esencia de mandarina.</i>

9. <i>Caviar sférico de melón.</i>

10. <i>Brioche thai.</i>

11. <i>Croqueta liquida 2006.</i>

12. <i>Won-ton campestre.</i>

13. <i>Pan queso.</i>

14. <i>Pasas de PX y moscatel con foie gras de pato y broche.</i>

15. <i>Mejillones dferificados con avellana.</i>

16. <i>Crema de ave y trufa con trutos secos "tous" y perlas de....</i>

17. <i>Banda de pomelo rosa.</i>

18. <i>Raviolis de aceite.</i>

19. <i>Laurencia con mangostán.</i>

20. <i>Ackees/sopa de ternera a la albahaca, albondiga de pe....</i>

21. <i>El mar.</i>

22. <i>Buey de mar marrakech.</i>

23. <i>Pechuga de codorniz teriyaki con mentaiko.</i>

24. <i>La oveja, el queso y su lana.</i>

25. <i>Liquie de melocotón.</i>

26. <i>Cáscara de huevo.</i>

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Had dinner there last week. The dish we had that has not yet been reported is a dish of plain snails with snail eggs (huevos de caracol con caracoles y rebozuelos con su kalix). The snails come from Roses and lay naked on the side of the plate with absolutely no sauce. Someone had laboriously collected the eggs. I'm not sure how broad the market for snail eggs are. It was a curiosity.

I did not notice many new techniques this year, but we found execution and flavor better balanced than last year, which was dismal. The quality of primary ingredients is declining rapidly. Mussels this year were salty yet insipid, a difficult combination to achieve. My best meal there was in 2000. I still remember wonderful squid/coconut ravioli and percebes wrapped in jabugo fat.

The key thing El Bulli is doing this year seems to be searching out ways to eat parts (chicken tendons, snail eggs) that were formerly thrown out or not eaten. They seem to have backed off of the pyrotechnics and are honing the dishes that develop the techniques from 2003-05.

Evolution is a big part of the identity of the restaurant. The beginning of the season starts with repeats of the last year's menu, and adaptations and mutations appear through August. In September, they start recording their dishes for the now annual chronicle.

Last year, I was determined never to set foot there again, but they have me hooked with the old tease of wanting to see what they come up with next. We weren't sorry we went back this year and had a great time. Whatever you say about El Bulli, it's always interesting and always changing. It's also a lot of fun.

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Mussels this year were salty yet insipid, a difficult combination to achieve. 

What way were your mussels served? Were they in the salt water jelly and served in bacon and potato broth? Despite the fact that I found this dish a bit intense, I though it was very clever and it fascinated me.

Initially, your report sounds quite negative, but you end on a high note. Were there any dishes you found particularly good?

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Summary: Good but not great. Interesting but not amazing.

To calibrate, I am well versed in this sort of meal. Food-science cooking is a favorite of mine. I've eaten at Trio/<a href="www.alinea-restaurant.com">Alinea,</a> <a href="http://restaurants.washingtoncitypaper.com/restaurant.php?rID=2253">Jose's Minibar,</a> <a href="http://www.motorestaurant.com">Moto,</a> <a href="http://www.fatduck.co.uk/">The Fat Duck,</a> and <a href="http://www.wd-50.com">WD-50,</a> most of them multiple times. I think of these dinners less as meals and more as rides, and I like the rides. I make foam at home, and dream of owning an <a href="http://www.kitchencontraptions.com/archives/004893.php">anti-griddle</a>. If anyone should enjoy an <a href="http://www.elbulli.com/">El Bulli</a> meal, it would be me.

It wasn't a bad meal, but it wasn't a great meal. And if definitely wasn't a plan-a-European-vacation-around-the-reservation-you-luckily-snagged meal.

Anyway,here are the details. (The names are from the ticket the server used to keep track of our meal.) I didn't take pictures, and didn't take detailed notes. Other people in <a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=88797">this</a> eGullet thread have done that. I'll give you some quick impressions and be done.

