Posts Tagged 'Michelin *'

Benu, San Francisco

I maintain a fairly lengthy list of restaurants in the Bay Area that I want to visit. Each time I cross the country from East to Left I seem to be overly constricted by time or budget, which makes for very slow progression through my ever increasing line-up. Last November, by the generosity of The Bro, I was able to make a decent little advance through my SF roster.

benu san francisco table setting

After a run along the water, a kick-ass lunch at Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese Food, a tour of really long staircases, and a hike through the Sutro Baths, The Bro and I were amped for dinner at Corey Lee’s Benu.

The Menu:

benu san francisco 1000 year quail egg

Thousand-year-old quail egg, potage, ginger. A two week preserving process yielded a superb quail egg. The potage of cabbage and bacon was a nice supporter. Of the dozen+ quail egg openers I’ve had at as many restaurants over the past several months, this was easily my favorite.

benu san francisco oyster pork belly kimchi

Oyster, pork belly, kimchi. A great contrast of the cold oyster to the hot belly. A good pepper-like spice with the lingering pork richness was great.

benu san francisco potato salad anchovy

Potato salad with anchovy. With celery and caramelized Fresno Chile curls. Another fantastic contrast, this time of the sweet crunchy anchovies to the soft starchy potato salad.

benu san francisco pumpkin tofu

Homemade pumpkin tofu. Soy bean and butternut squash tofu with pumpkin seeds, pumpkin juice, and Korean sea salt. Not a particular standout for me, but the pumpkin seeds and juice were very enjoyable.

benu san francisco abalone porridge matsutake pine

Chilled porridge, abalone, matsutake mushroom, pine. The abalone had a good texture. A thorough chew of the mushroom rewarded with great earthy flavor. The pine nuts were a nice little surprise.

benu san francisco monkfish liver persimmon mustard

Monkfish liver, persimmon, turnip, mustard, brioche. We were told this used to be made with duck liver before the foie ban. I thought the monkfish liver had a bitterness that made the dish more interesting than I imagined the foie to be. Good compliments of mustard spice and sweetness from crystallized mustard seeds. The crunchy turnips were nice to break up the flavors and cleanse between bites.

benu san francisco frozen sake lees chestnut apple yuzu

Sake lees, chestnut, green apple, yuzu. I thought this dish was terrific. The frozen sake lees were phenomenal; very exciting when paired with rich chestnut puree and sweet apple gelee. The yuzu foam had a vibrant, bright energy that heightened the ensemble.

benu san francisco eel feuille de brick

Eel, feuille de brick, crème fraîche, lime. Beautiful umami combination of eel wrapped in filo. To be dipped in a cooling, tangy creme fraiche with lime zest.

benu san francisco omasum tripe scallop chive lovage

Omasum tripe, scallop, yellow chive, lovage. The dish was well-spiced. The tripe in particular was a pleasure, with a great density and snap.

benu san francisco salt and pepper squid

Salt and pepper squid. The Bro was a huge fan of the squid chip. A cracker flavored with squid ink topped with confit squid, pickled serrano, garlic creme fraiche, cilantro, garlic and chile powders. I got pretty excited about the pickled serranos.

Lobster in two courses:

benu san francisco lobster xiao long bao

– xiao long bao. Shanghai style soupy dumplings filled with a perfect lobster broth. Contrasted with a potent Banyuls/fermented soy vinegar.

benu san francisco lobster noodles fines herbes

– fresh noodles with fines herbes. Damn! Delicious. Like a refined high-end bolognese. Lobster stock, veal stock, bacon, garlic, red wine vinaigrette, and classic Italian fines herbes.

benu san francisco rabbit cassoulet black truffle bun

Rabbit cassoulet with black truffle bun. As delightfully rich as it should be with good starchy beans. Accompanied by a steamed bun flavored with black truffles wrapped around a dense but soft rabbit sausage.

benu san francisco beef rib pear broccoli burdock

Beef rib, pear, broccoli, burdock, charred scallion, fermented pepper. As expected, a flawless cut of beef rib. I adored the fermented pepper sauce with its lasting smoky heat that was mellowed by the asian pear puree.

benu san francisco sharks fin soup dungeness crab

“Shark’s fin” soup, dungeness crab, Jinhua ham, black truffle custard. Chef Lee’s famous faux shark fin soup. The crab lent an oceanic salinity for the ‘fin’ and broth. The grand earthy truffle is always good.

benu san francisco shiso white chocolate almond pomegranate

Shiso, white chocolate, almond, pomegranate. The dryness of the frozen shiso was really cool..haha..get it? I loved the herbaceousness of the shiso against the rich white chocolate snow. The pomegranate seeds gave a fun bright pop.

benu san francisco spice cake hucklyberry

Spice cake, huckleberry, yogurt, oatmeal ice cream. Seasonally appropriate. Possibly a little distracted and disjointed, but a fun dish to eat.

benu san francisco chocolates

Chocolates. White chocolate with dried fruit. Sesame chocolate with a good crunch. Dark chocolate with cognac. Walnut chocolate with walnut liquor.

Some wines we were served:

benu san francisco winebenu san francisco winebenu san francisco winebenu san francisco wine

Date of visit: November 8, 2012

Benu. 22 Hawthorne St. San Francisco, CA. 415.685.4860  http://www.benusf.com/

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Atelier Crenn, San Francisco

It seems that a practice I’ve adopted in my life is visiting San Francisco once a year. Different reasons have brought me to the Bay Area during different seasons each year. Last November my annual trip to the Left Coast was sparked by a childhood friend’s wedding. The timing worked out such that I had just quit my job in NYC and hadn’t yet started at my current one, so a few extra days for dining with The Bro seemed like the right thing to do. My first evening in town landed me at my most anticipated table of the trip: Dominique Crenn’s Atelier Crenn.

DSC_0585

We had a choice between a five course menu or Chef’s Grand Tasting Menu. Naturally, The Bro and I chose the Grand Tasting, which was presented as a poem. As Chef dubs it: Poetic Culinaria. Each course of the menu matched up with a line from the poem:

Autumn whispers the untold memories

Mellow serenades of colors of red and green

The glowing ocean and light écume de mer

Wherein a moon burns orangey bright

Nature rejoice, chasing childhood memories.

As the breeze caresses

A gentle smell, oceanic, of yummy feeling

A subtle smokiness has arrived, and a new start.

Fallen leaf of crispy autumn scene

Birth which gives its morning mystery.

And birds flying free.

