Monday, June 18, 2018

El Celler de can Roca, Girona

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

Peru:            Causa limeña, potato with olive, paprika, avocado, tomato and yellow paprika

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.

II. Memories of a Bar in the Suburbs pf Girona

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.

2). King Crab with Its Coral  Crab meat was served with crab sauce, fennel leaf standing in the middle. I wouldn’t mind to repeat “The Ocean”.

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.

V. Saint George Mushroom’s Brioche  St. George’s mushroom is a delicacy that mainly grows in fields and roadside. It is a popular item in Northern Spain, Southern France and the Basque country (perretxiko in Euskadi), appears only in April and May.  A moisture brioche with St. George’s mushroom mayonnaise filling, topped with summer truffle. It was light, creamy and tasty that I wouldn’t mind to have a few more.

These bite-size appetizers were all with the adorable presentation and their flavor and taste was just as good as they look. They also got the taste bud going.

1st Course - a).White Asparagus and Truffle Viennetta

One of the reason I chose this menu was its inclusion of “White Asparagus Viennetta”. I have longed for it ever since I had it in 2014. It was a white asparagus dish made to look like Viennetta ice cream (or Comtessa as what is called in Spain). Creamy white asparagus ice cream was served with black truffle powder, white summer truffle and mustard green. The ice cream had a wonderfully smooth consistency and the subtle and smooth taste of white asparagus flavor was sensational, a true essence of white asparagus.

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.

Additional photo for a comparison of lobster with langoustine.

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

Orange colorology, in a glass bowl, made mainly with orange colored products, including little sorbet balls (shorts) of orange, apricot, mango, passion fruit flavor and edible flowers. One of the most beautiful and adorable desserts that I have ever had, served on a decadent golden hued plate.

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

Chocolate bonbon is a chocolate ball made with chocolate crust, almost the size of sugar bowl that I had in the prior course, covered by gold foil (edible gold) and flanked by 2 pieces of chocolate brioche. Inside the chocolate bowl, it was filled with chocolate mousse, milk chocolate shorts, dark chocolate shorts. It was chocolate galore.

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.

Roca offers the best value in terms of price/quality & quantity comparing with other fine dining in Europe. El Celler de can Roca has been one of my favorites ever since I visited it in 2014. After this 2nd visit, I liked it even more. Will I go back to it for the 3rd time? I definitely would like to in the future.

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