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El Bulli 2006 reports


mukki
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Got back from Roses/Cerdanya/Girona/Barcelona last night. el Bulli was fantastic as an experience, even if not all the dishes were spectacular. The staff were phenomenal, especially Luis. SnackMar and Rafa's were both closed when we were in Roses (drat!). Dish for dish I think El Celler del Con Roca was better, but there were about 1/2 the number of courses and the space isn't as nice. My companion and I were both dissapointed with Abac: it was more of a traditional high-end meal, without the technique or intellectual component of el Bulli and Con Roca. I'll post more info when I gather my thoughts.

Thanks for the help of everyone on this board who helped me organize our trip!

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I look forward to more details when you've got a chance Rob.

Doc, thanks for the link. On a BBC programme some time back, Adria went to, or mentioned a restaurant in Barcelona that sounds like the one in this article.

I joined Ferran and Alberto Adrià along with a few other friends at a simple Galician restaurant in Barcelona. We ate Galician oysters, small whelks, poached shrimp, baby octopus and squid. The seasonings were olive oil, lemon, parsley, salt and sometimes garlic; no more.

I scribbled the name down at the time, but of course, lost it. Does anyone know the name of it?

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I look forward to more details when you've got a chance Rob.

Doc, thanks for the link.  On a BBC programme some time back, Adria went to, or mentioned a restaurant in Barcelona that sounds like the one in this article.

I joined Ferran and Alberto Adrià along with a few other friends at a simple Galician restaurant in Barcelona. We ate Galician oysters, small whelks, poached shrimp, baby octopus and squid. The seasonings were olive oil, lemon, parsley, salt and sometimes garlic; no more.

I scribbled the name down at the time, but of course, lost it. Does anyone know the name of it?

I just finished the article and enjoyed it very much, especially the closing thoughts at the Galician restaurant. Bittman seemed almost surprised that a man of Adrià's caliber would simply be "eating and drinking", but I wasn't surprised at all. I think it best sums up the way the Spanish look at their own cuisine. Today's version may be more sophisticated, but they always go back to their roots. They adore their food and their ingredients. Many of the dishes can be shockingly simple, but unparalleled in quality.

What did surprise me was the "Champagne"? Not Cava? I thought to myself, in Barcelona? That's almost sacrilege! But you never know.

As for the name of the Galician restaurant, I couldn't tell you, especially since I'm not very familiar with restaurants in Barcelona, but it ould have been one of many. Galician restaurants in big cities are quite common and often highly regarded. The best octopus I've probably ever tried is at a restaurant in Madrid. The place is pretty well-known among Madrileños, but it's still a fairly straightfoward Galician restaurant. You can't get any more inland than that, doc! :smile:

Brian Murdock

Madrid, Spain

Teacher/writer

www.murdockmedia.com

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I look forward to more details when you've got a chance Rob.

Doc, thanks for the link.  On a BBC programme some time back, Adria went to, or mentioned a restaurant in Barcelona that sounds like the one in this article.

I joined Ferran and Alberto Adrià along with a few other friends at a simple Galician restaurant in Barcelona. We ate Galician oysters, small whelks, poached shrimp, baby octopus and squid. The seasonings were olive oil, lemon, parsley, salt and sometimes garlic; no more.

I scribbled the name down at the time, but of course, lost it. Does anyone know the name of it?

I just finished the article and enjoyed it very much, especially the closing thoughts at the Galician restaurant. Bittman seemed almost surprised that a man of Adrià's caliber would simply be "eating and drinking", but I wasn't surprised at all. I think it best sums up the way the Spanish look at their own cuisine. Today's version may be more sophisticated, but they always go back to their roots. They adore their food and their ingredients. Many of the dishes can be shockingly simple, but unparalleled in quality.

What did surprise me was the "Champagne"? Not Cava? I thought to myself, in Barcelona? That's almost sacrilege! But you never know.

As for the name of the Galician restaurant, I couldn't tell you, especially since I'm not very familiar with restaurants in Barcelona, but it ould have been one of many. Galician restaurants in big cities are quite common and often highly regarded. The best octopus I've probably ever tried is at a restaurant in Madrid. The place is pretty well-known among Madrileños, but it's still a fairly straightfoward Galician restaurant. You can't get any more inland than that, doc! :smile:

Brian, you make a great point about the "Champagne." I would have to think that was a mistake by Bittman, but then maybe not.

