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41° Experience, Barcelona

41° Experience

There is so much brilliance I can recall about this meal, but I have decided not to put all into writing. Lazy blogger, no. Necessity, yes. The “elements of surprise” are crucial, according to FAQ. When it was first launched, 41° Experience (or 41 Grados) by El Bulli-famed Ferran and Albert Adria was meant to be just a cocktail bar for the annexed Tickets. But it has morphed.. into a 16-seat, tasting-menu-only restaurant, most recently alleged as one of the most difficult to get reservations in the world.

Briefly. There is no reservation line. The booking is made via their website and partially requires payment. There are some drinks included in the €200-per-head tasting menu. You can order a separate alcoholic pairing at €45. Blah. Blah. The venue is a decent-sized bar space, dimmed and dark. There were more FOHs than diners. Above me was a nebula of eclectic images – a kind of modern pop art featuring disparate cultural items around the world – being played in slow motion. And soothing trance-like music..

Not so briefly. The fun at 41° Experience kicked off with a stubbornly square, neatly crafted “41°” ice cube which chilled a smoky liquid substance. Along came a jar containing drops of green olive, preserved in oil. Just your typical jar of olive – but the molecularised EL BULLI style. The liquid olive essence was entrapped in a gelatinous skin. Fragile, it rolled for an escape on the tongue and burst into a taste of what would have been like if I stuffed my mouth with 10 olives in one go. I have never made enough effort to be at El Bulli and I am – or was – never convinced by molecular gastronomy. BUT. That was some alchemy that I highly recommend.

Through my first 3-4 courses, I departed from Barcelona – the 41° latitude as the name of the restaurant portends- wandered through Italy, France, Russia, Asia and many more. Ferran and Albert Adria not only know so much about cuisines but also cultures, wherein lies humourous anecdotes and stereotypes. All these are re-interpreted into all the 41 dishes served at 41° Experience. Some were more successful than others. Some got me to physically interact and/or contemplate intellectually; others made me LAUGH OUT LOUD. (Something about France, of course. And Rene Redzepi might be on the menu). That said, as the concept of the menu relies very heavily on the elements of surprise, of not knowing what comes next and which country where you will end up, it is best not to do so much telling (or display any sharp and clear images). The cooking was exquisite but a complement to the concept. SO.. if you are a global character, know a lot about cuisines and cultures, you will be having a very good time at 41° Experience. If you are averse to internationalism, there is a high risk that you might not get the “jokes”, which are the best part of the meal.

Life-changing? No. But this meal reversed my eagerness in life and I felt happy, giggly.. as if I became a child again :-D

 

(Sorry. Can’t help not telling you of my most favourite dish – a re-constructed Peruvian “causa”. A thick slice of super fresh and firm yellowtail/hamachi marinated in lime, chilli and garlic was served nigiri-style on a velvety ball of spiced-infused mashed potatoes. The dish paid homage to the Japanese influences in Peruvian culinary tradition and taste-wise it was a bomb of citric umami).

PS Don’t hate me for doing this >_<

 

 

RATING: 5/5

41° EXPERIENCE

Avinguda Paral-lel, 164
08015, Barcelona
Spain

www.41grados.es


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Tapas(24) Is the Word (2)

If you haven’t read my previous blog on Tapas,24, you can find it here.

While I was waiting for my second round to arrive, I was looking at the wine cooler and couldn’t help thinking how LUCKY I was to pick Tapas,24 out of my Michelin guide.

I also couldn’t help peeping into this mighty, yet small, kitchen where simple dishes were cooked to perfection.

My contemplative moment was actually cut short by the arrival of this Tomato Bread. It was a basic dish, which didn’t grab our attention at first, but seeing everybody order it made us wonder how great it must be. Bluntly speaking, it’s just some toasted bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes, drizzled with salt and olive oil.

I bit … and it was lust at first bite. The olive oil was powerful and the tomato aroma punctuated through all the molecules of these tiny pieces of bread.

