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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

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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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Faviken Magasinet, Jarpen

(Since the review below, I also returned to Faviken twice. You can graze through my August 2012 album and January 2013 album here)

Snow and a frozen lake

My first impression of Faviken was that it could be the PLACE good people want go to instead of heaven. Magnificently wooded, shrouded by snowy mountains and curbed by a frozen lake (I went in winter), Faviken Magasinet is a private estate north of Stockholm in an area called Jarpen. You may reach Faviken by a 1-hour flight to Are or Ostesund and a subsequent 1-hour car/taxi ride. Luckily, Faviken offers a B&B service. 8 not-so-large rooms dominate the left wing of the first floor of this sizable hunting lodge. Very cozy and equipped with Wi-Fi. Also on the first floor overlooking the snow-covered ground was a spacious sauna with (all-inclusive) beer and champagne for guests to indulge. On the ground floor are the kitchen, the common room and the lounge. The dining room is on the right wing of the first floor. You need to gain access via the lounge. The price for dinner+room+breakfast was 2250SEK per person (approx £207).

The service at Faviken used to be a one-man show. Youthful (and still is), Magnus Nilsson was Astrance-trained and helmed both the kitchen and FOH since 2008. Then, Faviken was pretty much a private dining space where Magnus cooked on request. Magnus would cook a fixed multi-course meal for one sitting only; and all diners were booked in at 7pm.

 

7pm sharp

7pm. All guests were led into the downstairs lounge for drinks and snacks. The space was dreamily lit, whilst the only signification of noise was the burning fireplace. The meal (I heard) conformed to a philosophy of rektún food (“real” food), paying respect to the raw beauty of the produce, the ways flavours should naturally be maximised, and the gastronomic timelessness as opposed to flashy and fashionable cooking. The produce were sourced locally – many raised and grown on the estate, some from Jamtland and Norway. Before other guests arrived I took an opportunity to speed eat cured pork sausage and pickled carrots. (Yes!!). It was porky and well-rendered with fat content. The carrots had mild acidity and a good crunch. No other diner would ever know of this. Five other diners joined my section (unaware of the existence of the pork sausage) and were straightaway entertained by light and fragile with flaxen and vinegar crisp. There was an element of risk picking the piece up. Fresh cheese in warm whey was silky and memorable. The incredible burst of aroma from the little lavender petal raised my expectation of the meal. Smoked trout roe arrived disconcertingly Japanese – like a gunkan maki of salmon roe – but the black cup-like base was immediately revealed as pig’s blood. Explosive. The smoky liquid from the roe contrasted with the musty crispy blood cup. It was very comforting, too, and not a dish that sounded quirky just for the sake of it. Crispy lichen and reindeer moss did not do it as much for me. They tasted like dried sponge-y crisps. I preferred the one with dried egg yolk. Cured goose slices rectified all this. Shiny and maturely cured, the goose reminded me of some very good Jamon Iberico with high fat content. Interestingly, the aftertaste seemed to linger a lot longer than when I have a good sliver of Jamon Iberico.

All amused, guests (me included) were led into the first floor dining room..

The upstairs room was bare. The only ornaments that graced the room were dried fish roe, dehydrated trout and cured pork chunks hanging from the ceiling. Scallop cooked over burning juniper branches was the first to mesmerise me. This was a simple construction at its best. Just scallop. Grilled alive in its shell. Over coal and burning juniper branches. Perfectly done, the scallop was firm, translucent and sweet. The iodine rich broth was a natural result of the cooking and captured the deep and soulful primitive-ness of the sea. The best of my life. My langoustine was a supreme 5-or-6incher immaculately presented. The seasoning of fermented mushroom juice – made with soy and vinegar I think – was distinctly minimal but yielded umami acidity to juxtapose with the sweet and succulent meat. Another best of my life. Cod “lightly brushed with honey and fried in a dry pan” also hit the highest note. I oouuu-and-aaaa-ed over the burnt sweet crust that immersed itself with the firm sea-sweet cod. The pairing of carrot cooked “almost burnt sour milk” (bitter) and spruce and alcoholic vinegar jelly was striking and effective. Trout barely cooked was another marvel. The oatmeal sauce helped douse the fish with caramelised robustness, while the grated carrots allowed the palate to refresh with zings.