1. <i>Gin-tonic de pepino.</i> A gin and tonic frozen tableside with liquid nitrogen, served with cucumber, lemon peel, and a cucumer blossom. Good.

2. <i>Aceiunas verdes sféricas.</i> Not an olive, but olive essence in a gelatinous sphere. Gelatinous spheres are the hot new thing at El Bulli, it seems. We got quite a few of them, in various forms.

3. <i>Hojas de mango y flor de tagete.</i> A sugar mango leaf. Mango was a flavor we saw a lot of during the meal.

4. <i>"Animals."</i> Rice/seaweed crunchies in the shape of sea animals. The sea was another theme of our dinner.

5. <i>Waffles de lechuga de mar y sésamo blanco.</i> Seaweed crackers.

6. <i>Yo garrapiñado: plátano con sésamo a la nuez moscad.</i> Pieces of freeze-dried banana, near as I could tell.

7. <i>Polvorones de nuez.</i> Two walnut disks. One with walnut oil, the other with walnut oil and pieces of walnut. Dry and gooey at the same time, oddly enough.

8. <i>Esencia de mandarina.</i> A little spoon of tangerine essence.

9. <i>Caviar sférico de melón.</i> Melon "caviar" with passion fruit. These were small gelatinous balls of melon that looked for all the world like caviar, served in a caviar tin. The passion fruit made a nice contrast in both taste and texture.

10. <i>Brioche thai.</i> A brioche-thingy with peanut sauce and lemongrass flavorings. Tasty. (Thai -- another recurring theme.)

11. <i>Croqueta liquida 2006.</i> Mushroom essence in a gelatinous ball with bread crumbs.

12. <i>Won-ton campestre.</i> The most complicated preparation. First, we each got a bowl of basil foam. Then, a burner was placed on the table. And finally, a soup pot with a Parmesan won ton floating in it. We scoop the won ton out of the soup, drop it in our foam, and then eat it. It tasted like the best Italian cooking you've ever eaten -- one of the best dishes of the night -- but wouldn't it be easier with less work?

13. <i>Pan queso.</i> The weirdest dish. We were each given a Styrofoam box. Inside was Parmesan air. A lot of it. We also got a small packet of dried fruit pieces. We were supposed to sprinkle the fruit on the air and then eat it. Honestly, this dish didn't work very well. And the wrapper that held the box closed was a "souvenir" picture of, well, sea foam. Get it?

14. <i>Pasas de PX y moscatel con foie gras de pato y broche.</i> A great dish. Two pieces of foie gras and eucalyptus foam with dots of different flavors: wine, cardamom, almond milk, more.

15. <i>Mejillones sferificados con avellana.</i> Mussels with hazelnut foam, and bits of citrus around the plate. Interesting to taste the mussels with the different citrus pieces.

16. <i>Crema de ave y trufa con trutos secos "tous" y perlas de....</i> Truffle soup with a bunch of accompaniments. I don't remember much about this dish. It was just okay.

17. <i>Banda de pomelo rosa.</i> Interesting dish. Grapefruit gel, powdered shrimp, something called "Thai powder," and something else, arranged like a layer cake. A dot of tomato essence we were told to eat at the end. Tasty.

18. <i>Raviolis de aceite.</i> Fascinating dish. Three raviolis filled with oil, tomatoes covered with balsamic vinegar infusion, tomato water with pralines. Delicious.

19. <i>Laurencia con mangostán.</i> Another great dish. Pieces of mangosteen with seaweed, almond, almong mike foam, and almond cream.

20. <i>Ackees/sopa de ternera a la albahaca, albondiga de pe....</i> Ham soup with akees (it's a fruit from Jamaica), a vinegared zuccini of some sort, and milk skin. Also tasty.

21. <i>El mar.</i> Fourteen different types of seaweed arranged in a spiral pattern on the plate, ending with a piece of watermelon and seaweed foam. I really liked tasting the different types of seaweed: some were better than others, but all were interesting.

