annotations: fugue…

el bulli

Below, you’ll find the menu and the wines we had at el bulli.  Following the list of wines, you’ll find an annotated list of our dishes.  To see all of the photos from this meal in one set, CLICK HERE.  Otherwise, click on the course titles below to see the individual photos.  One of my tablemates was a pregnant pescatarian.  Where there are two dishes listed for a course, the second one is her substitute dish.

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MENU

1st Course
Ginger and Lime Candies

2nd Course
Warm Caipi-Mojito

3rd Course
Peanut and Honey Cookies

4th Course
Mojito

5th Course
Almond Fizz with Amarena-LYO
-
Virgin Pina Colada

6th Course
Nori Seaweed with Lemon

7th Course
Olive Oil Chip and Parmesan Macaron

8th Course
Hibiscus and Peanut

9th Course
Pistachio Ravioli

10th Course
Parmesan “Porra

11th Course
Shrimp “Tortilla

12th Course
Boiled Shrimp
-
Umeboshi Sorbet
Honey gelee, wasabi.

13th Course
Prawn Two Firings
-
Beet
Yogurt meringue.

14th Course
Quail Breast
Carrot escabeche.
-
Heart of the Young Pine Nut
And its oil

15th Course
Tomato Tartare
Ice chips.

16th Course
Soya Matches

17th Course
Tiramisu

18th Course
Caviar Cream and Hazelnut Caviar

19th Course
Liquid Hazelnut “Porra

20th Course
Truffle “Cookie

21st Course
Endive in Papilotte 50%

22nd Course
Foie “Cake

23rd Course
St. Felicien Blini
-
Air “Baguette
Black truffles.

24th Course
Steamed Baby Eels

25th Course
Lulo
Ceviche and “Mollusk”

26th Course
Oaxaca “Taco”
Avocado, cilantro.

27th Course
Gazpacho” and “Ajo Blanco

28th Course
Hare “Buñuelo
-
Rose and Artichokes
Silver leaf.

29th Course
Game Meat “Cappuccino
-
Double-Shucked and Alginate Peas
Mint.

30th Course
Woodcock
Guanabana

31st Course
Woodcock Loin

32nd Course
Blackberry and Game Meat Sauce
-
Polenta “Gnocchi
Capers, coffee, and saffron yuba.

33rd Course
Hare Ravioli with “Bolenese” and Hare Blood
-
Sea Cucumbers
Soy sauce, ginger.

34th Course
Hare and Raspberry Cocktail

35th Course
Mimetic Chestnuts

36th Course
Pandang Ice Cream
Egg yolk, curry, coconut water.

37th Course
Sugar Cubes and Rum

38th Course
Sugarcane and Rum
Coffee.

39th Course
Coco de Vidre – “Crystal Cake
Pine nuts.

40th Course
Chocolate Donuts

41st Course
Gold Leaf
Cocoa, cherry, espresso.
-
Warm Strawberries
Yogurt foam, lime, freeze-dried strawberries.

42nd Course
The Box

To return to the review, CLICK HERE.

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WINES

Wines

Luckily, I was amongst very knowledgeable oenophiles. Among us, we shared 6 bottles of wine:

Jacques Selosse, “Initial” Brut Champagne

Riesling Scharzhofberger Kabinett 2007

Philippe Pacalet, Gevrey-Chambertain la Perriere Vieilles Vignes, 2002

Bodegas Lopez Heredia, Vina Tondonia Rioja, Gran Reserva, 1981

Domaine de la Grange des Peres, 2001

Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1998

To return to the review, CLICK HERE.


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ANNOTATIONS

29th Course: Double-Shucked and Alginate Peas


1st Course
Ginger and Lime Candies

Crystalized sugar purse filled with a gingery juice.  Taken in one bite – brittle, crisp candy package giving way to a gush of spicy sweetness.  Warming.

2nd Course
Warm Caipi-Mojito

A caipi(rinha) meets mojito, steeped in a French press and served warm with fresh mint.  I can’t say that I liked the hot cocktail.

3rd Course
Peanut and Honey Cookies

Crumbly, crisp, powdery.  It tasted like you’d expect.

4th Course
Mojito

This odd little hoagie was made of two very delicate buns (almost like foam that had been flash-frozen) sandwiching a bright green layer of gel that tasted like mojito.  We were told to eat it very quickly.  I preferred this version of the mojito to the hot one (2nd course).

5th Course
Almond Fizz with Amarena-LYO

A pretty straightforward almond flavor, with fizz, of course. There was a milky froth on top, and a dehydrated raspberry.
-
Virgin Pina Colada

I didn’t taste this cocktail, but it was a frothy coconut and pineapple drink topped with bits of dehydrated pineapple.