Autumn is here

~

atelier crenn cassis kir britton

Autumn whispers the untold memories. A Kir Breton to begin. Inside a delicate white chocolate shell, pressed apple cider. Topped with a reduction of creme de cassis. Following the burst of the shell came a flavor that at once took my mind to the Kirs I’ve been served at Brittany-style creperies in France.

atelier crenn hamachi

atelier crenn hamachi beets

Mellow serenades of colors of red and green. Hamachi with Osetra, fennel, apple and celery sorbet, beet puree, and lardo, finished with a wonderfully savory broth of crustacean shells and beets. The sorbet melted into a bright, lively acidity that heightened the fresh fish and balanced the broth. Bites of fennel lent a cool finish.

atelier crenn oyster cucumber

The glowing ocean and light écume de mer. Washington Kumamoto Oyster with creme fraiche, compressed cucumber, elderflower sake gelee, sea grape, and wheat grass. The astringency of the wheat grass was compelling against the sweet, mildly briny oyster. The fresh cucumber flavor with the sweet and floral gelee made an excellent setting.

atelier crenn carrot

atelier crenn carrot rutabaga grapefruit

Wherein a moon burns orangey bright. Carrot sorbet, dehydrated carrot, and baby carrot with coconut powder and coconut foam, aloe vera gelee, and rutabaga and grapefruit tea to finish. I enjoyed the texture of the coconut powder with the sorbet as well as their different sweetness levels, which balanced well with the bitter tea.

atelier crenn mackerel

atelier crenn mackerel rice cracker

Nature rejoice, chasing childhood memories. Ginger cured Mackerel atop a jasmine rice cracker with onion marmalade, plum and smoked lardo emulsion, and wasabi leaf. A superb celebration of the fish. Sweet and salty notes surprise and supplement the feature.

atelier crenn hibiscus granita

As the breeze caresses. Hibiscus granita, meyer lemon sorbet, frozen fennel mousse. Tartness from the meyer lemon and cool herbaceousness from the fennel brought together by the sweet, floral hibiscus.

atelier crenn grains seeds dashi

A gentle smell, oceanic, of yummy feeling. Buckwheat and quinoa grains with pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds, house made bottarga, dashi, and yuzu kosho. Perfect snap/crunch to the grains. The yuzu kosho provided some sporadic pop-up spice. Beautiful layers of savory salinity going on amidst the seeds and grains.

atelier crenn lamb tartare

A subtle smokiness has arrived, and a new start. Lamb tartare marinated with beet and shallot and infused with smoked eel, sesame powder, rice tulle, blackberry, creme fraiche cubes, horseradish pudding, cured eel. Many pieces and flavors that all came together to make perfect sense.

atelier crenn walk in the forest

atelier crenn mushroomsatelier crenn mushrooms pine meringue

Fallen leaf of crispy autumn scene. Mushrooms: king trumpet, maitake, and pioppini: roasted, pickled, pureed, and dehydrated. With hazelnuts, shaved and in a praline, thai basil, pumpernickel chiffon, sorrel, and foraged flowers, all set off by an insane brûléed pine meringue. Three months later, I’m still trying to wrap my head around this one.

atelier crenn corn silk nest

atelier crenn warm duck consommeatelier crenn corn silk nest duck consomme

Birth which gives its morning mystery. Corn silk nest, corn and duck fat pearls, chocolate branch with porcini powder, vanilla and apple sauces, served with warm duck consommé. At the first couple bites, The Bro and I both thought this might be a dessert, though a sip of the consommé brings it all full circle and suddenly the sweet flavors sensically melt into savory harmony.

atelier crenn squab sunchoke

atelier crenn squab huckleberry sunchoke

And birds fly free. Sonoma squab cooked sous-vide and seared, liver mousse, fumet beurre blanc, sunchoke chips and puree, huckleberry, squab-madeira-truffle jus, kaffir lime leaf. A well-executed, well-balanced slate of bird. The kaffir leaf seemed to reset the richness with a lasting bitter/fresh quality.

atelier crenn

The option was presented for a supplemental cheese course. We of course were happy to oblige. Being that at this point I hadn’t yet been to bed from the night before and had received a steady stream of alcohol, I was starting to get a little fuzzy. Sadly, I don’t remember any specifics. Photo looks yummy though.

atelier crenn autumn dessert

atelier crenn orange squash infusionatelier crenn spiced autumn brioche

Autumn is here. Fall spiced brioche, celery ice cream, pumpkin seed, apple, hibiscus. With an infusion of orange, butternut squash, anise, allspice clove, cinnamon, vanilla. The faux acorn was caramelized sugar with apple puree and nocino. Quite the full-sensory celebration of autumn in dessert form. Beautifully balanced warm flavors and aromas from Pastry Chef Juan Contreras.

atelier crenn petit foursatelier crenn mignardises

Petit fours:

Pate de fruits: Mango celery, guava coriander, strawberry peppermint. Marshmallows: pictachio almond cherry with rice paper nougat, passion fruit. Maldon salt caramel. Chocolate: white chocolate with cardamom, caramelized white chocolate, espresso-chocolate ganache, Valrhona dark.

Some wines we were served(in addition to Champagne):

atelier crenn wineatelier crenn wineatelier crenn wineatelier crenn wine

More than an amazing meal at the hands of Chef Dominique and her team; the experience was cerebral, sensual, and intimate. I look forward to returning with Rocky for this year’s trip out west.

atelier crenn dining room

Date of visit: November 7, 2012

Atelier Crenn. 3127 Fillmore St. San Francisco, CA. 415.440.0460 http://ateliercrenn.com/

Akelaŕe, Spain

akelare akelaŕe entrance

After a beautiful day of swimming, hiking, and eating at my favorite Pintxo bars, our TomTom navigated us along the 20 minute uphill drive from our hotel on the beach to our next dinner spot, Pedro Subijana’s Restaurante Akelaŕe.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre table setting

We were seated at a prime table next to a window overlooking the Bay of Biscay(which didn’t really matter since it was pitch black that night and we couldn’t see a thing outside (note to self: if I return…go for lunch)) As we settled in, we got started with some bubbles.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre torre de l'homenatgeRestaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre lopez heredia vina bosconia rioja 1981

To keep it easy, for beverages we just ordered a solid bottle of Cava, and a bottle of Rioja from my birth year by one of my favorite producers(who we visited the following week). For dinner we had to make a choice between the ‘Aranori’ or the ‘Bekarki’ menus. We opted for the Aranori, which overall looked more appealing. We were really in the mood for some postres, so we asked to be served the desserts from both menus.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre sea garden

Sea Garden. A little sand box to begin. Crispy cod skin flavored with tomato. A cold mussel covered in chocolate that melted away nicely. A savory sea urchin sponge cracker. ‘Beach Pebbles’ of shallot, corn, dill, and parsley. Tasty seaweed tempura ‘Coral’. A bed of edible prawn sand. Good ocean flavors and a fun start to the meal.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre prawn mise en placeRestaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre prawns

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre prawns and french beans

Prawns and French Beans cooked in “Orujo” Fireplace. Wonderfully juicy Spanish prawns cooked perfectly table side over lava rocks with Orujo, a Spanish spirit similar to Grappa. Served with green beans, green bean puree, and a crumble of shrimp shells and rice. A strong opener, and probably my favorite plate of the night.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre mollusks fishermans net

Mollusks in Fisherman’s net. A small selection of supple mollusks cooked over charcoal fire. With rice and borage cream and a rice cracker ‘net’ that tasted like the sea as well. The garlic flower had a nice spice.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre pasta carpaccio

Pasta Carpaccio, Piquillo and Iberic with Parmesan shrooms. Sheeted pasta with intense ham and pepper flavor presented as a meat carpaccio. Amazing when paired with the parmesan and mushrooms.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre hake monkfish habit

Hake, in Monkfish “Habit” and Mussel’s Beans. Hake breaded with monkfish dried skin that had a texture like rice krispies. Served over ‘beans’ made from mussels and rice. The Piparras, traditional Basque pickled green peppers, really enhanced the dish.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre red mullet fusili sauce

Whole-Grain Red Mullet with Sauce “Fusili”. A flakey fillet of Red Mullet with a praline skin of head and bone served with a paste of liver and onion. Good stuff. The three sauces, parsley, soy, and ajo blanco, were fantastic, but I wish I didn’t have to eat the bland rubbery gelatin-like ‘fusili’ noodles to get to them.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre mole cocoa roasted pigeon

Roasted Pigeon with a Touch of Mole and Cocoa. Slightly crisped, tender pigeon breast matched up with cocoa and mole and a ‘ravioli’ of pigeon leg in filo. A wonderful plate of bird.