22. <i>Buey de mar marrakech.</i> Spider-crab Marrakesh-style. With couscous.

23. <i>Pechuga de codorniz teriyaki con mentaiko.</i> A piece of boneless quail with black sesame "couscous," a gelatinous ball of sauce we were to cut open, and some other stuff. Delicious.

24. <i>La oveja, el queso y su lana.</i> Sheep cheese with cotton candy -- why didn't I ever think of that? And cherry jelée.

25. <i>Liquie de melocotón.</i> A frozen ball with peach liquer, and then a spoon of peach essence.

26. <i>Cáscara de huevo.</i> I like desserts that look like one thing but are really another. This was an "egg," with a mango yolk and coconut foam as the white. It was served in a shell that looked like tableware but was really a frozen shell of coconut. Spiced bread crumbs, too.

We also got a frozen "waffle" made with mango and pepper.

And then a bit of a Galician lemon cake.

And finally, two chocolate leaves. These were served in a potted coriander plant. The plant was real, but the dirt was made from chocolate crumbles.

And we were done.

We sat down at about 8:45, and had a good view of another table -- eight people -- that sat down at 10:00. They didn't get exactly the same menu we did. They got things that we didn't, and we got things that they didn't. (I peeked at their card, and they also got 26 dishes.) So not only does the menu change over the season, it changes over different tables on the same night.

This wasn't a bad meal by any stretch of the imagination. I enjoyed myself very much. Some of the dishes were outstanding, and I liked the way the same themes popped up again and again in different dishes. And it was a fun meal; the restaurant is far more informal than I expected and everyone seems to be having fun. I wish there wasn't such a language barrier -- sometimes the English explanations were very hard to understand.

But it wasn't a great meal. It was the only food-science meal I have ever had where I said near the end: "The problem with this meal is that there isn't enough actual food." And there wasn't. We didn't get a pizza when we returned to Roses and our hotel, but we thought about it.

I'm glad I went to El Bulli, and I would definitely return. But if were going to plan a vacation around a dinner reservation, I would choose The Fat Duck or Alinea or Jose's Minibar first.

Bruce

Edited by Schneier (log)
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Thanks for your report, Schneier. I see your point about the overuse of spherification, aggravated by the fact that given your newcomer status you've been served dishes from previous years --melon caviar, olives-- which use that technique.

I'm intrigued to find out what my meal will look like in a few days...

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Thanks for your report, Schneier. I see your point about the overuse of spherification, aggravated by the fact that given your newcomer status you've been served dishes from previous years --melon caviar, olives-- which use that technique.

Interesting. I had no idea I would get previous-year's dishes because I hadn't been there before. Look at Tamzen's report, above. It was her first time there, too. Did she get older dishes, too?

(And everyone we saw in the room we were in got the melon caviar.)

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Thanks for the detailed report Schneier. It is interesting to see how different your menu was from ours (it was our first time too), and how some of the dishes have evolved, in particular the foam, soup and wanton dish. We too thought that this was outstanding.

I wasn’t surprised to get some of the dishes from previous years (in fact, I thought that this was customary for a first visit), and I would have been very disappointed if the gelatinous sphere dishes (olives and melon caviar), had not been included in our menu. From where we were sitting, it looked like everyone in the room got the melon caviar too. It will be interesting to see if it is included in Pedro's menu.

One of the other spheres we got was a Marchand du Vin globule, served with bone marrow, and I thought it was wonderful. I really love the sensation of juices, essences and sauces bursting out of a capsule in my mouth. It's part of the fun and excitement of the "ride". If our menu was heavy on one technique, it would certainly be foam, which came with the majority of the savoury courses after the snacks.

We too were sitting near a table for 8 and I though it was fascinating to see how unobtrusively and competently the table was served. Quite a challenge.

You mention that you don’t rate El Bulli as highly as some of the other “experimental” restaurants you’ve visited. I’d be interested to hear a bit more, if you have a chance.

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Yes, Tamzen was served dishes from previous years. At least the melon caviar and olives.