6th Course
Nori Seaweed with Lemon

A heavy mottled sugar glass wrapper encasing a wedge of lemon.  I seem to recall black sesame paste inside the dumpling as well.  Perhaps it was because the wrapper was made of sugar, or perhaps the lemon was Meyer, or some other milder variety, but the lemon was surprisingly sweet – not at all pucker-tart.

7th Course
Olive Oil Chip and Parmesan Macaron

The olive oil chip was essentially a pane of sugar glass, slicked with fruity olive oil and dusted with crunchy salt crystals. Simple, excellent.

The Parmesan macaron was a wonder – the “meringue” cookie part of the macaron were in fact really delicate and soft domes of less dense than marshmallows, just slightly more firm than foam.  They were filled with Parmesan cream.  This was a really rich punch of Parmesan, perhaps a bit too salty for me.

8th Course
Hibiscus and Peanut

The outside wrapper seemed to be a candied and crystallized hibsicus blossom (or petal), filled with a peanut juice. First, a flash of bright, herbaceous acid from the hibiscus, mellowing out to a floral fragrance, and then finishing with peanut.

9th Course
Pistachio Ravioli

A crisp, delicate “ravioli” wrapper encasing a puree of pistachios – more loose than pistachio butter, thicker than liquid. The wrapper was sweet, so overall, this did have a slightly sweet feel to it.

10th Course
Parmesan “Porra

These were like rolls of cellophane – flaky, crisp, papery, translucent.  They tasted of uber-Parmesan.

11th Course
Shrimp “Tortilla

The wafer was very thin and was intense with shellfish flavor – like a concentrated Chinese prawn cracker. The micro shrimp on top were surprisingly soft and tender, cooked, but barely so.

12th Course
Boiled Shrimp

A very large shrimp, barely cooked (I’m not sure how one boils a shrimp so gently).  The meat aside, the head was the best part.  I sucked out the noggin, which was ultra creamy, extremely buttery, delicious.
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Umeboshi Sorbet
Honey gelee, wasabi.

13th Course
Prawn Two Firings

The torso of the prawn, left attached, had been fried, so it was crispy.  The tail was barely cooked, soft and tender.  To the side, a spoonful of a concentrated prawn head stock – like the most intense bisque you’ve ever tasted.  So, prawn in three textures.  
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Beet
Yogurt meringue.

14th Course
Quail Breast
Carrot escabeche.

An extravagant presentation of five, deboned quail breasts, raw, I believe, if not lightly cured.  At the table, they were painted with a bright carrot escabeche by a server with a paint brush.  The quail breasts were extremely clean and silky, the carrot escabeche added just enough acid to perk up the mild meat.  An odd but great coupling.
-
Heat of the Young Pine Nut
And its oil

Matching the quail breast dish in extravagance, this substitute dish had about two dozen pine nuts double-shucked so that the tender heart of the nuts were set out, drizzled with the nut’s own oil.

15th Course
Tomato Tartare
Ice chips.

The texture of this vegetarian tartare was surprisingly meaty, with a long finish tasting of light ketchup.  I really liked it.  What I didn’t care for were the shards of “ice chips” scattered over the tartare table-side.  It thought they might be tomato water ice crystals.  But they were simply water ice crystals.  Perhaps they were there for texture, or for temperature contrast?  I know sometimes water (or diluting something) enhances a flavor, and perhaps, here they did just a little.

16th Course
Soya Matches

These matchsticks tasted like soy sauce and were extremely crisp and brittle.  The heads were wrapped in gold leaf.  We were told to eat the head first, and work our way down the shaft. Strangely, the way the gold leave (metallic) interacted with the soy sauce, gave off a flinty, smoky aroma – faintly like the smell of a flared matchstick.

17th Course
Tiramisu

This was an effective demonstration about expectations defying logic.  The tiramisu was actually a cloud of whipped dofu dusted with cocao powder.  To each side of the bowl was a swatch of dark miso, savory and salty.  With each bite, I had to reboot my brain, forcing myself to realize that this wasn’t going to be sweet.  It was a surreal experience, to have to tell you brain something that it already knows.  Visually, the image of something that should be sweet convinced my brain that I should be tasting sweet.  (Why wasn’t this dish called “tiramiso?”  Perhaps doing so would dilute the efficacy of the “trick?”)

18th Course
Caviar Cream and Hazelnut Caviar

Ying: Although I could tell at first glace that the hazelnut caviar was alginate, it was a pretty convincing proxy for real caviar.  The hazelnut caviar was slightly sweet, which countered the saltiness of the caviar cream with which it was paired.

