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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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Le Dauphin, Paris

Praises sung

Praises have been sung and we have all heard too terribly well about Inaki Aizpitarte and his Chateaubriand, the best of France according to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, for its innovative, tremendously reasonably priced, ever-changing tasting menu. The thing is, when I was there, I only found my menu of that day hit-and-miss and left nowhere near the edge of satisfaction..

Le Dauphin, neighbour to Le Chateaubriand, is Inaki’s second addition into Paris’s booming “bistronomique” scene. It follows the formula not otherworldly from its brother restaurant. Innovative dishes, jovial ambiance, and no website. The only difference is that Inaki scrapes off the tasting menu format and institutes a tapas dining menu of over 30 dishes, excluding cured meat and cheese options. The price per dish fluctuates between €6 and €20, with the average being €11-14.

The place looks a quirky coupling of wooden tables, granite floor, a lot of mirrors and stark white fluorescent lights. There is an island of wine bar in the middle and an ad hoc wine glass chandelier. Booking at Le Dauphin is, of course, essential but the reservation line isn’t so much a pain in the arse. You can call all day, as opposed to Le Chateaubriand’s line only taking calls from 12-2pm. Walking in after 9pm is also possible, and you can sit+eat at the bar.

A meal of no boundary!

This tapas bar format means liberty. (A lot of it).

I ordered some few dishes, topped up my meal with some more, and more. Food can land on the table as one dish at a time or all at once, depending on the kitchen. (I rearranged the sequence below in order of what I think it should be).

Oursins, Navet & Citron Caviar (€13) was a dish to behold. This was a chilled broth of lemon carpaccio, pickled radish and sea urchins. Very clean and refreshing taste that merited from an acute layering of acidity. The subtle sea aroma from curd-y urchins was pleasantly juxtaposed by seaweed dust and sea purslane. Ravioli Grilles (€6) was delicious gyoza with a twist of shallot & red wine vinegar dipping sauce. The casing was expertly done – delectably chewy and crispy – while the filling oozed very well thymed meaty-ness. St Jacques & Panais (€16) was one of the most memorable dishes of the evening. Here two succulent scallops surfing on a wave of sweet parsnip puree were seared to heavenly crispy-ness on one side while the other was left raw and naturally, exuberantly silky. The pickled turnip discs added zingy pleasantness and the parsnip crisps bitefuls of mild medicinal bitter taste.

Poireaux, Oignons & Oeufs de Truite (€10) featured charred leeks and perfuming onions. The latter was slow-cooked for an intensely sweet and moreish effect. Trout roe provided accidental pearls of fishy salty-ness. That said, it’s not one of the most rave-worthy dish of the evening. Risotto a l’Encre (€11), however, was the quintessence of luxurious comfort. In this dense and glossy pool of squid ink, the al dente rice grains did not float or sink, but were suspended in between the surface and the bottom. The cheese-infused ink had miraculous consistency to do just that. The taste was rich and sublime, but more liquidified than its Spanish counterpart of Arroz Negro. I could lick this bowl clean over and over and over and over and over again!!!!! Marquereau, Persil & moules (€11) was, by no means, less impressive. The fillet of mackerel was pan fried for an exceptional crisp and served minimalistically with parsley puree and watercress. Grassy herb sauce lubed up the oily, nicely salted fish and implemented flavours not short of being explosive and cleansing. Good acidity from the pickled radish, and the perfectly poached molluscs injected an oceanic scent to the dish.

(Half way to my finishing line of writing this post. I can’t believe I had eaten this much!!!)

Meat!

Demi Pigeon de Paul Renault, Coing & Figues (€14) arrived with a crispy skin but still blood-leaking pink. Game-y, very game-y. The pairing of sharp quince and mellow sweetness from roasted figs was a touch of genuine uniqueness. “Paul Renault” referred back to the farmer who bred the bird (and I can assure you he did a bloody good job at that). That said, my preference went directly to Wagyu, Aubergine Fumee (€15). The majestic beef was just seared. Just! One bite into this led to carnivourous robustness., which the very, very smoky aubergine and the rich dehydrated black olive powder worked to intensify. And to balance this off, there were rings of grilled sweet red onions. Simply gorgeous…

Sweets…

Glace au Lait Ribot (€5) was translated into fermented milk ice cream. The flavour, however, was mild, like a smooth paste of non-fat yogurt ice cream. Big peppery kicks from olive oil. I liked Tarte aux Fruits Rouges (€8) more. The crusty biscuit played a boat for fresh raspberries and strawberries and spiky Italian meringue. Vibrant and expertly assembled flavours. There was a note of lavender in the background, too.

<3 <3 <3

That’s it!

I had 10 dishes at Le Dauphin, all of which delivered. The evening felt unrestrained (unlike at Le Chateaubriand), and the place got more bustling at night break. Le Dauphin is seriously where I don’t have to take myself too seriously, when I know and can rest assured that the food I eat is taken absolutely seriously. While I wouldn’t make so bold a statement that this was one of the best meals in my life, it was, along with L’ Arpege, the best and most exciting meal I had in Paris. The bill wasn’t as explosive as the flavours. €100 including a glass of wine and a bottle of water seems a fair price for such a big meal, high quality ingredients and innovations.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “10 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “10 out of 10″.

LE DAUPHIN

131 Avenue Parmentier
Paris
75011

Tel. +331 55 28 78 88