El Celler de can Roca, Girona (€180, 5/23/2018, 7-Course incl. VAT)
This was my 2nd visit to Roca since 2014. I was so delighted with my previous experience that I decided it was worthwhile to make another visit, a detour from Barcelona. Roca, currently jointly owned by 3 chefs/owner/brothers Joan (executive chef), Josep (head sommelier) and Jordi (pâtissier), has had 3 stars since 2009.
Roca, has been staying low-profile regardless of its outstanding cuisine, creativity, presentation, cooking methodology and molecular gastronomic techniques. One of the popularly used cooking devices (Roner to enable controlled temperature, sous-vide) was invented by Joan Roca and Narcis Carner (henceforth the name Roner).
There were 2 sets of Tasting Menus, the Classic and the Feast. Since I have had a few fine dining before Roca’s and 3 more afterwards, and this is my 2nd visit to Roca, I knew that Roca offered a lot of appetizers (not indicated on menu when you made your choice of menu), I decided to choose the smaller menu to give my stomach a bit breathing room. There were 2, among 7, courses allowing guests to choose from 2 choices. My server was very knowledgeable and very kind, she suggested to have the ½ portion of each item.
I. I started with The World, A Typical Tapa Made with Current New Technique
Thailand: chicken, coriander, curry, nut (peanut), mint, onion, lime
Japan: croquet with miso sauce, ginger on top
Turquia: braised lamb, yogurt, chive, onions with mint, lime
Korea: panko fried bread, bacon with soy sauce, kimchi, mint and sesame oil
It was sophisticatedly presented in a globe set like what you saw in the library. Appetizers associated with Turkey, Peru and Korea were properly aligned in sync with the respective country. I was asked to guess which a Japanese appetizer was and which a Thailand appetizer was, then pull a lever. Once I correctly guessed and pulled the lever, the top dome opened up. There was a serendipity, a sea water bonbon. Roca made eating a playful act as well, I wish they would do more.
A Sea Water Bonbon a Salmon caviar and Beluga caviar jelly ball. What a nice surprise.
This course was a Can Roca-themed past time, with black and white photos of each Roca brother when they were young.
1). Campari Bonbon Orange bonbon made with gentian (from Catalan) and orange juice. Gencian is a type of medicinal plant from Catalan, it can used for various medical purpose such as healing sore throat and cold, ulcer or skin problems. This recalled my experience at Mugaritz of eating beef tartar with penicillin.
2). Squid It was a raw calamari sandwich with fried bread. Calamari was fresh and tender, from the nearby Costa Brava.
3). Montse’s Meat Cannelloni It was a tiny version of cannoli, its shell was made with onion and cheese. It was filled with pigeon parfait in a roll and topped with parmigiana cheese and cheddar cheese.
4). Pork Kidney Pork kidney with sherry and dried in lyophilization (freeze-drying) machine (one of the new technique invented by Roca). Dehydrated kidney looked like a peanut and tasted with an earthy flavor.
5). Cod Brandade Cod fish purée, cod from Norther Spain, with pine nut, chili green pepper served on a shell made by dried and fried puffy cod skin. Chili added a touch of smokiness and a contrast-harmony interaction of flavors and textures.
III. The Ocean, Presented in a Gold Coral-Shaped Serving Apparatus
1). Pesto Razor Clam Semi-raw razor clam was served with pesto sauce and fresh basil leaf. It was simple and well-balanced.
3). Starfish A starfish shaped mousse was served on a thin cracker, on a plank. Starfish was made from prawn mousse, topped with green seaweed and red seaweed and sesame. Chef made prawn mousse with such a distinctive flavor, probably by using head or leg crumbles.
IV. Olive Tree – Green Olive’s Ice Cream and Black Olive Tempura Green olive ice cream were frozen ice cream, flavored and shaped like olives, and then hung delicately on an olive tree. Each olive came on a tiny silver spike, engraved with the Roca’s signature “R” with three feet, one for each brother. Each olive offered a pungent cool olive flavor. I wonder these bonsai olive trees were the same group that Roca used when I made the 1st visit.
1st Course - a).White Asparagus and Truffle Viennetta
1st Course - b). Apple’s Timble and Duck Liver with Vanilla Oil
Foie gras covered by caramelized thinly sliced apples. Caramelized apples were arranged in a donut shape with apple cream in the center. In addition, Spanish flag flower (in red), Shiso (in green) and sliced almond were in the center for decoration. Pedro Ximenes sweet wine reduction (in brown circle) and caramelized apples both complemented the taste and the balance.
