Saturday, June 2, 2018

Coque, Madrid

Coque, Madrid, 5/12/2018 (9-Course, 145 Euro incl.VAT), Mediterranean/Spanish

Coque Madrid, presently owned by 3 Sandoval brothers, Mario, Diego and Rafael. The restaurant is named for the Sandovals’ beloved maternal grandfather, Álvaro “Coque” Huertas, who started the place as a bar and restaurant in 1951. After Mario sharpened his technique and skill in el Bulli, Coque started its ascension to the Michelin star category of the restaurants.

Not too long ago, they moved to the classy Almagro neighborhood of Madrid. Coque’s interior design was done by architect Jean Porche, a famous architect whose office is in the same building. The interior design is spectacular and ostentatious, a combination of contemporary, classic and some traditional Spanish style. Its cuisine is also a combination of tradition Spanish cooking with new cooking technique. The whole renovation project was designed to work with Coque’s new process of tasting menu which requires eating in several different rooms - bar, cellar, open kitchen and dining room. It has 3 dining rooms, each with different theme color, white, green and pink, and variation in design of the geometric patterns on the floor tiles.

At the Cocktail Lounge:

I selected the Q18 menu (the shorter menu) out of Q18 and Q18+, started with the Coque Club apéritif at the cocktail lounge in the basement, accompanied with 3 appetizers. Due to the lighting condition (too much reflection from the glasses), I could not take a decent photo of the drink.

Coque club cocktail was made of Yzaguirre Vermouth, mixed with lime juice, lemon juice, Four Roses whisky and dry sherry, served over cactus pear/prickly pear (tuna/tuno in Spanish) from the Canary Island. Yzaquirre Vermouth has an intense aroma with herby and spicy notes, with a mahogany color and orange highlights. It has a good aromatic intensity in the mouth which balances out acidity very well. Tuna is in the family of cactus fruit, covered by tiny spines outside, in yellow, orange or red color. Tunas taste like sweet cucumber and are delicious straight from the fridge. Prickly pears are said to be a treatment for diabetes and also as an antidote for hangovers. It was a refreshing and delicious drink, a perfect starter for more food and drinks.

1). Pickled Abalone with Sichuan and Citrus

Abalone was pickled in lemon juice, lime juice, and Sichuan peppercorn. It was served on king crab meat and lime “pearls”, a bite of anti-oxidant polyphenols. On the very top, king crab juice was made into foam.  It was like abalone sashimi, however tastier than sashimi. Abalone is a bit firmer than clam, but tastier.  It was my favorite dish in this evening. 

2). Vincentes Bite with Raisins

It was a beet root cookie topped with intensely flavored red wine meringue and raisins. Merlot Red wine meringue was so flavorful, a perfect combination with beet root cookie. It was my 2nd favorite dish in the evening.

3). Canarian Black Potato with Mojo Pic

Canary Island papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes) black potato with mojo picon. Mojo picon was made from roasted Canary Island tomato (with a distinctive red-orange color), garlic and onion.

From the 3 appetizers served in the bar, Chef Sandoval has demonstrated his focus on modern and traditional Spanish with unusual elaborations and textures. Then, I was taken to an elevator and arrived at its cellar where 13000+ bottles of wines were stored.

 At the Bodega, I was served with:

1). Fino Jarana (Jerez) 

A glass of dry sherry.

2). Embutido of Bull Bravo with Souffle Bread.

An Iberico ham with a thin crisp made of flour.

3). Macaron of Paprika with Creamy Torta

Beer macaroon with pungent Torta del Casar sheep's milk cheese from Extremadura. It was a beer macaroon, a new savory flavor to me. It also reminded me of the 1st savory macaron (with foie gras filling) that I had at Frantzen & Lindeberg a few years ago.

Then, I was escorted to the elevator before taken to the open kitchen and was served two appetizers at the edge of stainless steel counter:

1). Beer of Wheat Casimiro Mahou

It was a local brand. It had a mild taste, although I am not a beer fan.

2). Roe of Skrei Cod Salted

 Skrei cod and its salted roe. It was blini with cod tartar, caviar and fried cod skin. The best part was the fried cod skin which was fluffy and crispy.

In another counter just outside of the kitchen, near the restaurant’s ancient wood-burning oven, I was served one more appetizer.

3). Hydralized Spanish Omelette

They were thinly sliced and fried potatoes served with omelet egg sauce at the bottom.

While nibbling in the kitchen, I saw Coque’s oak oven where they make the “suckling pig” (one of their most famous dishes). It was next to some golden eggs that house the taco. Then, I was escorted to the dining room with the pink seats which are not as pinky as Pierre Gagnaire’s Sketch pinky chairs.

 Dining room part of the meal started with an Amuse Bouche - Thick tomato and mint foam, tomato and mint ice water and mint.

The Q18 menu that I selected was comprised of 6 savory courses and 3 deserts:

1st Course - White Prawns with Jerez, Its Fried Heads and Palo Cortado Pearls

Huelva prawns from Andalucía served in sauce made of scallion, slightly fried garlic, diced pepper, sherry wine, hot pepper and Palo Cortado wine pearls. These tiny pearls are the products of spherification in molecular gastronomy by dipping sodium alginate into calcium lactate. Prawn’s head is the best part of prawn and its fried head tasted even better. This crunchy prawn’s fried head was the most potent flavor to integrate with Palo Cortado pearls.