I must say, our urges subsided very quickly when the server walked over with these grilled Prawns. The dish was beautiful and fresh. Like the Sardines, you could eat the whole things up.

Another dish followed suite. It was this exotic Sautee Wild Mushrooms with Egg Yolk. I pricked the egg and mixed it quickly with the warm mushrooms. The gentle heat cooked the egg. Yes, think “runny egg yolk”!! It was way, way too indulgent.

Man, you must be thinking, “they must be so hungry they were eating a horse there”. You may also say, literally, we were eating a bull when this dish of Stewed Bull’s Tail arrived. The meat was falling-off-the-bone tender and the stew was immense–like drinking thick veal jus!

I was on cloud nine… until at least this dish called Bikini arrived.

What was the Bikini? Mini toasted ham and cheese sandwich. The twists that came with this unassuming small bite were the use of fine Iberico ham and the black truffle paste that oozed out luxury and turned heads of the Chinese tourists sitting next to us.

I was looking at the melting cheese and couldn’t help pick the bread out to indulge in the sight of this black truffle.

Just like the Mc Foie, this Bikini tasted ZZZZillion times better than it looked. The ingredients were well-balanced and the truffle left a bit of an aromatic aftertaste in my mouth. O! I could just grab my other bib and kiss him now!

!!!!!

I didn’t. The truffled kiss was spared by the arrival of these Grilled Squids Stuffed with Ink. I didn’t have to describe how good they were. You could probably tell if you saw how squiddy black my teeth turned! As for the freshness, these were top quality, so fresh as if they were still doing backstrokes in the Galician sea.

As if these squid didn’t satisfy me enough, I asked for one helping of Squid Ink Paella. It was so black I couldn’t see the rice in the pan!! The dish was perfect, neither grainy or soupy. The rice was al dente and the squid pieces added extra texture to the dish. I was on the point of BURSTING!!!

I was being stubborn, very stubborn and against my other bib’s advice, ordered one more dish: Chorizo Tortilla. This also came with a twist of pungent Garlic Spread on top. Cutting this open, I discovered the runny gravy inside. That was how I wanted my tortilla to be.

At the end of the meal we marvelled at ourselves saying yes to the server for desserts. I could tell from the look on their faces they were totally in love with us. And you know what, we returned to Tapas, 24 again twice during peak hours and the staff just cut the queue for us!! This was the advantage of being greedy, I suppose?

Desserts …

I had this Mango soup. Light, fragrant, awesome x

And my other bib this crunchy Semifreddo. He loved it.

On my way out I could only think it had been an absolute pleasure to dine at Tapas,24. I wanted to stand very still at the front and sing the tapas anthem to Carles Abellan. Oops, I couldn’t the Mc Foie might come out instead of the tune.

So? So, we decided to give him kudos. Ermmm, not that either, I could feel the squids trying to find their way back to the sea!!!!

<3 you Tapas, 24

Enough said,

My head rating says, 10 out of 10.

My heart rating says, 10 out of 10.

TAPAS,24

C/ Diputació, 269,
08007 Barcelona,
Spain

Tel. +34 934 88 09 77

www.tapas24.net

NOTE: Get takeaway if the place is too busy, or even if it’s packed and you don’t mind standing up eating, they will serve you food!

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Tapas(24) Is the Word (1)

Having just re-read my burger post and some offline comments–do I seriously NOT have a life beyond the dining table?–I recalled I hadn’t blogged about the extraordinarily delicious burger I had at this tapas bar in Barcelona a few weeks ago. The place is called Tapas,24–spelt “Tapac,24” in Catalan–and is a part of this gastronomic Projectes24 by one El-Bulli-trained, Michelin-starred chef-restaurateur Carles Abellan. Tapas,24 doesn’t have a star; it is its sister restaurant Comerc,24 that is awarded one. You know what, we planned to lunch at Comerc,24 on our last day in Barcelona but thanks to the French on strike we were forced to cut our trip short!!!