Around this time some of the staff started to shuffle around furniture and carry tables in and out of the dining room. I would expect that from a corner bistro towards the end of the night setting up for the next day’s brunch, but it was pretty surprising for a half full three star restaurant still in the middle of service.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre xaxu coconut mousse

“Xaxu” and Coconut Iced Mousse. An egg and almond donut-like pastry served with light, aerated coconut ice cream. Rocky’s portion was at most half the size of mine and when the server dropped them, he teased her for having such a small serving(which she is still upset about). At the same time, Chef Subijana was arrogantly generously gracing us with a visit to our table and he also joked about how small Rocky’s dish was. Thanks Chef. I didn’t know what real hospitality was until you made fun of my girlfriend and the measly plate you served her.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre milk grape cheese wine

Milk and Grape, Cheese and Wine in Parallel Evolution. ‘Grapevine, curded sheep milk and walnut’ tasted like a bad egg dish. ‘Powdered fresh cream with chive and grapes’ was nice and clean. ‘Quark cheese with nutmeg and pink pepper aroma, must of tapioca and tomato’ was full flavored with good spice and season. ‘Idiazabal semi-matured with quince jelly and wine dust’ was my favorite part, with great fruit balance. ‘Brandy sirop with Gorgonzola cheese ice cream’ I loved the blue cheese ice cream. ‘Torta of Casar’s grape with soaked raisins in Pedro Ximenez’ had a good sugar to acid ratio.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre different apple tart

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre apple tart

A Different Apple Tart. Hiding under a tasty fruit-rollup-esque ‘apple paper’ was a gorgeous apple tart. Toasted puff pastry layered with apple cream with a nice praline, apple cider sauce, and a ‘mini apple’. Quite a skillfully made pastry. Bravo.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre strawberry and cream

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre layered strawberry

Layered Strawberry and Cream. A reconstructed strawberry. The chocolate shell was good. Basil seeds in a strawberry liquor were fun. The basil leaf gave a great herbaceous pop; I wish they had given me more leaves.

Restaurante Akelaŕe akelare akelarre petit fours

Petit fours. Almond madelines. Pineapple pate-de-fruit. Green tea-red fruit-lime marshmallows. Vanilla candy. Chocolates.

Date of visit: September 22, 2012

Restaurante Akelaŕe. Paseo Padre Orcolaga, 56. San Sebastian, Spain.

+34 943 311209  http://www.akelarre.net/

Mugaritz – Two-a-day, Part 2

After finishing up a nice lunch at Mugaritz, Rocky and I wandered back to the beach for another swim in the ocean, then got cleaned up again, and journeyed back to the restaurant to finish out our two-a-day(click here for part one). Once again we enjoyed the ideal Basque weather with a glass of Txakoli on the patio before moving into the dining room.

mugaritz apple juice and lettermugaritz edible letter

mugartiz satiation eludes bread and olives

“Satiation eludes bread and olives…” An edible message, served with olive spread and apple juice to begin.

mugaritz fishbones

“Fishbones” with nuances of lemon, garlic and cayenne pepper. Just as crispy and dynamically flavored as at lunch.

mugaritz carrots smeared flowers

Carrots and their smeared flowers. Perfect little carrots with cilantro flowers. Amazing.

mugaritz edible stones clay potato

Edible stones. Potatoes covered with clay served with garlic mayo. Amazing again. Rocky was instantly won over after the carrots and these potatoes.

mugaritz shiso rau ram tempura

Crispy bites of Shiso and Rau-Ram dyeing. A shiso leaf cooked tempura style with Rau-Ram ‘dye’. Delicious.

mugaritz melon grapes

Grapes of melon and spiced seeds. Pieces of melon presented as peeled grapes, topped with dried tuna, wading in a fantastic consommé. Rocky nailed it right away that the ‘grapes’ were melon.

mugaritz cultivated herbs vegetables

A sequence of wild and cultivated herbs with pickled vegetables, and creamy dressing. A good mix of herbs, leaves, flowers, and vegetables with a little oil, salt, and what I thought was described as ‘egg yolk vegetable milk’. Solid dish.

mugaritz scarlet prawns

Scarlet prawns, fresh pasta and tomato. Simple and well-balanced. The prawn flavor a good match with the tomato. The rice pasta had a gummy density that was nice.

mugaritz green chickpeas

Green cheek peas(chickpeas) in a gelatinous stew with resinous perfume. Great stuff. The chickpeas, picked in summer, vacuum sealed and frozen, then cooked for a day were wonderful and had a good firmness. Served with cow tendon in a rich, strong, and sticky Iberian pork broth. The richness was almost too much for the vegetal legumes but the two tugged at each other just enough to stay in balance.

mugartiz bonding pestlemugaritz bonding mise en place

mugaritz bonding

“Bonding… ” Toasted seeds and spices served in a Mortar and vegetable broth. The same setup as during the lunch service, but this time the dining room seemed to be more energized and having more fun. For this round, instead of cod, Rocky and I were given radishes. I thought this was much better because the fish at lunch was difficult to cut and eat out of the mortar, and also this prevents having three white fish in a row. For a drink pairing they subbed out a spiced beer from the same producer as the pairing from lunch(Bob’s Beer). The beer complemented the spice of the radishes superbly.

mugaritz daurade amaranth vanilla

Daily catch with acidic sprouts of amaranth and vanilla. Daurade with subtle vanilla flavor that was really brought out by the Cava paired with the dish. The grains, buttery and tasty, were a good companion.

mugaritz sea bass red onion

Coastal fish with crunchy trimmings of aged sourdough and sweet pickled onion. A decent piece of sea bass. The trimmings of aged sourdough were fried almost like tempura and with the pickled red onion were great fun and very addicting. I wanted a bowl of it. We were blind tasted for the drink pairing. Rocky nailed it before even tasting it as sake, because she’s awesome. It was a good match for the dish.

mugaritz veal honeycomb

mugaritz roasted veal

Roasted piece of milk and eggs fed veal. Nectar of flowers and vinegar with the reduction from the roast. I’m not really sure how the components here all tied together, especially with the addition from the honeycomb, but this dish was pretty bangin.