Roca offered a good selection of breads. I chose olive brioche, red wine bread and apricot raisin bread.
2nd Course - Prawn Marinated with Rice Vinegar - Prawn’s Head Sauce, Crispy Prawn Legs and Seaweed Velouté
Palamos red prawn was marinated in rice vinegar and served with dried and fried salty prawn legs, orange sauce (head of prawn), green sauce (seaweed velouté) and lemon caviar (pearls in spheres). Palamos prawns is a registered product from nearby Costa Brava where you can see the seabed in the beautiful clear blue water. The taste of this dish was sublime, prawn was almost raw, you can taste the tender flesh and flavor of a juicy raw prawn. Prawn’s head, with its concentrated prawn flavor, was probably a major contributor to the flavor.
3rd Course - Charcoal-grilled Langoustine with “ajoblanco” Sauce and Parsley
Langoustine was charcoal-grilled for its charcoal flavor. It was still almost raw, the best way to taste the fresh and quality seafood. It was served with toasted almond slices, garlic, olive oil sauce (in white color) and parsley foam. It was another wonderful seafood that I wouldn’t mind to have another serving.
4th Course - Sole with Olive Oil, Fennel, Bergamot, Orange, Pine Nut and Green Olives
Mediterranean baby sole grilled and accompanied by 5 different types of sauce: 1) fennel sauce and fennel (in green color), 2) bergamot sauce and flower (in pale yellow), 3) orange sauce with confit orange skin, 4) pine nut cream with pine nut, and 5) olive sauce with olive Catalan style. This dish resembles the style of “mackerel”. Chef Roca can make a very simple dish sophisticated and with marvelous presentation.
5th Course - a). Iberian Suckling Pig a la Rioja: Pear with Cinnamon, Persimmon with Vanilla, Orange with Clove and Liquorice with Cocoa
This piece of suckling pig definitely looked very different from the one that I had at “Coque” in Madrid. Coque’s looked like there was a pocket in between skin and meat.
By looking, I could tell that there was a crisp crackling on top and juicy and tender meat underneath. This was a loin part of pig. Pig was first roasted at low temperature at 63°C for 32-36 hours, then grilled at high temperature at 220°C until the skin is crispy enough. It was accompanied by various types of sauce: strawberry with cocoa, pear with cinnamon, confit pear, shiso, cocoa, liquorice, persimmon with vanilla, orange with clove. This piece of appealing sucking pig was sitting on the reduction of roasting pig’s stock. It looked very appetizing, it was well-balanced with sweet flavor. Chef Roca has taken the art of “suckling pig” to another level.
5th Course- b). Goose a la Royale
Chopped roasted goose and liver were made into a mold. It was served with foie gras sauce and reduced roasted goose’s stock. I don’t eat goose often. But, I definitely like the suckling pig more.
6th Course - Orange Colorology
It was a glass bowl made with Isomalt sugar. Isomalt is a sugar substitute, a type of sugar alcohol used primarily for its sugar-like physical properties. It has little to no impact on sugar levels and does not stimulate the release of insulin. In addition, it can sustain high temperature up to 165°C. Chef can dissolve Isomalt sugar and then blow bubble to the desired size, then make an opening of any size and configuration on the mold. After the sugar bowl is cool, filled it up with all the goodies you like. Lastly, turn this lovely bowl upside-down and serve to the guest. You bet, everyone will love it. Can you believe this Isomalt sugar hardly has any calories?
In my sugar bowl, there were apricot shorts, mandarin orange shorts, mango shorts, passion fruit shorts, egg yolk cream, orange flower, red flag flower, purple flower (orqidera = orchid), yellow flower (thought flower), and orange flower foam. I cracked it open when I was ready to eat it. It was a true pleasure to see it esthetically and to enjoy it gastronomically.
7th Course - Large Chocolate Bonbon
A good selection of sweets, chocolate, macaroons were presented in the restaurant’s dessert trolley designed by Andreu Carulla. The varieties included violet macaron, whisky tart, chocolate with lemon, chocolate with amaretto, chocolate with hazelnut, red fruit with marshmallows, praline walnut, Peruvian seeds, liqueur filled cherry, pineapple and coconut candy. At this time, my eyes were bigger than the available space in my stomach, I wished I could have more but a few of these delicacies.