As for Bittman sounding surprised that Adria was just "eating and drinking", my take was that he was making a point to all those people who think Ferran is only about esoteric foods and techniques, that he is still a regular human being (almost) :biggrin:

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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The parking lot at el Bulli is without a doubt the most exquisite plot of gravel I've ever driven a car on. It certainly gave a great impression as we drove up to the restaurant as twilight descended over Cala Montjoi. Above the lot was a garden of eucalyptus trees and Mediterranean shrubs, as well manicured as (and reminiscent of) the entrance to the bonzai exhibit at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. We'd scoped the area out during daylight, but I was still nervous walking in through the door, not quite believing I really had reservations, a feeling magnified by the empty entranceway. Fortunately Luis soon appeared, knew my name, and provided us a quick tour of the kitchen. Very large. So large that it appeared empty, even though there were ~40 chefs. I'm not sure I actually saw any food. Perhaps the most interesting detail we did notice was a temperature- and humidity-controlled herb garden, although we couldn't figure out what herb was being grown in it. From the kitchen we were shown the terrace, seated with a view of the bay--still visible in the fast-fading sunlight--and served our first course: a gin fizz.

The waitress brings two cocktail glasses filled with a standard gin fizz appear, along with a foamer. She foamed the top, and said: drink quickly. Not just a gin fizz, a hot and cold gin fizz. Spectacular. The warm foam contrasted sharply with the cold liquid (possibly like a Slurpee, my girlfriend and I have different recollections), in temperature, texture, and taste, despite the same ingredients. One of the most impressive courses of the night, but then again I'm infatuated with cocktails.

The complete menu:

gin fizz

spherical olives

mango leaf with tagete flower

"animals"

seaweed waffles

sugar-coated lyo - banane and sesame

walnuts cake

hazelnut dentelles

nitro-strawberries, parmegiano

brioche - thai

liquid croquette 2006

won-ton

tonic soup, cucumber and roses

"Quebearn" egg

raisins of PX and muscatel with anchovy and cardamom brioche

tomato soup with virtual iberian ham

seeds

spherical mussels with soup of potatoes and bacon

zuchini risotto with curry-peanut capsules

argana crumbs "fez"

ackees with veal juice/soup-basil and cucumber

crab-marrakech

ham fat pita with veal bone marrow

sheep-the cheese and the wool

peach liquid with candy floss (apparently mistranslated)

peach in textures

morphings (Raspberry marshmallow things)

Many of these are described better than I'm capable of up-thread. I didn't take many pictures, partly because I forgot the baby tripod I bought specifically to take pictures at el Bulli without a flash, and partly because I wanted to concentrate on the meal, not on documenting it. I'm not sure that was a good choice, because now I can't remember everything that well. *sigh*

We went with fino sherry, cava by the glass, and a dessert wine to allow me to drive back. I've also found that drinking at high-end restaurants can cause me to lose focus on the food. I appreciate greatly the reasonable prices for wine (4 euros a glass for the Tio Pepe fino sherry, 10 each for the Brut Nature Gran Reserve cava and (wonderful) Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2005 dessert wine). Sparkling water was also cheap compared to prices at high-end restaurants in the US.

The spherical olives were superb, even if sphericization is considered trite. They had a much thicker skin those at minibar, but it may be because they needed to be robust enough to withstand sitting in the olive oil marinade before serving. The skin was thick enough to contribute to mouthfeel, while at minibar I perceived pure liquid.

The mango leaf and flower had nice texture, but I didn't get much flavor out of the flower. Looking back, I think the combination of travel stress, jet lag (we'd only been in Spain a day and a half), and ridiculously high expectations, combined with the high number of courses, dulled my palette.

The animals were somewhat similar to shrimp and squid flavored crackers available at an asian market, but lighter. The crab chips had a particularly intense flavor. Similarly the seaweed waffles tasted like seaweed crackers. I think they may be more successful with europeans without as much exposure to asian food and groceries, which also applies to a few of the dishes that followed.

The frozen black sesame-coated banana balls were one of the highlights. The intense cold masked all the flavor except for the sesame, and as I chewed and the food warmed in my mouth successive washes of spice and sweet/banana took over. A fascinating application of the science of taste and its relation to temperature (and a great echo of the contrast in the gin fizz).

The walnut cake and hazelnut dentelles were all about texture: not marshmallow, not creamy, not granular, but an intriguing mix.