Garlic flowers in tempura. We got up to go chat with a few people in the kitchen. While we were there(and the Nikon was at the table) we had garlic flowers fried in tempura batter served with parsley puree. Amazing.

mugaritz lamb brain ragout

A crust from the grill. Loin of milk fed lamb in a ragout of its brains. A decent enough plate I guess. Probably my least favorite of the meal. The loin was nice, though the ragout didn’t highlight the brain flavor.

mugaritz mint

Mint. A brilliant, fresh, minty, chilled bite.

mugaritz chestnut honey

Chestnut honey meringue with elderberry and grapes. The meringue had the density of a softer, wetter marshmallow. The grape infusion with elderberry drops had me tilting the bowl trying to finish it.

mugaritz red fruit moungo

Red fruits on crushed ice. “Moungo” pepper and eucalyptus pectin. Another amazing dish. A great pairing between fruit flavors. The lemon ice was light enough that it just accented the fresh berry flavor.

mugaritz peach peppercorn ice cream

The warmth of nasturtium and peppercorns with fruit from the market. Gorgeous. Pink peppercorn ice cream with peaches and a little herb. Certainly the best iteration of peaches and cream that I’ve had, and in contention for my favorite dessert of the trip. Rocky says it is ‘hands down the best dessert of the trip, easily’.

mugaritz pear cheese ice cream

Toasted milk and butter with cheese shavings and frozen pear cream. Nice pear ice cream. Great play of different textures, particularly the crunch of the crumbles.

mugaritz petit fours hazelnut

Some chocolate hazelnuts to finish up. As with lunch, I finished the box.

Some wines(and more) we were served:

mugaritz winemugaritz beermugaritz sakemugaritz winemugaritz winemugaritz winemugaritz booze

Overall, this meal was amazing. Without a doubt among my top meals of 2012. In the wake of this dinner Rocky and I had to fight the temptation to cancel our other reservations and spend the rest of our stay with the team at Mugaritz.

Date of visit: September 21st 2012

Mugaritz. Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura Aldea 20. 20100, Errenteria. Gipuzkoa, Spain. +34 943 52 24 55  http://www.mugaritz.com/

Mugaritz – Two-a-day, Part 1

I’m typically fairly slow to post about meals. Currently, it seems my slow speed has become a halt. In an attempt to get out of this slump, I’m writing about my two-a-day at Mugaritz last September. Since I met Rocky, I’ve told her tales of the greatness of San Sebastian and its legendary Basque food culture. So we made it the longest stop on our Euro-dining-trip last fall, and made sure to maximize our indulgence in local fare, from street food to three-starred.

One particularly notable day, Rocky and I had breakfast at the hotel, then walked a few meters to the beach for a nice morning swim in the ocean(as we started each day there). Come lunch time, we cleaned up and hit the road to Errenteria for round one at Chef Andoni Aduriz’s Mugaritz. (click here for round two)

mugaritz patio

We rolled up to the grounds, parked the Smart Car next to a brand new Aston Martin, and announced our arrival. A picture perfect day, we opted start our meal on their serenely arranged patio.

mugaritz patio snacks

We sat down around a low table on somewhat dirty and damp cushions and got started with snacks and a couple glasses of Txakoli(which I was introduced to on that same patio about three and a half years prior).

mugaritz kraft paper spider crab

mugaritz kraft marine paper

Flax and wheat “Kraft” paper with marine accents. Introduced to us as linen paper with spider crab. The cracker was extra light and delicately crisp.

mugaritz fishbones

“Fishbones” with nuances of lemon, garlic and cayenne pepper. This had a fun texture and a nice variety of flavor to wake up the tongue.

mugaritz scarlett shrimp sake lees

Scarlett shrimp over sake lees. It would have been nice if the shrimp had a little more density, but the spinach leaf it was served on was great.

mugaritz bone marrow toast

Grilled toast of bone marrow with herbs and horseradish ash. I really liked the toast and the leaves, though the snack as a whole was kind of cumbersome for finger food and really rich for an opener.

mugaritz marine chords woodwind

Marine chords of a crispy woodwind. I think they presented this to us as ‘crunchy cloud with sea animal’. These were fantastic, with a good maritime flavor.

We lingered outside a few moments longer, then were escorted to a fantastic table in the dining room.

mugaritz tomato sweet garlic

Tomato and sweet garlic… creamed legumes. This plate was quite amazing. A lovely, meaty tomato. Pleasant black garlic that was more restrained than most I’ve had. White bean sauce below that gave a very low-key umami. A real delight to eat.

mugaritz milk skin tagliatelle

Tagliatelle of concentrated milk lightly soaked in a silky juice of roasted squash and tomato. The dried milk skin noodles were a lot of fun, especially with the sauce and the pork lardo wrap.

mugaritz aromatic vegetable ravioli

Ravioli of aromatic vegetables. The ravioli had a grassy, herbaceous taste. The sauce, based with chicken I think, had a strong savoriness. Both had a pleasant amount of bitterness.

mugaritz hazelnut and beans stew

Hazelnut and beans stew. With ‘mother of pearl’. The hazelnuts cooked to a fantastic texture. The broth again was strong and savory.

mugaritz homemade cheese

mugaritz home made cheese cured

Portion of home-made cheese, cured in its own rind, mushrooms and fleshy leaves. This was presented to us as a guessing game of ‘What kind of cheese is this?’ It turns out it’s raw milk and linen seed brushed with some chemical(the name of which I forgot) to create its own rind. It wasn’t very good. The mushrooms were alright though.

mugaritz bonding pestlemugaritz bonding mortarmugaritz bonding mise en place

mugaritz bonding

“Bonding… ” Toasted seeds and spices served in a Mortar and vegetable broth. With cod and sunflower petal. This DIY dish was a lot of fun. At a certain point in the service, each table in the dining room received the mise en place for the course, regardless of where they were in their meal, and were given instructions to grind the seeds and peppercorns. It was nice watching(and hearing) the whole room do this together. Then an army of servers stormed the room finishing the dishes with the fish and broth.

mugaritz pig blood macaron

Macaron. Meringue made from almond flour, sugar, and pig’s blood(apparently a great substitute for egg white) with blue cheese filling. I think most of the diners received these in the kitchen before or near the start of their meals. They way ours showed up seemed like someone just noticed they hadn’t been checked off of our expo sheet yet.

mugaritz roasted hake loin

Roasted loin of hake with clashing grains of aged mascarpone, cauliflower and fresh almonds. Clean flavors. The cauliflower and almond were nice to balance out the fish and cheese, which both shared similar richness with inherent sweetness.

mugaritz monkfish bones stew

Slices of monkfish cooked with the steam of its bones. Crispy stew of roasted rinds and lilies. I think I’d have liked this quite a lot more if it weren’t the third white fish course in a row(I still liked it though). The crispy rinds on top were outstanding.

mugaritz guinea fowl lobster emulsion

Breast of guineafowl with lobster emulsion and its roasted skin. Beautifully crispy skin. An expert layering of rich elements without hitting too hard.

mugaritz iberian pig tail terrine

Crunchy terrine of Iberian pig tails with a bunch of bitter leaves and Txakoli sediments. Well executed crunch on the terrine. The sauce was good, with nice acid to cut the richness. I loved the thickness of the leaves.

mugaritz edible linen napkin

A taste of subtlety. Folded linen with toasted créme fraiche and créme caramel. The napkin was light and brittle with a citrus-like taste.

mugaritz childhood memory toasted waffle

“Forgotten memory from childhood.” Small bite of milky wafer with lemon ice cream. Like an unrolled waffle ice cream cone.

mugaritz almond fairy cake

“Traditional” almond Fairy cake. Ice cream cake with almond and flax seed.

mugaritz frankincense eucalyptus candie

Candies of frankincense. The perfume of eucalyptus barks. A little sweet. A little sour. A little smoky.