2nd course - White Asparagus Tempered with Hollandaise Sauce Perrextico and Almond Ice-Cream

It is the season of white asparagus, from Navarro. They are plump and fresh, accompanied by almond ice cream, hollIt is the season of white asparagus, from Navarro. They are plump and fresh, accompanied by almond ice cream, hollandise sauce, and perrechicos (morels) mushroom from Leon in Spain. This kind of mushroom available only in May and June. 
Morel is one of the edible species of fungi that grow in Andean Patagonia orginally . These fungi are very difficult to find because they are isolated and it is very difficult to distinguish them with the naked eye. 
Morel mushrooms cannot be eaten raw because of their toxicity (they contain thermolabile hemolysins (TLH), they must first be dried, then rehydrated (discarding the water) and then cooked for 30 minutes at a temperature between 70 and 90º C.
In this way they constitute an excellent edible due to its delicate flavor and exquisite aroma, especially for sauces and to flavor foods.andise sauce, and perreoay and June. 
3rd Course - Duck in Barrel of Oloroso with Pickled Mango and Duck Foie

Roasted medium-rare dick breast served In Olorosso wine sauce and foie gras. Mango was pickled, sliced and rolled, tender duck breast was also sliced and rolled, accompanied by paper thin seaweeds (look like wings), pine nut and pistachio. Oloroso is a variety of fortified wine (sherry), usually is dark and nutty. Sauce was a bit sweet (from Oloroso) and sour like most of the sauce accompanied with foie gras. It was a picture-perfect presentation with marvelous flavor.

4th Course - Skrei Cheek with Pilpil and Ginger, Daikon and Its Crunchy Skin

Skrei cod was from Norway. Thick skin was fried, but not greasy. Also served in the plate was belly, ginger cream, daikon slice and quindilla pepper slices. Quindilla peppers are from the Basque region. They have a tangy, slightly sweet flavor and a refreshing crunch. It is delicious when served with seafood.

5th Course - Tuna Cheek of Almadraba with Tomato Tree Stew, Passion Fruit and Vine Shoots

Tuna fish cheek was from Cadiz, Andalucia in Spain. Tuna fish cheek has slightly higher content of fish fat and tastier when served warm. It was glazed in beef sauce in Coque’s way, most of other restaurants served fish in fish/shell fish sauce. In addition, there were tamarillo tomatos (yellow), passion fruit, seaweed and sliced radish. The taste of passion fruit gave this traditional dish a very interesting savor.

6). Lacquered Suckling Pig (Conchinillo) with Lettuce

The “baby suckling pig” was a show. It came covered with a dome full of smoke. Baby suckling pig was served on a bed of lettuce, with evenly bronzed crackling. Just by looking, you knew the skin was definitely crunchy. What was unusual in this plate was the separation of skin and meat. In other words, skin and meat were not connected together. I know the authentic traditional way of making Chinese Peking duck will render the separation of skin and meat and produce crunchy skin. According to the chef, suckling pig was roasted at 200-225 degree for 2 hours on side and another 1 1/2 hours on the other side in an oak wood-burning oven. The preparation required rubbing salt, pepper and olive oil on the skin before roasting. This is Coque’s famed signature dish, a delicious and magnificent dish.


1). Red Fruit’s Fresini with Bloody Orange Sponge and Sour Yogurt

Strawberry and sorbet were placed on top of a little sponge cake of bloody orange flavor. Strawberry sauce on the side was made of strawberries and Compari. Compari is a bitter-sweet, red liqueur with intense aroma and inspiring flavor. Using of Compari made strawberry sauce with more sophisticated taste and flavor. Yogurt and crystalized sugar wafer were placed on top of the sorbet. It was a very delightful palate cleanser.

2). Sunflower of Yuzu and Vanilla Flambed Meringue and Rum

It was passion fruit mousse covered by passion fruit jello, surrounded by vanilla macaroon at the bottom, and topped by chocolate coated pecan and grosella (red currant). It was so refreshing and tasty that I almost decided to exchange next course for one more serving of passion fruit mousse.

3). Spiced Chocolate in Textures with Raisin Sponge

It was chocolate ice cream with salt and African spice rusaljanut, almond, orange peel. On the side, there was orange ice cream and curled orange peel, and raisin sponge cake. Even though Chocolate ice cream was not overwhelming spicy, I would still prefer the passion fruit mousse.

In addition to its emphasize of traditional cooking, Coque is also in partnership with Dr. Marta de Miguel of Madrid's CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, or Superior Council of Scientific Research — the largest public research institution in Spain) with whom he experiments with innovations using such materials as egg whites and vegetable fibers in designing recipes with health as well as taste benefits in mind.

I made a comparison of Coque with El Celler de can Roca which is also operated by 3 Roca brothers. Roca has been my favorite 3-star restaurant since I visited it 4 years ago. This visit to Coque was my 1st time at Coque and I truly enjoy my dining experience at Coque, a 2 Michelin star “worth the detour”.

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