The frozen strawberries with parmesan coating had a ncie slaty/sweet/sour contrast, but they may have been too small since I swallowed mine before they completely warmed up. At this point (or after the dentelles) we moved from the terrace into the front dining room. The building is a purpose-built restaurant from the 60s, but was rehabed recently (2002?) There's space for 58 diners, but the kitchen can only support 50, so there are empty tables in the back room, and in the front if the weather is good enough to eat on the terrace (which would be fantastic, Costa Brava evenings in September can be perfect).

The thai brioche was wrapped around green tea ice cream (I think) and accented with peanut sauce--which appeared several more times throughout the evening. Good, but not that interesting. Another dish that may appear more innovative to those unaccustomed to asian cuisine.

My memory starts to falter at the liquid croquette 2006. I'm pretty sure it was tasty, but I don't remember specifics. Maybe we were eating too fast, and needed to pause and reflect between courses. Maybe I should have just been taking notes!

The puffed air wonton was a fabulous presentation and I loved the fluffiness, but can't remember the taste--possibly served with a basil air that was surprisingly understated?

One of my favorite dishes was the tonic soup (really a sorbet or ice) with cucumber and roses. Unfortunately I'm left more with the impression of loving it, rather than what I loved about it. Guess I'll have to buy the 2006 cookbook and work on re-creating these.

Even worse, I have no recollection whatsoever of the "Quebearn" egg, and neither does Google. It had to be the dish with the tarragon sauce with crunchy sea-salt crystals, which I loved, but I only know that through the process of elimination. I also remember commenting that the egg wasn't cooked as well as minibar's egg 147, but now I'm pretty sure they weren't going for the same effect. If anyone knows what this dish was, please let me know.

Anchovy and raisins was a (marinated?) anchovy surrounded by spherized "raisins" of concentrated wine and other flavors. Another highlight, marred only by the difficulty of scraping every last bit of sauce off the plate. The funniest moment of the night was when the majority of diners in the room were simultaneously banging their spoons against dishes trying to get at recalcitrant sauces.

I was dissapointed with the virtual ham and tomato soup, which consisted of a thin layer of strained tomato soup covered by a film of ham similar to aspic. Then again, I'm not a big fan of milk skin either, expect for what we had a few days later at El Celler de Can Roca (more later).

Seeds was a singular dish:

gallery_25246_2_16288.jpg

Pumpkins, pine nuts, basil seeds, tomato seeds, a single coriander sprout, cucumber seeds, eggplant, peanut sauce (again), sesame seeds, passionfruit seeds, etc. Most of these were used elsewhere on the menu. Not the tastiest dish on the menu, but intellectually engaging--which was an element I was looking forward to and expecting from el Bulli. It was also nice to see something tie the disparate dishes together, something that occured a few other times. Again, hard to clean the plate.

The infamous (at least in this thread) spherical mussels didn't make much of an impression on me. Definitely not too salty, but not packed with flavor, either. The mussels at Con Roca blew these out of the water.

The zucchini risotto was a bit bland, and was the third or fourth appearance of peanut sauce. I think the little micro-capsules of curry and peanut might be better suited to delivering precise amounts of a much more potent flavor.

I remember the argana crumbs being an interesting texture and a new flavor, but not more than that. Same goes for the ackee.

The crab in the crab marrakech was surprisingly lacking in flavor, a bit like the mussels.

The finale--ham fat pita and veal bine marrow, with spheres of veal jus--also seemed to lack flavor. I'm not sure if it was fatigue or what, but it failed to be memorable.

I liked the "sheep": cherry gel with cotton-candy and stinky cheese, and fortunately got a second helping of the cheese since my dining companion prefers blue cheeses to fragrant soft cheeses. A nice salty/sweet combination with an interplay of textures.

The spoon of peach fluid was superb, nicely accompanied by the frozen liqueur bonbon. Maybe a bit too cold, since it made my teeth hurt.

gallery_25246_2_8346.jpg

The true desert: peach in textures, was a slice of frozen peach layered with peach gel and one or two other peachy layers. Good, but not outstanding. The peach even seemed a little under-ripe.

The morphing consisted of yummy filled raspberry marshamllows.

