Sant Pau, San Pol de Mar, 4-4-14, 159 Euro/10 Course, French-Catalan
Sant Pau was the only Michelin 3-star restaurant owned by a female chef/owner Carme Ruscalleda. I have read an article a while ago that the esthetic presentation made by this chef was considered the epitome of ying-style while the esthetic presentation made by chef at El Celler de Can Roca was the epitome of yang-style. I decided to use Girona as base to venture out to the Northeastern Spain. My major concern was that the trip from Girona to San Pol de Mar required a mid-point transfer. English proficiency among the Catalan people was poor; it would be difficult to make a smooth trip with a required transfer. When I arrived at Girona, I went straight to the Customer Service office. Unfortunately, the representative could not speak English at all. But, I was very blessed with the help of a female customer who could speak just enough English to make me understand that as of April 1, there are selected schedules (approximately every 2 hours) that the same train runs from Girona to San Pol de Mar.
I arrived at San Pol de Mar without any hassles and noticed right away that I could see Sant Pau’s kitchen activities while I was still on the platform. The restaurant’s dining room faces its own backyard and the Mediterranean Sea. I ordered the tasting menu.
Appetizer of April (Each course of appetizer was comprised of only one item)
1) Croquette of Sant Jordi mushrooms: chopped mushroom, mixed with flour and cream, and coated with bread crumb, then deep fried.
2) Xiulets in tempuras: baby string beans peapod (without peas inside) were thinly coated in flour and fried, served with Romesco sauce and almond.
3) Sponge of creamy tupi, confited tomato, fresh oregano: cheese cream tupi with green oregano jelly, macadamia, apricot purée and baby petunia. The presentation was absolutely beautiful and adorable.
1st Course – Miso, foie & vegetables
Foie gras was served in miso sauce with vegetable on the side: white mushroom, shredded pea pod, daikon, dark red leaves and beet root flower. Its taste was as fabulous as its presentation. White mushroom had a whiter look than what available in the US.
Sant Pau baked only one type of bread.
2nd Course – Maresme peas, cuttlefish
This is Sant Pau’s signature dish. Three-inch long julienned cuttlefish was sautéed and served on a bed of sweet peas. Cuttlefish was very tender and tasty.
3rd Course – King prawn, artichoke
Artichoke was the most important ingredient in this course. It was shredded, it was roasted and it was made into sauce. Artichoke was very fresh and tender, this is artichoke season. King prawn was also very tender and delicious.
4th Course – Gambas, sailor’s toast
Gambas required 3 steps: 1) toast bread; 2) soak in fish stew; 3) toast bread again. This shrimp gambas dish was made from premium quality shrimp available from the region.
5th Course – Monkfish, lemon verbena suquet
The best quality of monk fish is from the Mediterranean Sea. Or, here out of Sant Pau’s backyard. Monk fish was thinly coated in flour and fried, served with crumbled purple potato (from Peru) and crosne in lemon verbena sauce. It was well prepared although fish was not tender enough.
6th Course – Espardenyes, celery, cucumber and fine herbs
Espardenyes = sea cucumber. It was served as a whole piece in this dish, the night before I had sliced sea cucumber at El Celler de Can Roca. This dish also had baby mushroom. celery, and mini cucumber balls and a beautiful yellow flower in the center. It was an excellent dish which can be prepared only when local fresh products are available.
7th Course – San Jorge, 3 combinations with courgette and almonds
San Jorge cheese (mild flavor) from Portugal was prepared in 3 different styles – one plain cheese chunk, one with julienned zucchini, one made into paste on a piece of cracker.
A scoop of passion fruit sorbet in Calisay liquor. Calisayis an herbal liqueur produced by infusing cinchona calisaya, and other barks, roots and flowers in grain neutral spirit and seville orange extract. It is used as a bitter ingredient in cocktails. I love passion fruit and its sorbet. I would prefer something less bitter to accompany passion sorbet.
9th Course – white banana, olive oil, salt
Banana was served with white chocolate and almond. The presentation was certainly amazing.
10th Course – Black and Green Olives, Aragon, sevillanas, sweet wine
I had chocolate coated olives at Roca the night before. I wonder chocolate coated olives are a fashionable item for the time being. Both white chocolate and dark chocolate were used to present the word “olives”. A large piece of puff pastry was used to present a ship along with some small pieces for decoration. This dish also had olive oil in the plate.
Each of these four delicate chocolate bonbons was placed in a spoon since they were too messy to handle by fingers. Puff pastry with pine nuts was placed in a glass. The rest were placed in a toy train. Among the petit fours, my favorite was the chocolate bonbons.
At the end of the meal, I did not feel that I was overstuffed or fully-contented. I wondered why and figured it out. First, I did not eat much bread at all because of lack of variety at Sant Pau. Second, Sant Pau did not offer any Amuse Bouche comparing Roca’s more than a dozen Amuse Bouche items. Third, the quantity of the tasting menu was no more than 60% of what served at Roca. Even though Sant Pau charged 159 euros/10 course which was 30 euros less expensive than what Roca charged. Roca offered far more in both quality and quantity. May be because I had these two meals back-to-back, my wonderful experience at Roca was still overwhelmingly fresh in my mind while I was dining at Sant Pau. I considered I got a whole lot of more value (quality and quantity) out of each dollar I spent at El Celler de Can Roca.