 

I moved on to beetroot cooked to a burnt effect in the fire. The charred skin left smokey bitterness to contrast with the ruby red, mellow and sweet beetroot. Along with the pungent, precisely salted cod roe powder, the mead-infused whipped cream – smooth in texture and mediating in taste – provided another dimension of bittersweet contrast. Porridge served with steamed and pickled onions was dainty. Unique layers of texture – gummy porridge, soft and crunchy onions. The dressing of grain vinegar and kale juice tasted, bluntly speaking, of diluted chlorophyll with rice-y acidity. At this point, Magnus and his troop marched into the dining room with a bone bigger than my shoulder and began sawing it. This was to become my next course of marrow, dices of raw cow heart and grated turnips. I was struck by the pure taste of the heart – rich but sans smell – made pleasing by the warm, unctuous gelatin of the bone marrow. The grated turnip played a zingy, natural ‘slaw with kicks, while the green crystal of salt (I deducted as celery infused) lent a herbal note to the bleeding compilation. I forgot.. to take a picture of the next dish “Pork chop fried in a pan and then rested on the grill. Sour onions. Swede.”.. and (what’s worse) I even forgot what it looked like (!!). What I remember was a big chunk (again) was presented at the table and sliced per guest. The pork was moist and tender. There was a healthy ratio between fat and meat, which left a glistening after-texture on my lips. It was preceded by the mussel in consomme below.

 

Desserts looked understated but brought about joy. Fermented lingonberries with thick cream and a sprinkle of sugar had a good contrast of sourness and sweetness. Raspberry ice was an intense sorbet with tangy complexity. Sourmilk sorbet was prepared minutes before serving. It rested amid the sabayon-like foam of whisked duck eggs. To me, it felt a reincarnation of custard – aerated and freezing to the tongue. The surprise lay at the bottom in form of raspberry jam. Cheeky. I am sure this would bring about nostalgic memories for many. The multi courses concluded with pine bark cakes toppled with hyssop, creamed pudding and frozen buttermilk. The note from the pine bark was distinct but it melded into a vision of a pasture embraced by a scented forest. A little of dairy-sweetness and a sensation of snow. A metaphorical dish of the place itself..

 

I didn’t have much time to metaphorise or metamorphosise as I was shown the way back into the lounge, with the guests (who still did not know I had an extra pork sausage dish). There were nibbles of dried berries and meadowsweet candy, but I was taken by tar pastilles. Not the best way to describe it but it reminded me of liquorice gum. Slightly tougher and less fragrant. There were last shots of booze, too. Four bottles. Brought to the table by Magnus himself. My pick was the alcoholic eggnog (far right), which was sensuously creamy. The rest (I had a sip) was not so much to my liking. The red one (far left) made from berries was (with all due respect) very musty.

A good friend of mine often uses the term “life-changing” to judge or define a meal. And to me, my dinner at Faviken was life-changing to the point of no return. This is a world-class produce-focused restaurant, while the philosophy of rektún food is truly and skillfully materialised by Magnus and his (very small) kitchen brigade. Dishes are thoughtfully constructed. No fuss. No pretense. Real, raw, high quality and tasty food. The FOH team led by manager Johan was also knowledgeable and exceptional. (The only downside of my experience at Faviken is that ever since the meal I have been feeling disheartened by seafood anywhere else).

Interestingly, Faviken has so far been a restaurant of no recognition. It has fallen beyond the Michelin route and is not yet noted by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. (I am sure this will change)… and I’ll leave it here for you to reflect ^_^

 

AND OH!!!!!

Have I NOT shown you the fish!!?!?

RATING: 5/5
GO FOR: An unforgettable experience

FAVIKEN MAGASINET

Fäviken 216
830 05 Järpen
Sweden

Tel: +46 647 40177

www.favikenmagasinet.se

FL
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Frantzén/Lindeberg, Stockholm

To front the line..