Let’s get on with Tapas,24. This isn’t a restaurant of sort, but more of a very casual, high-stool, long-counter, smokers-permitted basement tapas bar. They serve small, sharing tapas portion of food all day–meaning it’s best to go the hours the Spaniards aren’t eating.

As described, there are high stools and long counters. Design-wise, it looks rather industrial, with white and grey juxtaposed with orange lights. The place is usually packed–we can definitely say this because we went to Tapas,24 three times in four days!!–and most diners are Catalonian gourmand.

The menu comes in form of an “airline pukey” bag–sorry I can’t find a better image association–containing one knife, one fork and some napkin. It is all in Catalan. There is also the menu of the day on mini-blackboards to be passed around the dining room. The not-so-great thing is that they only provide an English version only for the main menu. If you don’t know Spanish or Catalan, you will have to leave it to the will of God, Buddha, … do put the appropriate names of your own gods and goddesses down in this blank space … to finger-pick something amazing off the menu of the day! You can try ask the servers, though as far as my experience went, not many of them could speak fluent English.

Very luckily I happen to know enough Spanish to have got by!!

Yes, I stuck with my still water during this meal, not because they didn’t have amazing alcohol on offer, but because I was still feeling the alcohol from El Cellar de Can Roca. I must say, having browsed at their booze cabinet, I was rather impressed. There were loads of posh drinks you wouldn’t imagine to be served in this rather unpretentious place.

My very first dish arrived very, very quickly. It was this heavenly big and lusciously creamy Burrata Cheese Ball with Fresh Basil Dressing and Chilled Half-Roast Cherry Tomatoes from the menu of the day. Talking about the size of the Burrata–if you fancy knowing what a Burrata is, check out this old post of mine–it was twice the size of my fist, roughly 5-6 inches in diameter!! The moment I forked my Burrata, all the juice of goodness burst out. The freshness and fragrance of the basil dressing just lifted up the whole plate, with the occasional burst of sweet cherry tomatoes in your mouth. Ahhh! It was seriously the most sensuous cheese dish I had in my life.

Before I finished my Burrata, the second dish of Sardines in Tomato Infused Oil landed in front of me. The sardines were meaty but the bones were soft. If you had a big mouth, you could just chuck it all in–head to fin–in one go. Well, I do have a big mouth, but for the sake of decency, I didn’t go caveman all the way. I only bit the fin off and chewed in excitement LOL

Then my favourite dish of the whole Barcelona trip arrived!! It was what they called a Mc Foie, which was a miniature pannini-style burger with beef and foie gras filling. It came with a small bowl of mayonnaise, in case you didn’t find the melt-in-yer-mouth foie gras creamy enough.

I was admiring my Mc Foie on the plate. So cute ….

I lifted it up very slowly; my pulse beat faster and faster only by looking at this heavy beef and foie gras filling.

Trying not to flood Tapas, 24 with my dripping saliva, I quickly dipped the Mc Foie into the mayo …

Up, up and into my gaping mouth ….

Mmmmmmmmmm……

The Mc Foie was SENSATIONAL!!!!! The medium-rare beef with velvety foie gras pieces was just a gastrono-miracle. It didn’t taste like a burger of sort but more a cross between a sweet, creamy steak tartare plus a burger. I could eat this, JUST THIS, for the rest of my life.

Before I got too carried away with the Mc Foie, my order of Figs, Goat’s Cheese, Anchovies, Honey did reach us at the same time as the Mc Foie. It was also a great, simple flavour combination: sweet fig, creamy cheese, salty anchovies.

I admit it took me and my other bib a few moment to re-orient ourselves after the Mc Foie ecstasy. We were quite ready to tackle this Chorizo, Lentil Stew. The flavours were very intense and the lentils were perfectly cooked.

There it was, our first round of food at Tapas, 24. We knew how marvellous the food there could be and as the bar got busier, we decided to place another BIG round of order :-9

You MUST check out the rest of my meal here!!