Some wines(and a beer) we were served:

mugaritz winemugaritz winemugaritz winemugaritz beermugaritz winemugaritz winemugaritz wine

And an impressive tea box:

mugaritz tea infusion box

And Rocky closing down the dining room(as usual):

mugaritz dining room

Overall a fantastic meal. Though far from the magic I remembered from my first visit, and a letdown to Rocky from the build-up I gave the restaurant. But we maintained our optimism and were just as excited to return for dinner in a few hours(which can be seen here).

Date of visit: September 21st 2012

Mugaritz. Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura Aldea 20. 20100, Errenteria. Gipuzkoa, Spain. +34 943 52 24 55  http://www.mugaritz.com/

Quique Dacosta Lunch

quique dacosta patio sun room

Well rested after a fantastic dinner the night before and coming off a solid breakfast and a swim in the sea, Rocky and I set off for round two at Quique’s(click here for round one). We were given the option again to begin our meal outside, but we thought the heat was a little much to enjoy our opening snacks on the patio, so we posted up in the adjacent sun room to get started.

quique dacosta forceps

A few minutes later, with tweezers and a glass of cava in hand, we were ready to roll. Since a lot of dishes were repeats from the previous night’s dinner, I’ll be brief.

Act 1: Appetizer.

quique dacosta cheese sticks

Stick of smoked and fried cheese.

quique dacosta pancetta steamed bun

Marinated Pancetta.

quique dacosta oak rind broth

Broth of oak barrel and Barceló “Imperial” Rum. Oak rind.

quique dacosta murex sea snail

Purple Dye Murex (sea snail). These sea snails were much bigger than the last ones with a more distinguished taste.

quique dacosta sea currant

Currant of the sea at moment. The broth was different this round. It had a cleaner, less sea-watery flavor.

quique dacosta blood orange endive

Mini endive and blood orange.

quique dacosta raim of pastor

Raïm of Pastor.

quique dacosta seafood chips

Calamari rings. Octopus. Parsley and garlic Sea weed. They switched these up on us a bit. The calamari and octopus crisps replaced the star fish and sea urchin listed on the menu. They were all much crisper than at dinner, likely because the day was much less humid.

Once again, it was time to move the show inside.

Act 2: Tapas

quique dacosta bloody maryMary.

quique dacosta pepperwort

Pepperwort. Again with mackerel. Though they told us the oil of any blue fish will have the same spice-neutralizing effect.

quique dacosta cereal paper

Paper of Cereals.

quique dacosta dove nest

Dove nest.

quique dacosta almonds

Almonds. Almonds prepared into gelee, oil, and slivers. Very clean, light flavor.

quique dacosta strawberry crepe

Strawberry and vinegar crêpe. Strawberry ‘crepes’ with sliced berry and mint. Incredible. Spectacular little bites. The mint really set it off.

quique dacosta campari apple tart

Apple tart and Campari.

quiqiue dacosta cuttlefish turnip wasabi lime pie

Cuttlefish, lime, wasabi and white turnip pie. With flying fish roe. Mild spice, good textures, and clean, distinct flavors. Rocky said: ‘That’s awesome! Way better than what I had at that other place.’ I’m still not sure which other place she was speaking of.

quique dacosta paprika pork jowls

Pork jowls and Paprika.

quique dacosta red pepper watermelon

Red pepper. Once again, the pepper was watermelon. Still brilliant.

quique dacosta iberian ham cococha

Cococha of Iberian ham and pilpil sauce.

quique dacosta smoked bread

Smoked bread. For the ‘cococha’.

quique dacosta foie gras cubalibre

Cubalibre of Foie Gras, Rum Barceló Imperial. Still rockin, but much smaller than before.

quique dacosta bread service

Bread Service. To accompany Act 3. Again with: traditional, parmesan, pesto, white truffle, and soppressata.

Act 3: Mains.

quique dacosta tomato ice

Tomato. As beautifully savory as before.

quique dacosta cocopinut

quique dacosta margarita

Cocopinut – Margarita. Regarding the ‘Cocopinut’.. Well.. Hmm.. I don’t know if interesting is the right word.. Maybe bad? I tried to find pleasure in the coconut-peanut-lime concoction, though it eluded me. Sadly, this was among the worst bites of the trip for me. As for the ‘Margarita’.. a necessary refreshing bite.

quique dacosta tiger nut horchata

Horchata and Tiger nuts. This plate emphasizes the awe in awesome. Light, chilled cocoa butter encapsulating creamy foie gras floating in truffle cream with slices of tiger nuts. Nutty, earthy, sweet, and rich with fun texture play. A big winner.

quique dacosta tiger nuts

What’s a tiger nut? Our server brought some out to try, but said we wouldn’t like them. Fibrous, crunchy, and watery, I found that chewing them through was sweetly rewarding and I ate them all.

quique dacosta red prawn

quique dacosta red king prawn from denis

Red king prawn from Dénia. Tea of king prawns and chards. I was floored again by the excellence of the prawns themselves as well as their preparation, simply lightly cooked in seawater. Alongside was a ‘tea’ made from prawn shells, though it had a consistency closer to a bisque, which was amazing as well.

quique dacosta eel

Eel. Pieces of fresh eel served with faux baby eels(which are popular in the area when in season) made from what seemed to be pasta. A very rich dish. Rocky was mainly excited for the small garlic chip garnish.

quique dacosta oyster and dew

Oyster and dew. This dish was the bomb. Normandy oysters with oyster gel and yuzu flying fish roe. Wonderfully intense oyster flavor complemented with citrus and salinity. The tiny popping roe was a fun supplement to the texture.

quique dacosta cow heart

Cow heart. A fantastic little dish. Thin sliced beef over a bun filled with warm stock(one of those exploding one-bite scenarios). In Midwest terms: it tasted like nice sliced roast beef on top of a fritter filled with jus.

quique dacosta pigeon service presentation

The seven services of the pigeon.

quique dacosta roasted pigeon

quique dacosta pigeon liver

(1) Roasted. (2) Liver. The dish with the foam/mousse had a good cashew and mushroom taste. The liver was very strong flavored, almost too much so, but the sauce around it was nice.

quique dacosta pigeon sweet corn tartlet

(3) Sweet corn tartlet. This was damn delicious. I think it fit into the pigeon tasting in that the bird’s diet is heavy on corn.

quique dacosta pigeon breast on sprout

(4) Breast on sprout. The breast was cooked spot-on and had a great radiating flavor. The grains and sprouts were a delightful accompaniment.

quique dacosta pigeon consomme

(5) Consommé. A glass of pigeon consommé to sip along with the pigeon service. It was okay, but nothing too great on it’s own.

quique dacosta pigeon rice

quique dacosta pigeon liquorice orange rice

(6) Rice of pigeon, liquorice and orange. Another super-rich rice dish, though more manageable than the previous night’s rice plate. The orange and herbaceous licorice brightened the richness of the densely pigeoned grains.

quique dacosta pigeon mango chutney

(7) Chutney of Mango. Small, barely ripe mango pieces with a nice, solid crunch served with vanilla and mango gelee. Nice when paired with the flower petals, and extraordinary when bit with the mint. Not quite cohesive as part of the pigeon service, but nice to bridge the gap into desserts.

Act 4: Desserts.

quique dacosta blood orange rose yogurt

Iced yoghurt, rose aroma and blood orange. Oh wow. The rose essence was like a punch in the face(in a good way). A juicy orange slice hidden underneath was a good surprise.

