Monday, July 09, 2007

Holiday in Spain Finale: El Celler de Can Roca

Unfortunately, thanks to restaurant closures on Sunday/Monday, we didn't have time to do both Can Fabes and Can Roca. On the advice of eGullet responders, we decided eat lunch at Can Roca and skip Can Fabes for this trip. It turned out to be a great way to celebrate the Fourth (insert bad pun about culinary fireworks? no, let's not). Since we'd decided to drive back to BCN for our last night, we'd made the earliest possible lunch reservation - 1:00PM, oh late Spain hours! The restaurant is tucked behind a small front garden, small and unassuming (especially given the rep). Although we arrived about 15 minutes late (a few wrong turns), we were one of the first tables to be filled. We asked to sit in the back room (with views of a small pool and garden), which we had all to ourselves for the first few courses.

We were soon served a (presumably complementary, since served before we ordered anything) glass of cava (Cava El Celler de can Roca Albet i Noya) and offered a selection of breads. The large rectangular basket must have held at least 8 choices, although I only remember the ones we tried - olive (Adam), tomato (me), and onion (both). Once verifying that substitutions could be made, we ordered the most extensive tasting menu and asked for wine pairings. Since the printed menu we were given at the end included descriptions of the (surprisingly few) dishes for which we substituted, I'll include the descriptions for interested carnivores.

The "snacks" included: crunchy cod chips (which, while clearly fishy, were surprisingly good), "peanut caramel" (essentially a very good, fancy peanut brittle), "black olives crunchy" (a ripe olive in a sweet tuile - a great contrast, really delicious), "cucumber with vinegar" (according to the menu - I'm pretty sure it was actually squash, vinegar gelee, just okay), and "carrots with coconut and orange" (very Stone Barns-y, but the non-carrot flavors could have been less subtle so that it seemed less like just eating a raw carrot). Our menu listed "parmesan biscuit," but the cod chips seem to have been a substitution for that. In case it's not obvious, the descriptions move clockwise around the photo from the top.

The "tapas" course was the only place that we had substitutions for meat dishes. The best of the tapas was a sort of play on a tomato salad - tomato water, vinegar sorbet, some sort of gelee on the bottom, but also with apple flavor (maybe that was the gelee? can't remember). I do remember loving the hint of apple sweetness, and this dish was great in general. A sort of herb custard with one raw clam was good (though same raw shellfish apathy made this less enjoyable). The brownish gel was so fishy that I didn't want to finish it. I could have sworn that it was described as a mussel dish at the time, but the menu listed a "fennel veloute with see water [sic] and barnacles," which it could easily have been. We didn't receive either the "pigeon parfait, Bristol Cream, orange and spices" (sounds interesting) or the "fig's terrine with bitter tender almonds and foie gras." I believe this is where we got the Palacio de Otazu 01, which was a very interesting, big chardonnay.
The "oyster with Champagne, apple, cumin, curry and species bread," paired, unsurprisingly, with another glass of the cava, was a slightly interesting take on a classic combination. In addition to the actual champagne liquid poured over the dish, the green, bottled shaped dish was lined with a gel and studded with bits of apple. I don't remember cumin or curry, and I could have sworn there was some ginger, but I can't be sure. No particular bread was served alongside.

The "Spring mushrooms could [sic] soup with avocado and pines ice cream" was a very cool concept, but the flavors left a bit to be desired. Despite the menu, I'm almost positive that the mushrooms were described as (and tasted like) white mushrooms. While the clear gel had a very distinct mushroom flavor, it would probably have been amazing if more interesting mushrooms had been used. The thin ribbons of avocado also tasted a tad underripe. Still, a good, creative vegetarian dish, if not outstanding. I think this is where we got Lustau Oloroso Abocado 89, a sherry that seemed a sort of odd pick for early in the meal, but I remember thinking that the pairings were well thought out and surprisingly successful throughout.

When the "Mussels with Riesling" arrived, I'll admit I was a bit disappointed--not more raw shellfish!--but this one was really excellent. Which is saying a lot about raw mussels, from me. Similar to the minibar deconstructed white wine, the concept was that the underlying flavors of the reisling were each emphasized individually (but where minibar used gelee, Can Roca used mussels). The flavors, from bottom to top (the order in which we were instructed to eat) were bergamot (vaguely like eating perfume), apple (tasted like a bright, not too sweet applesauce), citrus, something fruity (peach, I think?), salt (for the "mineral" in the wine), and white truffle (a rich foam that tasted strongly of white truffle - and not just truffle oil - heavenly) . Like with the oysters, the wine pairing was obvious, an A.Chrissman Konigsbacher Idig 05 (semi-sweet, not at all syrupy, paired nicely).