TAPAS,24

C/ Diputació, 269,
08007 Barcelona,
Spain

Tel. +34 934 88 09 77

www.tapas24.net

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Me, Myself and Goose Barnacles

WARNING: It’s NOT my fault if you want to eat a lot of seafood after reading this post!

Ok, where shall I start?

In my previous post, I did all I could to find THE PLACE where I could sit down and indulge in goose barnacles.

Upon recommendation by the hotel staff, I booked a table at Rias de Galicia, Barcelona’s “institution” seafood restaurant, an equivalence–or better?–of London’s J Sheekey. I must admit I was fidgeting, chewing on my toes–No! THUMBS!–in the taxi, “What if they don’t do goose barnacles tonight? What shall I do?”, but on arrival we were relieved by the sight of …

GOOSE BARNACLES!!!!!!!

There were other interesting fresh seafood on display, too. I was particularly attracted to them meaty scallops and this menacing fish.

The restaurant Rias de Galicia itself looked very proper boasting the wall-length fridge window, the glass wine cellar entrance and the spectacular, one-metre-deep crustacean tank reception.


What did all these signs portend? The height of luxuries, I thought whilst counting the last remaining euros in my feeble wallet >_<

Seated, I dived into the menu and savoured these amuse bouche of marinated olive and shots of seafood bisque.

Very quickly I located the goose barnacles–percebes gallecs, pousse-pieds, whatever they were called–in the menu!! This creature was referred as “king of the kinas”. Perhaps they should have spell-checked the menu? I was also drawn to the razor clams “with pedigre”.

The menu was, indeed, full of sense of humour. Check out how they described Beluga caviar!!

I must say, there were so many rare seafood in the menu: lampreys, elvers, spider crabs. I was a bit sad it was no longer the season for lampreys and elvers. Never mind. I was there for the goose barnacles.

It didn’t take us long to make our minds up, and within minutes, my dream vision materialised in form of steamy hot Galician goose barnacles.

I was admiring my goose barnacles. It was such a dream. My brain and leg labour–of running around asking people–had been paid off. At the moment, I was so proud of myself, happy that I didn’t give up my dream of eating these rare creatures.

BUT

HOW THE F**K DO I EAT THEM???????

After our brief discussion, I tried breaking one of them with my fingers. The shell–I would liken it to that of a prawn–was surprisingly soft. Once broken, it shot out some light orange juice. Very slowly I pinched the meat out, admiring it–I did admit it looked ugly–and into my hungry mouth :-9

SO…

Was it good?

Was it worth my brain and leg labour?

Was it worth €60 a pint?

Mmmmm ….

TOTALLY!!!!

The goose barnacle tasted divine. Its texture was soft, a cross between a half-cooked squid and some clam. The meat was sweet, with a hint of salt water in which it was boiled. To my surprise, it didn’t have this fishy smell as any other type of seafood, but it did ooze the aroma of the salty sea and the waves. Enough romanticising, I must speed up my cracking; my other bib had been eating too much of his share!!!

Having finished the goose barnacles, our next dish of Sautee Sea Cucumber with Olive Oil, Parsley Dressing arrived.

I forked one piece up. It didn’t look like the black, sandy, chewy sea cucumber I was accustomed to in Chinese cooking. Rather, this was a very fresh one. It was less chewy, not much different from squid, but with a lot more sweetness in the meat.

And also landed on our table were these massive Grilled Razor Clams.

I have always been a fan of razor clams–not because of their phallic shape but because they were so meaty compared to other types of shellfish. These at Rias de Galicia were just superbly BIG.

I was on the brink of seafood ecstasy. Our server came over to clear the table for the ultimate dish of the night of

BROWN CRAB …

I got my massacring instruments ready :-)

Et voila, the beautifully dissected crab!

It was unbelievably meaty, and the meat itself was unbelievably fluffy. The shell was roughly broken, making it easy for us to navigate our way into the sweet white meat.

And the enormous claw!! It was twice or thrice the size of my other bib’s thumb. The meat came off very nicely.

To be honest, as much as I loved this crab, I found it to be too BIG for two people. Half way through this, I felt like burping baby crabs. As it was so good, I felt obliged to finish eating this creature.