(Very) luckily, I was among the first few to brave the newly erected kitchen table at two-Michelin-starred + World’s 50 Best‘s ‘One To Watch’ Frantzén/Lindeberg in Stockholm, Sweden. Background talking, this is a mind-blowingly innovative restaurant – New Nordic if you’d like to generalize but a great commendable departure from such New Nordic purveyor giant as Noma – led by talented chefs Björn Frantzén (savoury) and Daniel Lindeberg (sweet). Menu, there was none. The cooking at F/L adheres to a free form menu based on availability of produce. The number of courses may vary (I had around 21) but the price is fixed at 1900 sek (approx £180). The restaurant prides itself in dialogue with farmers and suppliers for the best gastronomic effects. The approach is rooted (yet not too firmly) in French techniques but with a great Japanese sensitivity and stubbornness for purity. The Japanese twist has also materialised into the kitchen table – a bar of three seats located at what used to be the pass – where patrons dine face-to-face with chefs.

An challengingly exciting experience

In front of me stood Björn (head), Kim (sous) and Joe (an Englishman). The meal kicked off with a ball made of noodle shaped, deep fried potato. Crispy but nearly weightless, the ball burst into this delectably salty taste from bleak roe, dill and chive filling. Oven baked Jerusalem Artichoke was also an explosion of flavours and texture – sweet, nutty crunch from hazelnuts, acidity from pickled chanterelles and savoury, crispy chicken skin flakes. Gillardeau Oyster (from a family business in France and it’s like the ‘Rolls-Royce of oysters) was the freshest and purest with a seaweed-enhanced coastal dimension. It came alive with the sour apple frost and the cream with a juniper note. Halibut ‘Sashimi’ was prepared from a 12-day-old halibut (after its demise as believed to have the most distinguished taste) and served, like a sushi nigiri, on ‘rice’ of king crab and egg yolk cream (taken from the first egg the hen laid). Big flavour. The egg cream rendered weight to sweet and light king crab; the raw slice of halibut was lightly torched with brown butter. Together, the elements did not jar; I tasted the interplay between the crab and the halibut clearly. The minute seasoning of horseradish and the lemon allowed an uplifting touch. The following dish of Langoustine – shown as alive and flipping – was one of the highlights of the meal. Björn also noted that ‘live’ did not mean the freshest (there is a limited period in which the natural sweetness does not escape the shellfish) and explained how he separated one langoustine from another to prevent the loss of their natural sweetness. Back to the dish, the langoustine was chopped up, bound and seasoned with apple oil (made from apple seed). The serving was done minimally but thoughtfully – a thin layer of salted pork fat, crushed almond and rosemary with a finishing touch of green apple foam. The apple dimension (acidity for foam and nutty note from oil) was subtle but boast depth; the pork fat provided a sinister touch of greasy texture leaving the dish with a comforting meat touch (which is usually void in a raw seafood dish); the sweetness and bites from almond and incredible rosemary aroma that enveloped the wonderful langoustine. (That said, this was a killer dish as ever since I have been put off by never-as-fresh langoustines from elsewhere).

 


The meal continued with Björn’s torching a dainty piece of mountain reindeer – tataki-style – through a fume-less piece of charcoal to be chopped up for a ‘tartar’. Before that, I was given ‘boudin noir’ made from reindeer blood. Very moreish, the blood cake/sausage was toppled with salted bleak roe, duck heart and reindeer tallow powder. Bold and game-y. The tallow added a light but robust dimension to the dish, while the disc of apple retrieved juicy freshness to my palate. It was an offal-y execution that was spot on. The highly anticipated ‘tartar’ arrived with milk cow tallow emulsion, onion rings and caviar. AND some powder which was later revealed as grated dehydrated reindeer penis… musty. It purposefully maximised the game-y scent of such a delicate reindeer tartar, and the dish would be less virile without. The next dish was cockscomb which I did not think as highly of. It was a MASSIVE piece slow cooked in brown butter and finished with sherry vinegar. To me, a cockscomb itself in any context did not have a taste; it was just gelatinous but absorbed the taste of whatever. Therefore, the dish showcased how this fat-like gelatin worked to mediate in the ensemble of umami mushroom puree, beurre noisette and a vinegar-y note.