Valence:

quique dacosta sweet potato biscuit

quique dacosta squash donut

quique dacosta valence cocktail michael jackson

Biscuit of sweet potato. Squash donut. Cocktail (Michael Jackson). A moist pastry with sweet potato mousse and cinnamon. The squash donut was yummy with smooth pumpkin filling. A cocktail of Arrope, black vodka, coffee liquor, bitter chocolate, and orange zest. I guess I don’t know why ‘Michael Jackson’ was parenthesized on the menu.

By this time the day had cooled a little and we relocated to the patio to finish up.

Act 5: The Magic Box. The Tree.

quique dacosta magic box the tree

Macaron of chocolate. Chocolate marshmallow. Rocher of chocolate. Pompon of dry fruit. Chocolate caviar. Red fruit crystal.

Some wines we were served:

quique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta wine

Having a meal at Quique Dacosta is like taking a culinary tour of the Costa Blanca. Quique’s understanding and employment of his local bounty is astounding. Though he already has a fair amount of accolades, I’m sure Chef Dacosta is just getting started into his prime years. I look forward to returning for another few rounds next time I’m in Spain.

Date of visit: September 19th, 2012

Quique Dacosta. Ctra. Las Marinas, Km. 3. Dénia, Spain. +34 965 784 179.  http://www.quiquedacosta.es/

Quique Dacosta, Dinner

For a number of years I had wanted to visit Quique Dacosta’s eponymous restaurant(formerly El Poblet), but sadly, I had to scratch it from a few different itineraries for a few different reasons. So when I started piecing together Rocky’s and my euro-dining-trip this past fall, I made it one of the prime pivot points. And as long as we were making our way to Denia, Spain, I figured we may as well double-up. This post covers dinner from our first night in Denia. Click here for the next day’s lunch at Quique.

We drove into town after a few days in Valencia, played in the sea for bit, then walked along beach to dinner. We were encouraged to ‘start with the MENU “LOCAL UNIVERS” tonight then have the MENU “MEDITERANIAN FLAVOR” for lunch tomorrow’. We started our meal on the restaurant’s patio. It was a little humid, but overall beautiful.

Act 1: Appetizer.

quique dacosta cheese stick

Stick of smoked and fried cheese. These cheese sticks had an impressively delicate casing. The flavor was great, though a little sweet for a first bite.

quique dacosta marinated pancetta

Marinated Pancetta. Beautifully thin cuts of pancetta draped over steamed buns. Rocky exclaimed ‘Knocks the socks off David Chang’s’.

quique dacosta oak rind broth

Broth of oak barrel and Barceló “Imperial” Rum. Oak Rind. The oak rinds were light and crisp with a nice toasty smoke flavor. They were set off by an amazing savory consommé.

quique dacosta purple murex snail

Purple Dye Murex (sea snail)A very meaty sea snail served in a shell with a sweet broth to finish.

quique dacosta sea currant

Currant of the sea at moment. The broth had a strong sea/salt water flavor. The ‘sea currants’ had a great snap and were fun to eat.

quique dacosta blood orange endive

Mini endive and blood orange. Wonderful pairing of bitter flavors and acid. Brilliant use of citrus.

quique dacosta rain of pastor

Raïm of Pastor. Raïm of Pastor, which is found throughout the Valencian region, lightly pickled. These had a good crunch and nice briny taste.

quique dacosta seafood chips

Star Fish. Sea Urchin. Parsley and garlic Sea weed. Three different sea themed rice crisps, each flavored with their respective inspirations. The stars had a savory powder that made me think of SpongeBob Doritos. The sauce on the urchins was great. The parsley chips tasted like a snack an old roommate of mine used to have shipped from Japan. Sadly, the crisps weren’t terribly crispy, likely due to the humidity they were served in.

That concluded ‘Act 1’, and we moved inside for the remainder of the meal.

Act 2: Table of cured fish.

quique dacosta delicatessens

Delicatessens. (Bonito, ling fish, sea bass, dry octopus) A plate of salt-cured and dried sea fare. The bonito was like a fish jerky. The ling fish, or mullet, roe had a good gummy chew with a bitter finish. The sea bass roe was delightfully salty. The cured and flamed octopus had a nice strong char.

quique dacosta cereal paper

Paper of Cereals. A thin cracker of grains to accompany the cured plate.

quique dacosta pickled onion

Pickled onion. Acidic allium bites were great between the dense salty fish and roe.

quique dacosta fig

Fig. Dehydrated fig crumbles in rice paper packets. They tasted like fig flavored Lucky Charms marshmallows.

Act 3: Tapas.

quique dacosta bloody mary

Mary. Though I don’t like the taste of Bloody Marys, this little dish was impressive. An amazing thin shell holding in remarkable Bloody Mary flavor. Alongside a lovely slice of celery.

quique dacosta pepperwort

Pepperwort. We were instructed to first eat the leaf and the fish together, but to save a piece of the leaf to eat alone. On its own, the leaf had a crazy horseradish/wasabi type spice. Though with the mackerel, the spice was neutralized by the fish’s oil.

quique dacosta dove nest

Dove nest. Faux eggs set in nests. Based with yolks and flavored with truffle and olive. The smooth texture of the eggs were great against the crispy nests.

quique dacosta campari apple tart

Apple tart and Campari. The apple cake had a fun disappearing quality. The small flower gave a pleasant mellowing chew to balance the in-your-face bitterness of the Campari granite.

quique dacosta paprika pork jowls

Pork jowls and Paprika. The crisps underneath had a little sweet that was good with the melt-away fattiness of the pork jowls.

quique dacosta red pepper

Red pepper. ‘Piquillo peppers’. My first comment after trying this was ‘It tastes like watermelon’. When we were asked what we thought it was, I nailed it. Dehydrated watermelon with mustard seeds.

quique dacosta cococha

Cococha of Iberian ham and pilpil sauce. I wish I had been familiar with Cococha(a fleshy part of the jaw of cod) before trying this faux version so I would have had more appreciation for it.

quique dacosta smoked bread

Smoked bread. To accompany the ‘Cococha’.

Act 4: Mains.

quique dacosta tomato water

quique dacosta dried tomato water

The water of dried tomatoes. Fantastic ice flavored with sun dried tomato. Great restrained savory taste.

quique dacosta cuba libre

Cubalibre of Foie Gras, lemon, rocket salad with Rum Barceló Imperial. A gel of Coke, rum, and lemon, emulsified with foie gras. This was a big, rich wow. I think the acid from the Coke kept it from being too over the top.

quique dacosta haze

quique dacosta the haze

The haze. A striking compilation of peas, pork, and mushroom served over aromatic moss and pine. The ‘fog’ added the to the idea of a walk in the forest.

quique dacosta prawns

quique dacosta king prawns

Denia Red king prawns. This was our first encounter with Denia’s famous prawns. Since we were going to have the menu preparation of prawns the next day, they were served to us very simply: boiled in seawater, accompanied by sea salt. Meaty, sweet, exquisite.

quique dacosta mullet

quique dacosta red mullet

Red mullet with incrustation of its guts with eucalyptus. A very meaty piece of red mullet dressed with a killer sea urchin sauce. Topped with flat beans tossed in eucalyptus oil.

quique dacosta rice senia ashes

Rice Sénia, ashes. Black Senia rice with black truffle and braised pigeon liver. Holy smokes. This was intense; probably the hardest hitting dish of the trip.

quique dacosta bread service

Bread service with Act 4. Five flavors of breadsticks: traditional, parmesan, pesto, white truffle, and soppressata.