Well, I tried …

… the brown meat and roe

And more …

NO MORE!!!!!!!!

We didn’t finish the crab. It was just too much for us, though we did ask for desserts to wash away the crabby aftertaste.

Mine was very refreshing Ribbons of Cantaloupe, Strawberries and Sichuan Pepper.

My other bib went for Wild Strawberries, Vodka Sorbet. Those jewelry-like wild strawberries were the best you could ever find in the market. I was a bit sad I didn’t ask for them. On a second thought, being an alcohol lightweight, I wouldn’t survive the vodka sorbet.

Damn it! They are sooooo ugly >_<

The bill came down to about €200 something, but mainly because we ordered the goose barnacles. Compared to London–or Paris–the Barcelona food scene is just so bleeping CHEAP!!!!

Enough said,

My head rating says, “8 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “8 out of 10″.

RIAS DE GALICIA

C/LLEIDA 7
08004 Barcelona
Spain

Tel. +43 934 248 152

www.riasdegalicia.com

NOTE: They also do sophisticated cooked dishes, if you don’t fancy plain seafood!

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Can Fabes: Desserts!

I’m not sure how long this will take but I am determined to finish blogging about Barcelona, but before moving forward to my goose barnacle dinner, I’m sharing with you my photo album of Can Fabes‘s sumptuous desserts.

(1) Chilled Blueberries Soup, Panna Cotta

(2) Strawberries in Iced Hibiscus Tea

(3) Fruit Delight of Mango and Vanilla Ice Cream

(4) Mango Parfait

(5) Caramel “Cheese Cake”

(6) Petit Fours

Sorry there aren’t many words to accompany this. The desserts were simplicity at its best. I was on the verge of bursting. Overall, my meal at Can Fabes was incredibly good, not as innovative as El Cellar de Can Roca, yet much more soul-warming. I’d say, if I were a local, I would often visit the restaurant, but as a passer-by, I cherish my experience but will soon move on to other places; there are way too many amazing restaurants in Spain!!!!

On the way out, we were given a tour of the kitchen. The Front of House and the Chef were very accommodating, and I’d love to go back to this restaurant because of them, too, not just the cuisine.

And bidding farewell to Sant Celoni, a small we would never dream of visiting if not for the food. Their town hall look lovely.

So does the church.

But, maybe NOT the graffiti!!

Enough said ….

My head rating says, “7 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “8 out of 10″.

CAN FABES

C/ Sant Joan, 6
08470 Sant Celoni
Spain

Tel. +34 938 672 851

www.canfabes.com

NOTE: They also offer a bedroom service. If you are too stuffed to move, you can book a room and spend the night at Can Fabes.

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Can Fabes (1)

It has lately been a pain having to blog about my trip to Barcelona. I wish I could have done it earlier, while the food was still fresh in my memory. At the same time, whilst writing all this, the little voice in my head keeps saying, “I should have eaten so much good food!”. You know, day-by-day eating and blogging is easy but week-by-week is just killing me.

WHY?

Because the photos not only bring back the good memories but also re-activate my cravings.

Such as now that I am writing about Can Fabes, another three-Michelin-star restaurant we went to just outside Barcelona, I can easily taste some of the ingredients glide across my tongue and tickle my taste bud. That’s actually a good sign, when you go to a restaurant and weeks after you still remember what the food tastes like!!

(1) Amuse Bouche Round 1
Parmesan Grissini, Marinated Fish with Olives, Crunchy Zucchini Flower

(2) Amuse Bouche Round 2
Duck’s Grilled Foie Gras, Apricots with Honey Snow
I had foie gras served cold a few times, but this is the first marriage of foie gras with ice I’ve ever come across. It worked! The hot and cold contrast roused my palette and I felt as if eating savoury ice-cream.

(3) Amuse Bouche Round 3
Leaves and Olive Puree, Clams in Royal, Toast with Bone Marrow and Vietnamese Pepper

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