More cutting-edge was ‘Satio Tempestas’ or a dish of 39 ingredients. It was, bluntly speaking, a salad which mainly featured root vegetables. Some were raw, others cooked; some served warm, others at room temperature. Every spoonful was an introduction of new taste. Interestingly, as a result of thoughtful plating, not a single element seemed disconnected from one another. It was a clever metaphor of a Swedish garden and I felt as if, through my tongue, I was threading the wintery ground. I also thought the crackling fish scales on top were ace.

The meal continued with the freshly baked baguette (that had been resting next to my cutlery) and the immediately churned butter. A bowl of slow roasted Vidalia onion followed. The onion itself had turned unctuous; its mellow sweetness countered by a minimal seasoning of old vinegar; the truffle grating provided a sumptuously earthy touch. Scallops were served three ways. A teapot made an appearance first but I was distracted by the plump scallop grilled in its own shell and served with essence that had been squeezed out of the unappealing scallop muscle. The flavour got bigger with the quenelle of scallop tartar (prepared at the minute I was finishing the first serving). Fresh springy cubes of scallop were tossed in orange mayonnaise and truffle. Very bold. I loved the citric kick expertly combined with yolk-y mayo; the orange zest was also given dimension from the truffle. I was, then, advised to pour the scallop bouillon (in the teapot) into the shell. The broth had a good depth of sea flavours as it had been infused with seaweed and girolles. In a shell, thanks to the remaining truffle-y bits and the scallop juice, the bouillon became more complex – the boldest in taste but the lightest in substance.

A scoop of rowanberries, apple and black tea sorbet shocked and cleansed my palate. (At this point, Björn asked if I found it disgusting. I said yes). The dish was meant to invigorate the palate, not to appease. On the bright side, it helped me (after so many big-flavoured dishes) taste my ‘Black & Grey’ cod more clearly. Served mi-cuit and torched for a charred exterior, the fish was tenderly flaked and arrived on spinach leaves, but I was not convinced by the smoked cod roe with lemon sauce. I found the acidity to be at odd with the smoke-y salty roe. Monkfish, baked for four hours, was more lovable. The chicken and soy cream was a perfect match to the fluffy fish; the interplay between sea (seaweed + fish) and land (chicken + mushrooms) found a superb balance. The last of the savoury was veal – marinated in whey with thyme, honey and walnut oil – which retained its denseness after being slowly grilled. Orange vinaigrette and red endive brought about fruity lightness and bitterness that were not traditional for a meat course.

The desserts were also relentlessly unique. Chocolate ice cream was paired with pig’s blood puree – the other way round of having meat with chocolate-infused sauce. It worked; the strength of the blood enriched the mild bitter sweetness from the chocolate. The layering of soft and softer texture was also wonderful. Cauliflower mousse and hazelnut ice cream would have impressed me more if the ratio of cauliflower versus hazelnut were slightly adjusted. At present, it tasted too much of cauliflower and brought to mind that it was more savoury than sweet. Beer, yeast and egg yolk was memorable. Sweet, egg-y depth (as egg taken from ‘the first the hen warps’) was doused in mild bitterness. The bitter theme was carried forth to Oolong tea with seaweed and sea buckthorn. My palate was stirred by the frozen acidic sharpness (sea buckthorn), the perfuming tea, and the salty aroma from the seaweed. The emulsion minimised the aggression of those elements and acted a brilliant mediator. The meal ended with some comforting macaroons. (I loved the cardamom flavoured one).

The experience at F/L was one of the most unrivalled of my life. Exciting, really top-notch ingredients(!!). Highly skilled cooking. Innovative, yet unbridled minds. The vision of cuisine at F/L was materialised into provenance of ingredients and flavour combinations that I had never tasted elsewhere. My only criticism would be that the menu featured a lot of big, bombastic (at times challenging) flavours and towards the end of the meal I felt that heaviness and wished there were one (or two) dish less.

But, which one to take out?

I can’t really tell. (Maybe, just keep one dish aside for the morning after?)

:-9

 

(The rest of the photos are on my Facebook page here).

 

GO FOR: Risk-taking innovation. Sublime ingredients. Stunner cuisine.
RATING: 5/5

FRANTZEN/LINDEBERG

Lilla Nygatan 21
111 28 Stockholm
Sweden

Tel: +46 8 20 85 80

www.frantzen-lindeberg.com