Thursday, October 1, 2009
El Bulli, Roses: 2/3 - Mains
The three tables for two across the room from us were occupied by couples of the young-and-handsome variety. One of our party described them as 'fund manager and trophy wife', if that helps you picture it. Two of them actually knew each other in advance. The big table at the front of this picture was empty until almost 10 PM when a group of Spaniards came in; since the restaurant assigns the start times, I can only imagine that they followed the 'locals eat late' philosophy. Their arrival also fortunately dispelled the idea that the inner room was only for English speakers...but if I ever go back, I'm still asking for the main room.
With that grumbling out of the way, we were off to the serious races...
Nuts, +1. This 'single noodle spaghetti' technique seems to get panned a lot in El Bulli reviews; I think it's too confronting for many people because of the texture. Another reviewer insists that it's 'reconstructed udon noodles', but I can't think of any reason why they'd serve a dish made from raw pasta dough.
I see through a bit of a browse that some people thought this was a great dish (although they were rapt at the 'generous shavings of white truffle', which is sad considering that these are black summer truffles. It's great to be colorblind and not prejudiced, but for me white is always going to be better than black when it comes to truffles). Other reviewers thought this was an adaptation of ravioli through the inclusion of ingredients somewhat like a pumpkin agnolotti with pine nuts and truffles, or an adaptation of traditional Spanish sandwiches with truffles acting as ham, or a meditation on the levels of the earth, with truffles being roots, pumpkin growing at ground level, and almonds growing on trees. I dunno. I just didn't like it that much. The styrofoamy bread is weird in a way that I couldn't forgive considering how the taste was also lacking.
Have you noticed how little foam there's been up to now? And how little liquid nitrogen? Maybe it was used in other ways (God only knows how they made the 'bread' above), but it's not obvious in every dish where the trickery comes in. I respect that - many of the dishes are straightforward juxtapositions of ingredients, perhaps one with a technical element. But there are rarely that many things going on (cf recent fine dining where meats have to be presented three ways or more to qualify for admission: chicken leg, wing-shaped nitro-foam which is actually a clever pun because it's made from egg, and caramelized cock's comb). It's almost like they have a rule about how much you can complicate a dish, with each ingredient and technique taking up a space.
TV dinners, El Bulli can serve pre-packaged condiments. These were two varieties of pine nuts and one of spiced oil, I think, to be eaten in order. It's funny that they served this playful, dare I say it, nutty (+1) course between two delicate fish items, but I think there must be an internal logic to it.
As I think about it, the overall appeal of this dish was indeed a bit Chinese, which lines up with the use of the popular luxury ingredient.
And I didn't manage to take a picture. Shit.