Act 5: Desserts.

quique dacosta citrus fields

Citrus field. Various local citrus treated and presented in various ways. Lovely variations of tastes and textures.

quique dacosta milk

quique dacosta milk dessert

Milk. A solid milk skin served over gelato and pastry.

quique dacosta the tree

The Tree. Pompon of dry fruit, chocolate caviar, both served in rice packets. Red fruit crystal.

quique dacosta magic box

The Magic Box. Soft chocolate macaron. Chocolate and passionfruit marshmallow. Chocolate Rocher with nice crispies inside.

Quite an amazing first meal we had at the hands of Quique Dacosta and his team. To see what they served us for lunch the next day, click here.

Some wines we were served:

quique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta winequique dacosta wine

And Rocky wants to make sure anyone that actually finds this page and scrolls this far down knows that she caught a small lizard on our walk back to the hotel.

quique dacosta lizard

Date of visit: September 18th, 2012

Quique Dacosta. Ctra. Las Marinas, Km. 3. Dénia, Spain. +34 965 784 179.  http://www.quiquedacosta.es/

Relæ, Copenhagen

Leading up to our recent Euro-dining-trip, Rocky and I were on the lookout for ideas to fill in the gaps between our major dining destinations. Concerning Copenhagen, we already had a decent amount of our short stay booked up, so we gathered a few suggestions that sounded good to throw in our back pockets and play by ear in our free time.

Fast-forward a little. During half-time of our two-a-day at Noma, while chatting with Chef Rene Redzepi, he found out we had no definite dinner plans for the following night. Rene first recommended we have dinner at Relæ, then he insisted on it, then he went so far as to have his buddy Ali make a reservation for us(which was great, since we likely wouldn’t have scored a spot ourselves because of the late planning). Chef exclaimed: ‘You guys have to go there. Not just because those guys are friends of mine, but because it’s fucking amazing. Nobody else is doing what they’re doing.’  Since I had received a similar endorsement from Matthew Lightner at Atera a few weeks before, I was excited to see what Chef Christian Puglisi was cooking.

Moving forward a day, Rocky and I were feeling good from a great lunch at Geranium, and were out touring Copenhagen with our new friend Jonas The Dane, when I got the text from Ali. We were all set for dinner at Relæ. With dinner plans locked down, we went to see what there was to see in Christiania, had a couple beers just off Pusher Street, then made our way across town and up to Jægersborggade.

Rocky and I showed up, dried off a few moments(it had started pouring rain as we left Christiania), then were seated at a small chef’s counter overlooking part of the kitchen. Soon after, Jonas The Dane arrived, somehow much drier than us(which is worth mentioning since we hired a cab and he rode his bicycle), and we ordered some aperitifs.

In front of each of us was a drawer containing a menu, napkin, and enough silverware to make it through the meal. The menu presented two options for dinner. Jonas The Dane and I ordered the chef menu and Rocky opted for the vegetable menu(which differed only in two of the four courses). Supplements were offered in three places, so of course, we added all three: a small starter, a cheese course, and a post dessert.

My overall booze consumption for the day was pretty decent, so I’ll try to piece together what I can remember:

Celeriac taco. Tasty little tacos with good root vegetable crunch, peppery greens-watercress and nasturtium, and hints of richness from cured egg yolks.

Bread service. Thick-crusted sourdough accompanied by cold-pressed Sicilian olive oil.

Lamb from havervadgård, shrimps and dill. The shrimp, dried and powdered, provided a little ocean salinity to the slices of lamb. The onions lent an outstanding allium flavor to the plate.

Eggplant, seawater and elderflower. First course from the vegetable menu. I had been on a stretch of having terrible eggplant dishes at great restaurants the previous couple months. When I saw Rocky’s dish show up, I thought the streak would continue. This however was fantastic. Nicely salted, good acid, and honest eggplant flavor.

Turnip, chervil and hourseradish. Dehydrated and rehydrated turnips had a fun texture, which was enlivened even more by the occasional pop of a mustard seed. The more I chewed the turnips, the more layers of flavor they revealed.

Dried courgettes and bitter leaves. Third course of the vegetable menu. I could be way off here, but I think they may have said that this zucchini was also dehydrated and rehydrated, then dusted with seaweed and salt. Rocky told me this was the only time she enjoyed eating zucchini that wasn’t baked into a cake.

Veal sweetbread, cauliflower and basil. I love cauliflower. I love basil. Sometimes I like sweetbreads. Every now and then I love sweetbreads. I was astounded by how good this plate was. The glands were cooked perfectly. The chopped cauliflower was seasoned superbly. Taking the time to thoroughly chew these bites was a wonderfully rewarding experience.

Fresh goat cheese and parsley. A composed course of light, subtly tangy Swedish goat cheese and parsley puree presented in a Jackson Pollack fashion and served with more house sourdough in lieu of additional silverware.

Corn, breadcrumbs and marjoram. Another winner. The creaminess of sweet corn ice cream over an Italian meringue. The herbal tang of the marjoram was a fresh counterbalance. Breadcrumbs and whole corn kernels changed up the texture.

Söl toffee. Seaweed accented toffee on small pastry tarts. Small, rich bites to finish the meal.

Chef Christian Puglisi’s food is bad-ass. Inventive, sometimes daring combinations, but still clean and fresh. Our meal was full of bold flavors, but didn’t hit us too hard, and left us feeling great. Thanks to Redzepi for the recommendation and Ali for the reservation.

Some wines we were served:

Date of visit: September 14th, 2012

Relæ. Jægersborggade 41.Copenhagen, Denmark. +45 3696 6609  http://restaurant-relae.dk/

Geranium, Copenhagen

After following the success of Chef Rasmus Kofoed in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competition(three medals, including one gold in 2011), I decided that a visit to his restaurant Geranium, in Copenhagen, would be a great addition to the line-up for me and Rocky’s recent Euro-eating-trip.

Coming off of a killer two-a-day at Noma the day before, we made our way to Geranium for lunch. Before arriving, we had already decided we were having the Lunch Universe Tasting Menu with their juice pairings(which were overall great, at moments transcendent) and a bottle of Champagne.

Our Tasting Menu:

Seaweed Chips. Good crunch with good ocean flavor.

Carrot & Seabuckthorn. Delicate shell that was almost like candy, but not too sweet.

Sea Salt Cheese & Ramson. Savory cheese ‘sticks’ with ramson mayo for dipping.

Dried Flowers & Apple. Great floral and fruit flavor in a bite size packet.

Mushrooms. Pickled mushroom soup. Very light body and taste. Maybe too light.

“Razor Clams”. Crisp, brittle, faux shells with razor clam, creme fraiche, and parsley. Apparently edible fake shells are en vogue in haut cuisine.

Jerusalem Artichoke “Tree” & Walnut Oil. These crispy strips of tubers were tasty snacks and were fun to eat.

Burned Potato & Sheep’s Milk Butter. Charred potatoes, to be placed on spoons full of flavored sheep butter and eaten together. Nothing wrong here.

Jellied Ham, Tomato Water & Savory Flowers. Beautifully light savory flavors freshened with lemon thyme. Brilliantly paired with pine needle lemonade.

