ABaC, Barcelona (€155, 5/27/2018, 12 Course, incl. VAT)
ABaC started in 2000 and moved to the current site, the leafy residential San Gervasi barrio, a wealthy enclave by the hill side of Barcelona, in 2008. It is within a boutique hotel “Hotel ABaC Barcelona”, 10 metro stops from Plaça de Catalunya. Head chef Jordi Cruz, focused on Modern Spanish Cuisine, has won the 3-star accolade since 2017 and he was not an el Bulli alumni.
Guests can look out onto a garden through picture windows while in dining room. Tables are adequately spaced and covered with impeccably white linen tablecloths reminiscent of what Martin Berasategui, Lasarte had.
There were 2 sets of Tasting Menu – Menu Tradition for €155 and Menu Avant Garde for €185. I chose the smaller one, Menu Tradition. I was escorted to the kitchen first to enjoy the first three courses of bite-size appetizers.
1). Lime Cactus, Tequila and Green Leaves
2). Crunchy Bread with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Basil
Spicy tomato mousse wrapped by crunchy bread and garnished with basil mousse. It was slightly spicy but very flavorful and pleasant.
3). Galicia Salmon and Cured Egg Yolk, Trout Eggs, Soya Butter and Nori Textures
Nori was mixed with grains and made into a taco shell, filled up with Galicia salmon from Northern Spain, cured egg yolk, trout eggs and soy butter foam. Cured egg yolk complemented to the overall perception with its subtle and distinctive taste.
I was then escorted to get seated in the dining room.
1st Course – Bloody Mary on the Rocks and Bloody Mary’s Macarons
The last time I had this sort of combination was at Pierre Gagnaire a few years ago. It was one of my favorite dishes there. Bloody Mary on the rock served at ABaC was slightly different. Its ingredients include Vodka, salt, tobacco, and tomato water (no color – with the blood red of the tomato drip-filtered). The process of filtering tomato somehow gave a more anemic taste and flavor. But, it was still a delicious drink, especially when accompanied by the macaron.
Bloody Mary sorbet was sandwiched in between macarons. Sorbet was perfectly flavored and with good consistency. Macarons were fresh and light. A perfect match for the palate.
2nd Course – Whipped Hazelnut Butter with Bread Crusts and Caviar
Asturian Caviar was from Netherland. Butter was mixed with hazelnut purée and hazelnut oil and formed a bell-shaped ball. Hazelnut powder and olive were garnished on top of butter ball. This bell-shaped butter ball was softer than ordinary whipped butter because it was lightened by cream. It was a different way of accompanying caviar.
3rd Course – Almond and Foie Gras Shaves with Honey, Vanilla and Miso
Even though chef Jordi Cruz was not an el Bulli alumni, he still diligently performed molecular gastronomy. At the very top, there was a sheet of honey foam covering shaved frozen foie gras and vanilla foam. At the bottom, there was almond ice cream, miso and almond crunchy. It was a fusion dish, but it was also nicely balanced and tasty.
Three different types of bread were offered, plain white, seed bread and apricot and nut bread. Accompanied by one type of butter. I requested for apricot and nut bread only.
4th Course – Chinese box: Chinese Bread, Fried Brioche, Grilled Eel and Wasabi
It was brought to my table in a shrine-shaped wooden box. As I opened the lid, there was a fried Chinese bun inside. As I opened the sandwich bun, I saw a piece of grilled eel with teriyaki sauce. My server grated some fresh wasabi on it. Wasabi’s fast fading fieriness and grilled eel’s smoky and teriyaki flavor were good complement.
5th Course – Roasted Turbot and Barnacles with Seaweed, Baked Eggplants and Treated Skins
A mouth watering piece of roasted turbot was artistically presented in the center of the plate and surrounded by 2 layers of cream/sauce and served with 2 pieces of barnacles from Galicia, Northern Spain. The best part of the fish was the glazed skin which was crispy and full of flavor. Outer layer sauce was made of fish broth, shellfish and aubergines (eggplants). There were also pickled onion (in pink) to complement the seafood flavor. At the very top, Ramallo seafood foam covering turbot to maintain the moisture in fish. Overall, the cream and sauce were incredibly intense in flavors and complemented well with the turbot.