Overall, it didn't live up to my expectations, which were unreasonably high in the first place. On the other hand, I'm very happy to have gone, and am flirting with the idea of trying to make it an annual trip, in the unlikely event I could continue to get reservations. I know having been once it will be a lot less stressful, and I'll be able to relax and enjoy the food more. I think having previously been to most of the molecular gastronomy restaurants in the US: minibar, Alinea, Moto, WD-50, and Gilt, it was impossible for me to be blown away like I would have been if uninitiated (I enjoyed my first meal at minibar over my second, even though they were similar & both had excellent company). There were fewer deconstructed dishes than I expected, perhaps because I'm unfamiliar with Catalan food, or perhaps because Adria is pulling back from that approach. I was tempted to claim that Adria is turning away from innovation, like Stravinsky after the Rite of Spring or Jan Tsichold (a designer) after writing "Die neue Typographie", but looking at my menu and the others from this year it's just not the case. Adria and co. are developing 60-90 new dishes every year. The menu changes radically throughout each season, and (with a few exceptions) past year's dishes rarely make an appearance.

Bittman claims in the NY Times: "On my previous visits to El Bulli six years ago, I was blown away--as I was when I visited in May of this year--but more often by the technical wizardry than by the flavors." which makes it seem like el Bulli 4 or 5 years ago was similar in philosophy to Moto or WD-50 now. I'm not convinced. I think Adria is emphasizing subtler flavors these days (based on reading and experience with minibar, which is a sort of el Bulli time capsule) and maybe trying to weave themes through the menu, and obviously influenced by asian cuisine, but the technique is still indispensable.

It was interesting to compare el Bulli to Con Roca only a few days apart. el Bulli had the vast number of courses & techniques with humble ingredients. Con Roca had half the courses; many featuring truffles, foie gras, or both. el Bulli's menu changes nightly, Con Roca seems stable over months. Con Roca was slightly (but only slightly) more conservative, but each dish was phenomenal on its own.

A few last notes: we got two copies of the menu, one in english, the other used by the kitchen to keep track of our dishes as they were prepared. The wines we ordered were included on the menu, a nice touch! The service was fantastic, the english explanations of dishes were quite good, and I wish I had enough room in my backpack to take el Bulli 1994-1997 in english back with me, since it's way cheaper and they can't ship to the U.S.!

Aside from some of the other posts in this thread, excellent photos of some of the same dishes we had are here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83096974@N00/...57594235587821/

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Greetings everyone!

This is my first post on EG, although I have been an avid spy on these threads for a long time. Okay now that thats out of the way, my friend and I are going to El Bulli next week, and I have a couple practical questions...

--can anyone reccommend a camping ground that is close enough to the restaurant...possibly somewhere like Roses ? we are kids, and since we will most likely spend our life savings' on dinner, we are going to try to cut costs on everything else...

--how much should we expect to spend on a taxi to and fro if we were to stay in Roses?

--where are the nice beaches in the vicinity?

--what is the dress? i have heard its pretty casual.

Thanks!

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--can anyone reccommend a camping ground that is close enough to the restaurant...possibly somewhere like Roses ?  we are kids, and since we will most likely spend our life savings' on dinner, we are going to try to cut costs on everything else...

--how much should we expect to spend on a taxi to and fro if we were to stay in Roses?

--where are the nice beaches in the vicinity?

--what is the dress?  i have heard its pretty casual.

Thanks!

There's a "camping hotel" next door to el Bulli:

http://www.campingsonline.com/calamontjoi/?idlengua=3

There are campgrounds in/near Roses too, but I'm not sure if they're nice:

http://infocamping.com/en/europe/spain/localidades/384.html

This late in the year there should be some fairly inexpensive deals for hotels, as well (I saw 30 Euros per person per night including half board from prestige hotels: http://www.prestigehotels.com/portal/Prestige-Roses (the food is underwhelming, but convenient)).

Elsewhere on this thread taxis were cited at 20 Euros each way. The road to and from isn't nearly as narrow and scary as some reports suggest, so driving is a possibility. There is even a shoreline trail that runs from Roses to Cala Montjoi, literally under el Bulli's terrace. Probably a 3 or 4 hour walk from the end of the beach at Roses. Maps are available at the Roses tourist information center, facing the beach in the center of town (or I could scan them and post for you, send me a message). It's possible tourist info centers at Girona and Figueres have them as well.