Yang: The (real) caviar was set on a hazelnut cream that tasted like the hazelnut caviar in the other coupling, slightly sweet – taste-wise, a precise positive print of the negative on the other side of the plate.  Amazing.

19th Course
Liquid Hazelnut “Porra

What is Adria’s fascination with thin, sugar glass?  These conical “porras” were filled with a very light hazelnut mousse – like whipped cream, but lighter, slightly sweet, slightly creamy, immensely hazelnut.  These were very delicate – they hardly held up to their own weight.  A few broke in the journey from basket to mouth.  They looked like parsnips, or carrots.

20th Course
Truffle “Cookie

A thin, slightly sweet wafer paved with an impossibly thin carpet of black truffles, drizzled with olive oil.  If you ever doubted that truffles could be both savory and sweet, robust and delicate, then you only have to eat this.

21st Course
Endive in Papilotte 50%

Of the 42 courses we had, this was the one course that totally lost me.  So, the endives were still a bit crunchy, presumably steam-baked in the parchment pouch; the texture was fascinating.  But the endives were a little too bitter for me, totally canceling out the flavor of the generous avalanche of black truffles shaved over it.

22nd Course
Foie “Cake

Another wafer, this one a paper-thin pane of sugar glass topped with a dome of powdery, shaved foie gras (room temperature, not frozen).  It was slightly sweet.

23rd Course
St. Felicien Blini

If there was one course I’d ask to repeat, this would be it.  This yeasty, warm pocket of griddled dough oozed a core of warm St. Felicien cheese.  It was nonstop deliciousness; the world’s best grilled cheese sandwich.

24th Course
Steamed Baby Eels

When these baby eels alighted on our table, the Frenchmen at our table gasped.  A protected fish in the European Union (the French supposedly control the vast majority of elvers), I’ve read that they are now more expensive than caviar.  These slick little threads were meaty and tender – I could tell from their texture, their firmness, that they were extremely fresh.  They were served in a milky sauce, perhaps slightly garlicky. Eating them off of a flat surface with forks was difficult. I wish I had chopsticks.
-
Air “Baguette
Black truffles.

I didn’t eat this, but this mini baguette was completely hollow on the inside, wrapped on the outside with thin slices of black truffles.

25th Course
Lulo
Ceviche and “Mollusk”

Lulo is a South American fruit.  It looks like an orange on the outside.  On the inside, it looks like a very green tomato.  The pulpy flesh, full of seeds, tastes like a tomatillo collided with a passion fruit.  Here, the sections had been scooped out, leaving four quadrants.  Two of them were filled with “ceviche,” the other two “mollusk.”

26th Course
Oaxaca “Taco”
Avocado, cilantro.

An odd, but delicious little package.  The interior was a buttery slice of avocado, with fresh cilantro and taco spices.

27th Course
Gazpacho” and “Ajo Blanco

This was really delicious coupling of a now-famous couple.  Two of Spain’s greatest contributions to soupdom together – here, gazpacho snow ringed by a moat of creamy “ajo blanco.”  The soup duo was drizzled with olive oil at the table.  Delicious.

28th Course
Hare “Buñuelo

Buñuelo – like a fritter, or hush puppy, but these were filled with a liquid hare puree.  Delicious.
-
Rose and Artichokes
Silver leaf.

Made to look like a giant artichoke, with the pointy ends of the rose petals sticking up.  I didn’t try this dish, but it was clearly a coupling of two flowers – one a giant thistle, the other, a petaled beauty.

29th Course
Game Meat “Cappuccino

Bitter, frothy, rich, and hot.  It even tasted roasty and toasty.  This soup had a decidedly meaty flavor, but overall, it was a good mimic of a cappuccino.
-
Double-Shucked and Alginate Peas
Mint.

30th Course
Woodcock
Guanabana

I wasn’t terribly impressed with the texture of the woodcock.  Others at the table raved.  What I found more interesting were the alginate (?) cubes of guanabana (sour sop), which gave the otherwise one-dimensionally meaty dish a punch, some contrast.

31st Course
Woodcock Loin

Remember those “buns” from the “mojito” hoagie at course number flour?  They reappeared briefly here, this time slightly warm (same delicate texture, different substance and temperature, apparently). Draped over the quenelle-shaped bun was a sliver of woodcock loin, tender and moist.  A spoonful of gravy helped make it more real, the tie that bound.

32nd Course
Blackberry Risotto and Game Meat Sauce

Who was the poor cook who was set about the blackberry patch, debudding each berry for this decadent spoonful of fruit “risotto?”  On the back end of the spoon was a rich game meat sauce.  This was essentially course number thirty-four in a different form, with different textures.  Fruit and game are a common couple. 
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Polenta “Gnocchi
Capers, coffee, and saffron yuba.