Not that this occurs only in your first visit, but also if you've missed several seasons between visits. I was served the caviar in 2004 when it's actually a 2003 dish --I think-- since my previous visit took place in 1999. When I returned in 2005 with some newcomers we weren't served dishes from previous years.

A question to speculate on it's whether the apparent larger ratio of reservations granted to newcomers versus 'veterans' this year is linked with the also apparent fewer number of new techniques developed so far this season.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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I'm glad I went to El Bulli, and I would definitely return. But if were going to plan a vacation around a dinner reservation, I would choose The Fat Duck or Alinea or Jose's Minibar first.

Bruce

As much as I truly love the restaurants that you have mentioned (although I have yet to dine at The Fat Duck), if I had to choose, for a variety of reasons my personal choice would still be EB. Diversity of opinion is one of those things that makes life interesting. :smile:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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On the “Le Fooding” website (part of the avant-guard movement in French cuisine) today was an article by Julia Sammat on being turned away at El Bulli but finding an adequate substitute in Roses called CAL CAMPANER restaurant, C/ Mossèn Carles Feliu, 23 / 17480 Tel : 972 25 69 54, closed Sunday night and Monday lunch running one about 70 €.

Parenthetically I might add that I have been most impressed by places where some El Bulli graduates have set up restos nearby.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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How are the spheres for the olives and mussels made? Are they just puffed up gelatin?

Funny you mention the spheres! There's this political humor show on Catalan TV these days, where the only non-politician character they regularly spoof is Ferran Adria. He is shown in a high tech kitchen, the highlight of which is so-called "sferificating oven" (forn esferificador or, as Adria pronounces, ejferificador). His sketches normally include throwing some kind of foodstuff into the air, from which it comes back in a completely different, absurd form. Once they spoofed Carme Ruscalleda, too, and it was so good I remember crying tears of laughter. And on another day they had the real Ferran Adria over and interviewed him. He seemed to take it with a grain of salt. If by chance you are over here and can get to see it (the show is called Polonia), by all means wait until he appears, even if you don't speak Catalan. It's that good!

(Excuse the aside, I didn't think it was worth opening a new thread for this... but I thought you would find it funny)

Middlebrow Catalan gastronomy??????

http://baixagastronomia.blogspot.com/

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How are the spheres for the olives and mussels made? Are they just puffed up gelatin?

Funny you mention the spheres! There's this political humor show on Catalan TV these days, where the only non-politician character they regularly spoof is Ferran Adria. He is shown in a high tech kitchen, the highlight of which is so-called "sferificating oven" (forn esferificador or, as Adria pronounces, ejferificador). His sketches normally include throwing some kind of foodstuff into the air, from which it comes back in a completely different, absurd form. Once they spoofed Carme Ruscalleda, too, and it was so good I remember crying tears of laughter. And on another day they had the real Ferran Adria over and interviewed him. He seemed to take it with a grain of salt. If by chance you are over here and can get to see it (the show is called Polonia), by all means wait until he appears, even if you don't speak Catalan. It's that good!

(Excuse the aside, I didn't think it was worth opening a new thread for this... but I thought you would find it funny)

Thanks for the aside. I wish I could see it in the US. It is nearing time to start thinking about another visit over there and to see what I can do about EB2007.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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My 2006 reservation is fast approaching, and I'd like some travel advice, having never been to Spain (and only once to continental Europe (sad but true)).

Is the best way to get to Roses from Barcelona by car?

Are cabs easy to get from town to El Bulli?

Hotel Recommendations (preferably ones that can be booked on-line)? I lean towards inexpensive rather than 4-star.

Other Barcelona/Roses restaurants that I should try to make reservations at? (the molecular gastronomy resources site mentions Alkimia (Barcelona, Chef Jordi Vilà)

and Espai Sucre (Barcelona, Chef Jordi Butrón))

Should I bring a Catalan/English phrasebook, Spanish/English, or both?

I'm feeling rather provincial right about now ...

TIA

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