When I visited Santiago de Compostela and Oviedo at the beginning of May, I saw some barnacles at restaurants with not so fresh quality, therefore, forgoing the opportunity to enjoy it. I was delighted to have it at ABaC. It has an odd-looking skin and tastes a bit like abalone. I personally considered abalone is tastier. Barnacles has been treasured partially probably because its hard-to-harvest condition. Fisherman had to risk their life to pick the best barnacles from the cliff incessantly hit by treacherous water. At present, it costs approximately approximately €150 - €200/kilo.
6th Course – Tuna Rice, Mediterranean Tomato Stew, Tuna Bely and Pecorina Romano
It was brought to my table in an earthy looking urn. At the bottom of the urn, there was an almost translucent tuna toro. Toro sat on cooked rice and seaweeds and served with tomato stew and spices including garlic, basil, julienned scallion and micro green. At the very top, it was covered by Pecorina Romano cheese foam. At the bottom, brown sauce was made from the thickened tuna sauce. It was another well-balanced fusion product.
7th Course – Amélie Esmerald Oyster with Fermented Kale and Chargrilled Piparras Chili Peppers
It seemed that chef at ABaC has created a few versions of Amélie Esmerald oyster-based dishes mainly comprised of fermented vegetable and smoke flavored piparras pepper. In this dish, it was fermented kale (in pale yellow), purée, fried green kale, charcoal grilled piparras chili pepper. In addition, salted butter was used to cover the oyster. In US, we usually eat oyster with cocktail sauce mainly comprised of ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice and tobacco sauce to make a nicely balanced taste. Chef at ABaC used different combination to make the overall taste more balanced.
8th Course – “Our Pine Cone”: Cured Lamb Tea and Pine Leaves
This was served as an auxiliary item with the roasted lamb. Lamb broth with pine leaves infused tea. Had a distinctive pine flavor, served as a refresher.
9th Course – Roasted, Cured and Dried Suckling Lamb Meats, Confit Small Artichokes, Pine Shoots, Pistil Crud and Caramelize Jus
There were 3 parts in this dish, lamb from Catalunya. 1). Cured, dried and roasted lamb. 2). Roasted baby lamb loin. 3). Cheese curd. Dried and cured lamb was really flavorful, it tasted a bit crunchy. Roasted baby lamb loin was finger-licking good, the meat was tender, you did not even need a knife. Cheese curd was almost like yogurt, but a bit firmer than yogurt and had a custard-like firmness. Confit baby artichokes, served as a neutralizer, was so delicious. Caramelized jus form lamb stock made me feel I wouldn’t mind to stuff a bit more.
10th Course – Chamomile “pillow”, Milk and Biscuit Roll with a Touch of Lightly and Spicy Citruses
Cookie crumbs were at the bottom where a white fragile crate made of inside layer and outside layer. Inside, there were lemon grass with chamomile ice cream; outside, there was milk infusion of Earl Gray tea foam and sheet. It was pretty looking, it incorporated cold and warm, sweet and sour, a truly pleasant palate cleanser. Some critics have written that chef Jordi Cruz’s dishes are as pretty as he is good looking.
11th Course – Chocolate Fragile Crate
It was a chocolate crate sitting on chocolate paper and chocolate foam at the bottom, with caramel chocolate on the top for artistic presentation. As I cut it open to eat the inside of the chocolate crate, it was filled with vanilla ice cream and milk foam, toffee chocolate with mint, chocolate with coffee, strawberry with beet. It was a chocolate galore.
12th Course - Sweet Pumpkin
The petit fours were served in a gold toned set resembling pumpkin flower, with the various sweets held by the various endings. They included raspberry marshmallows, violet yogurt, chocolate nougatine, pumpkin flower, chocolate amaretto, cheese cake. One stood alone item was its famous signature frozen lipstick desserts. This lipstick looking item was presented in a rock-looking block with trough, it was a strawberry lollypop (lipstick case) filled up with frozen strawberry slush. The content inside the lipstick varied from meal to meal. Petit fours were all light and flavorful, ideal for pleasing your palate without over burdening your stomach.
I liked Chef Jordi Cruz’s cuisine. It was innovative, not just for being creative without making perfection on the taste, flavor and balance. Even though he was an el Bulli alumni, he was able to master the art of molecular gastronomy. At present, ABaC (a Michelin 3-star) under-prices its Tasting Menu comparing with Lasarte’s (also a Michelin 3-star) €205. I wonder how much longer it would stay at the current level.