33rd Course
Hare Ravioli with “Bolenese” and Hare Blood

The hare ravioli looked like large, alginate triangles, pocketed with some kind of meaty tasting sauce.  The “bolognese” was delicious – tasting very much like beefy bolognese. In the middle, was a nugget of what I presumed to be hare meat.

The hare blood was served in a wine glass, just a shot.  A chaser to the bolognese?  It tasted more like beet juice than anything else, a sweet as juice, clean as a whistle.  The image is more shocking than the taste.  
-
Sea Cucumbers
Soy sauce, ginger.

I didn’t eat this dish, but I must say that I’ve eaten a lot of sea cucumbers in my life and I’ve never seen sea cucumbers that looked like this.  I think the clear ones were alginate versions.  But the white ones, John Shields thought, were some special kind of sea cucumber.

34th Course
Hare and Raspberry Cocktail

I can’t say that I liked this “cocktail,” which was raspberry juice infused with the meaty flavor of hare.  My problem with it is that it was tepid, lukewarm – neither hot nor cold.  There were crunchy bits of pomegranate seeds floated in the cocktail.  (A variation of course number thirty-two.)

35th Course
Mimetic Chestnuts

As the name suggests, these mock chestnuts were simply cocoa butter shells molded to look like chestnuts.  Inside was hare puree, with a slightly gritty texture, not unlike chestnuts.  A real chestnuts rested in the bottom of the bowl, a visual reminder of the pun at play.

36th Course
Pandang Ice Cream
Egg yolk, curry, coconut water.

A predictable collection of Southeast Asian flavors, mellow and sweet.  The coconut water was poured tableside, viscous and clear.  One of the five alginate egg yolks (they were referred ot as “egg yolks” by our server, so I have no idea if they really were made from egg yolks, or simply looked like egg yolks) contained a salty shot of curry (I seem to remember thinking “cumin” more than “curry”).  It takes you by surprise, a jarring, random interjection that totally reverses your taste gears.  Yet the flavors were still harmonious – curry and coconut.

37th Course
Sugar Cubes and Rum

A trick – the “sugar cubes” were really cubes of snow (or very finely shaved ice, compacted into little cubes).  To the side, two tiny vials filled with a boozy rum syrup.  You squeeze a bit of the rum syrup over the “sugar cubes” and eat them.  It was a cold, refreshing, edible cocktail, sno-cone-style.

38th Course
Sugarcane and Rum
Coffee.

First, the servers flambeed the sugarcane shingles in rum, tableside.  The sugarcane was then served warm with a side of finely milled coffee.  We were told to pinch some coffee powder and sprinkle it over the sugarcane and chew the sugarcane.  I will admit that it was extremely sweet – almost too sweet to bear.  But I loved the booziness of the rum.

39th Course
Coco de Vidre – “Crystal Cake
Pine nuts.

This fun little pun on the Catalan candy was very crisp, brittle, knobby and bubbly – like sugar glass (reminded me of sugar molded in potato or corn starch).  As with the traditional candy, these strips of glass contained pine nuts (here, toasted).  Traditionally, coco de vidre includes anise.  I’m not sure I recall anise in this.

40th Course
Chocolate Donuts

These chocolate “donuts” were actually rings of coconut ice cream thinly coated with extremely dark chocolate couverture that snapped very cleanly.  I love coconut ice cream.  I love dark chocolate.  I loved these donuts.  In jest, I wonder if these mini Michelin tires were a tribute to the guide that has awarded the restaurant three stars.

41st Course
Gold Leaf
Cocoa, cherry, espresso.

Others at the table recognized this as the “quicksand” dish.  It was essentially a chocolate-cherry soup, with cherry soup underneath, and a powdery dusting of cocao and espresso on top, decorated with gold leaves.  I liked the flavors (chocolate, coffee, and cherry), but it was too syrupy sweet for me.
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Warm Strawberries
Yogurt foam, lime, freeze-dried strawberries.

42nd Course
The Box

Certainly, the over-the-top presentation was half of the greatness of this course.  This three-tiered “box” contained 17 varieties of chocolate (to see the different types, click on the course title above and scroll over the picture).  Everyone, two and four-tops alike, got a box – left on the table for you to enjoy at your leisure and pleasure.  Our table got two of these boxes.  Needless to say, we had more chocolate than we could possible eat, though we did manage to polish off a scary amount.  My favorites were the dehydrated strawberries coated in white chocolate (for the texture), the aerated white chocolate puffs (for the texture), and the dark chocolate truffles with cherry and hazelnut.  The beds of the “drawers” were paved with cocao nibs.  Totally extravagant.

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To return to the review, CLICK HERE.


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