“Dillstone” & Fermented Vegetables. Visually arresting, the ‘stones’ were like denser, smoother, herbaceous gum drops. To be passed through the vegetable and salmon roe sauce.

Mackerel, Burned Juniper, Horseradish & Cucumber. The granite of cucumber and horseradish was impeccably balanced with uplifting freshness and spice and played perfectly with the salted mackerel. Served with green apple, cucumber, elderflower juice, which was exquisite.

Bread with Emmer & Spelt. Small sourdough grain bread with buttermilk butter.

Onions & Melted Hay Cheese. Wonderfully restrained allium flavors balanced by a soup of melted hay cheese and topped with crumbled rye bread and chamomile.

“Iron & Minerals” A superb lightly cooked oyster, cabbage, and bleak roe sauce. Paired with a vibrant apple and tarragon juice.

Langoustine & Hay Aroma. A nice savory, perfectly seasoned langoustine with herbs, flowers, and lovely herb sauce. The apple juice served alongside was far too sweet for the dish, but our Champagne was great.

Venison, Red Leaves & Stems. Holy smokes. This dish was effing incredible. An intense venison tartare, cherry vinegar gelee, beets, and dried mushroom and berry sauce. All the components were individually very bold, and yet all worked to together to elevate the whole plate. To match, we were poured juniper berry and red grape juice, which was good stand alone, and with the food, put the combo in contention for the best pairing of the trip.

Elderflower Soda. After savories, we were invited into the kitchen to have a little treat of elderberry gelee with sparkling elderberry foam, while standing at a high top adorned with three Paul Bocuse statuettes.

Herb Tea, Plums & Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt. Lemon balm herb ice with sheep yogurt and yellow peaches. Very cooling and refreshing. Paired well with green plum, lemon balm lemon juice.

Grilled Raspberries “Flora Danica” & Goat’s Milk Cream. Grilling the raspberries concentrated the sugar just enough to suit the tang of the goat milk cream. The flower petals and crystallized thyme were as pleasing to the palate as they were to the eye. The rhubarb rose petal juice complemented nicely.

“Green Egg” & “Carrot Leaf”. Light, sweet carrot leaves. Chocolate, caramel, pine ‘eggs’.

Kofoed’s food is beautiful and thoughtful, with disciplined, restrained vibrance. Our experience at Geranium was enlightening and just overall classy.

Date of visit: September 14th 2012

Geranium. Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 8. Copenhagen, Denmark. +45 69 96 00 20. http://geranium.dk/

Noma – Two-a-day, Part 2.

Riding the high from a life-changing lunch and a beautiful day in Copenhagen, Rocky and I once again made our way up Strandgade for round 2 of our two-a-day at Rene Redzepi’s Noma(click here for round 1).

The flood of sunlight was replaced with candle glow and soft lamps. The dining room was more energetic than at lunch, and the staff was just as warmly and enthusiastically welcoming as eight hours before. After a few kind greetings and a few glasses of bubbles, we were ready to go again.

Snacks:

Since we had most of these openers at lunch, I’ll try to breeze through them here.

Malt flatbread and juniper. Again tucked away inside the flower vase and accompanied with creme fraiche.

Moss and cep. Fantastic again.

Crispy pork skin and black currant.

Blue mussel and celery.

Cheese cookie, rocket and stems.

Potato and duck liver.

Dried carrot and sorrel. Once more I’ll iterate: this dish was mind-blowingly incredible and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks.

Caramelized milk and cod liver.

Pickled and smoked quails egg.

Radish, soil and grass.

Herb toast and smoked cod roe. An addition to our lunch line-up from earlier. 17 herbs, vinegar powder, and cod roe mayo sandwiched with duck stock crisps. Fresh herbaceous bites with bursts of acidity and ocean salinity book-ended by savory richness.

Æbleskiver. A take on the traditional Danish spherical pancakes with the addition of smoked bleak and pickled cucumber. Rocky excitedly exclaimed it as a ‘fish donut’.

Veal neck and söl. Veal fibers, creme fraiche, söl. Crispy, oily, savory little bites.

Grilled corn. Rocky wants me to make clear again: these were perfect.

Sorrel leaf and cricket paste.

Menu:

Potato and snails. New potatoes cooked with juniper wood. Rose hip salt. Snails cooked in their own juices with herbs and herb sauce. We were told to use the herb picks to skewer the potatoes and dip them in the rose hip salt, then do the same with the snails. And afterwards, dip the herbs in the butter and eat them too. Fantastic.

Razor clam and parsley, Dill and horseradish. Raw local razor clam wrapped in parsley gelee, bordered by horseradish ice, and finished with razor clam and dill sauce. Superb, fresh, bright flavors.

Dried scallops and beech nuts, Biodynamic grains and watercress. The dehydrated Norwegian scallop slices had a beautiful crisp texture and nicely concentrated sweetness balanced by the meaty grains, spicy watercress, and squid ink sauce. Even Rocky, who claims to hate scallops, after a moment of silence, with a contemplative look on her face uttered ‘This is a really cool dish’.

Tartare of beef, Sorrel and juniper. Mild and precise beef tartare topped with spicy, acidic wood sorrel and a little onion. Meant to be scooped up with fingers and dragged through the ground juniper and lively tarragon emulsion. The primal mode of consumption gave a deeper connection to the food and its viking roots.

Vegetables and red currant. With leeks, fennel, and hazelnut. Simple, high quality ingredients treated and assembled beautifully. Maybe not as mind-blowing or thought-provoking as most of the plates we had, but still impeccably balanced great flavors.

Pike perch and cabbage. Danish pike perch cooked out back on their barbecue, wrapped in cabbage. Accompanied with lemon verbena sauce and fish bone sauce. Gorgeously presented and dynamically flavored. The combination of sauces made for great depth with the leaf-bound perfect fillet.

Beef cheek and fresh cheese. This dish was certainly firing on all cylinders. The rich cheeks paired well with the cooling house-made cheese. The duo was enhanced by ramson’s allium spice, savory chicken and mushroom sauce, and earthy, tangy Swedish chanterelles.

Carrot and sea buckthorn. A soft, airy carrot cake with sea-buckthorn berries sitting on a bed of sheep’s milk foam and livened with grated licorice. Likely the purest iteration of a carrot cake I’ve encountered. A perfect dessert.

Cucumber and elderflower. Light elderflower mousse surrounded by cucumber sorbet. Fresh, floral, addictive. A wonderful ending to the written menu.

Petit fours:

Chocolate potato crisps. Whey meringues.

Bone marrow caramels. Magnificently rich and savory caramels, served in the bone, wrapped in butcher paper.

Some wines we were served:

When I travel and try out restaurants I’ve never been to, I do pretty well about coming in without expectations, and bringing in only hopes. Though when I visit a place with as much acclaim(and holding as grand a title) as Noma, it’s hard to leave it all at home and anticipation takes over at least some part. But both my meals at Noma exceeded everything I hoped they would be. I would love to learn more about Nordic cuisine and gain insights to the history and inspirations behind the food then revisit for another couple meals and see if Redzepi’s menus are even more mind-blowing. Every member of their team and every step experience struck a positive chord and created a masterful symphony. Echoing the exclamations of countless enthusiasts over the past few years: Noma just may be the best restaurant in the world.

Date of visit: September 13th, 2012

Noma. Strandgade 93. Copenhagen, Denmark. +45 3296 3297. http://noma.dk/


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