The Cami de ronda and el Bulli:

gallery_25246_3608_791.jpg

Roses is a beach resort--a nice sand beach runs through the entire town and stretches for miles along the coast (away from el Bulli/Cala Montjoi). Towards Cala Montjoi there are a series of small bays--the first two are sand and are better than Roses mainly because the hotels adjacent to the beach are nicer. They're no less crowded. Further along are more coves with rocky beaches--these are isolated and likely to have fewer bathers (I've only seen them from the road above). El Bulli itself is on one end of a rocky beach. The series of coves extends all the way to Cadaques, eventually becoming accessible only on foot (the dirt road from Cala Montjoi to Cadaques is closed to motorized vehicles at about the halfway point).

Dress is casual, although on the night we were there everyone else dressed better than my slacks and short-sleeved button-down shirt.

If you have any more questions, let me know--I just got back and sympathize with the effort of planning.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi

I was in Spain for 4 days late september, and had diner or lunch at El Bulli , Celler de can Roca (will post on the other topic) , Rafas, and Mas Pau among others.

I've uploaded the pix (all of them, including the blurry ones :-) athe the following address ( sorry no legend for the moment)

sept 06' spanish restaurants pix

Talking about EB, this was my third meal there.

the first one was marvellous, the second, a bit less ( maybe due to the "non-surprise" effect), so I was kind of nervous about this one, not knowing is the experience would work again or if it definitly was a "one-shot magic moment" restaurant. well, without getting into details let me tell it overpassed all my waitings.

It was just as magic as the first time, my friends who came for the first time were speechless.

Talking about food, If there was less "hi tech" dishes, 2 were quite weird : the "seeds dish" and the "seaweeds dish".

the only - point would have been the desserts, that did not blow our minds, when they actually did the other years.

overall, still amazing, and i would no say "no" to a fourth time there :biggrin: ( one can dream )

Let Eat Be

Food, Wine & other Delights

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  • 2 weeks later...

I visited El Bulli in August with my partner. We were both first-timers there. We were both awestruck by the El Bulli experience. The sheer theatre and sorcery of the whole evening is inspiring. The anticipation in the lead-up, and the pleasure afterwards of thinking about what we experienced, is also part of the truly unique experience. It ranks as one of the finest dining experiences we have had (perhaps only second to our meal at noma in copenhagen).

Rather than repeat the same highlights as the many fine reports in some of the preceding posts, I suppose I would like to give voice to some of the things that niggled with me from the experience:

(i) The flavours: I realise the dishes are meant to be a holistic experience - giving pleasure to many senses at once... sight, taste, touch, sound, intellect etc. and they largely suceeded in this regard over the evening. However, there were very few dishes that knocked me out with flavour. In fact, some dishes simply lacked flavour. Interesting flavours, strong or otherwise, are something I innately expect from such an experience, and although my other senses were kept well occupied during the meal, I couldn't help feeling at the end that this aspect left me wanting.

(ii) The lack of a real crescendo during the meal: I expected a wonderful sweep of a journey which would rise triumphantly towards some inexorable climax ... but it never really got there. Oh, perhaps almost a year of waiting does this to you! It was difficult to know exactly where we were on the journey as the dishes just kept coming.

(iii) Desserts: These were a let down at El Bulli (although we missed out on some of the more stunning ones served to others, including the hummingbird trompe l'oeil). We had the 'sheep' cheese and 'wool' which was interesting and tasty, but then we had a dish with fruits in various guises, but mostly flavourless (freeze-dried etc.). In contrast, desserts at El Celler de Can Roca some days later were sublime.

I would stress I mention these issues were in the context of what were probably stratospheric expectations on our part, not helped by almost a year's anticipation. However, I point them out so that other people realise that, even at El Bulli, not all expectations are met. People's expectations for a meal at El Bulli can soar so high, that satisfying them can become an impossibilty. Don't expect so much, and it will be all the more enjoyable.

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(ii) The lack of a real crescendo during the meal:  I expected a wonderful sweep of a journey which would rise triumphantly towards some inexorable climax ... but it never really got there. Oh, perhaps almost a year of waiting does this to you!  It was difficult to know exactly where we were on the journey as the dishes just kept coming. 

(

We had a clear crescendo in our meal; the wonton dish followed by the bone marrow were intensely savoury and dramatic. And our hummingbird dessert was a stunner. We were there early in the season and I think that Albert Adria - Ferran Adria's brother, who is an incredibly talented pastry chef and devises the dessert dishes - spends the first two months in the kitchen there, so we probably got lucky.

However, I know what you're saying. I did feel a bit adrift at times wondering what was next on the 25 course surprise menu.

I agree with you on the desserts in Can Roca, they are amazing!

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