Like the mushroom and avocado dish, I really wanted to love the "artichokes with sunflowers and orange," but it fell a bit short of its potential. While I did enjoy it a lot, the sunflower puree was a bit overpowering for the artichoke puree. However, the crispy artichoke slices were good and the citrus of the orange supremes cut the rich creaminess of the purees very well. This course was paired with the Edetaria 05, which was an extremely interesting, very nutty white wine. I would love to be able to find it in the States.

For the next course, a glass dome was removed at the table to release a thick, white cloud of smoke, which had the familiar, comforting smell of a campfire. The smoke cleared to reveal the "white asparagus souffle on embers." This was one of my favorite dishes of the entire trip. A picket fence of thinly sliced white asparagus encased a luscious, soft asparagus souffle. While this sounds simple enough, it was just amazing. I scrapped every bite off the plate that I could, and stared enviously at the table next to us when they received their own souffles a while later. We got another pour of the Edetaria, which was actually great since we'd enjoyed it so much.

The "hot veloute of prawn with cacao onions and mint" was the sort of rich dish that one would expect to eat in a more traditional, French restaurant. However, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it in a French restaurant and certainly did so here. The shrimp were covered in a thick, rich sauce, but what made this dish really excellent (instead of just overpoweringly creamy) was the puree of caramelized onion at the bottom of the bowl. When all the components were eaten together, it was more balanced and absolutely delicious.
The "noodles prawns 'fideua' topped with young garlic museline" was probably my least favorite of the savory dishes since the oysters. I guess I just felt like the ingredients didn't mesh well into something particularly interesting. The "noodles" were a bit sticky and didn't really have a strong flavor. The shrimp were well cooked but not particularly flavorful, though better w/ some of the thick foam. Overall, this one just didn't leave a strong impression, either positive or particularly negative.

I enjoyed the Can Roca skate, which they called "ray fenouil and green olives," much more than I had enjoyed the skate at El Bulli the night before. Although I couldn't really taste the fennel, the tan sauce had an intense green olive flavor that was delicious. There were also bits of sea bream and some greens garnishing this dish.

The "codfish with pumpkin and red paprika oil" was probably my least favorite of the savory dishes, which made it a disappointing place to end. I think this was more a function of the fact that I don't love codfish all that much, especially the texture (too dense?), than any fault of the cooking. I did think it was very cool to discover that the "pumpkin," which I had thought was just chunks of pumpkin meat cooked soft, was actually a pumpkin-flavored gel pasta. I'm not sure the pumpkin and other ingredients, which were on the sweet side, really went all that well with the cod.

The "lactic dessert ("dulce de leche," sheep milk ice cream, sheep cottage cheese foam, sheep's yoghurt and lactic cloud)" was my favorite of any dessert we ate in Spain. The components got more dense as I ate my way from the cotton candy "lactic cloud" on top, to the icy salmon-colored sliver, to the yoghurt and foam, and finally to the dense, rich caramel layer on the bottom. When I was little (maybe 8 or 9), a Brazilian friend taught us how to make ducle de leche by boiling a can of condensed milk (which I loved). That is exactly what the dulce de leche in this dessert tasted like, scoring nostalgia points as well as flavor points. It was great to be able to taste the distinct milk flavor in so many different forms, and the slightly sour flavor in the yoghurt and the lightness of many of the parts kept this dish from being too sweet.

The second dessert was a "roses souffle with chocolate and pistachio's ice cream." It was a very interesting dessert. The "souffle" wasn't really a souffle so much as a sort of foam being confined within a fine, cylindrical (edible) shell of some sort. It was sort of like eating airy perfume. The combination of rose, chocolate (sort of like a brownie), and pistachio was good, but I was too full to finish it. I really liked that neither dessert was too heavy (or overwhelmingly chocolatey), given how full (and borderline drunk) I was.

After the Edetaria, there was a Ino Masia Serra N.V. Garnatxa (I believe it's a local varietal in the region), Martin Berdugo 03 tempranillo, Muscat Rivesaltes Ambre, and an Albersweiler Latt Auslese 02. In case it wasn't obvious, there was a LOT of wine paired with the meal. Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly where the last few paired (I was feeling the first, oh, four or five glasses). By the end, we were waiving away the waiter and leaving glasses half-filled. Because Adam had to drive, I actually don't think he finished a single glass. The picture is from the end of the meal, after about half the glasses had been finished (by me) or cleared half-finished (Adam).
The petit fours included a little citrus (I think) gelee, candied raspberries, chocolate covered poprocks (I always get a kick out of poprocks in haute food), and some sort of meringue (can't remember the flavor. The watermelon lolly pops looked like solid rock candy, but were actually melon balls covered in a thin, gelled layer (giving them the hard candy sheen). I think I would have preferred real lollies, if only because I wasn't quite ready for the meal to end and the real melon was too quickly eaten.
This was a great end to our food-centric vacation. The eGullet posters who steered us here were definitely right, especially given the fish-heavy menu. Looking over the photos from El Bulli and Can Roca later, we loved the reminders of excellent meals from the trip.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can find the detaria in the

4:12 AM  

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