SACHA IN MADRID
Imagine some perfectly gelatinous bone marrows sitting on top of the world’s tastiest dark jus (long cooked bones and vegetables) and three pieces of thickly cut and perfectly marbled Galician beef from the sirloin, served as the side dish. Yes, the quality of the beef is higher than anywhere else in my experience, save the best quality wagyu.
Had El Bulli served such a dish in its heydays, the news would have travelled faster than lightwaves.
But no. Nowdays “celebrity chefs” are cooking for 800 or so “distinguished palates” who make up the “50 Best Restaurant Academy” or Michelin inspectors and who are more awed by artificial edifice erected with chemicals and liquid nitrogen than by pure and deep taste, while remaining silent in the presence of the affront to the taste buds by the cooking of all kinds of fish and meat “sous vide.” (Probably they cannot tell the difference between sous vide and good roasting.)
Sure it takes guts to elevate a component of a dish, like bone marrow, to celebrity status and to downgrade the meat to a supporting role.
But why not? Chef Sacha Hormaechea at the Madrid bistro Sacha is not looking for fame or originality. He has no intention to get on anybody’s top list, and given that his restaurant is already full and hard to get a reservation in, I doubt he would personally worry about favorable reviews by the guides.
He is basically cooking the food for himself and accordingly he is driven by his own taste buds.
This is the single reason for placing bone marrow and the deep-thick sauce in the center of the final dish, a true grand finale with a crescendo effect.
Sacha is a quintessential bistro, and it serves comfort food in the best sense of the term.
The food is rich, tasty, and soul satisfying.
Ingredients are impeccable and the meal begins simply. That is, chef Sacha Hormaechea offers abundant simply cooked dishes in the beginning of the meal, including perfect berberechos (cockles), expertly fried baby artichokes with no drip of oil, and unbelievably plump and flavorful anchovies. These are paired with homemade crisp tomato bread.
One dish is especially noteworthy among the appetizers: oyster escabeche, i.e. pickled oysters. Apparently it is an ancient recipe, but it is not for everybody. You have to tolerate acidity to enjoy this dish.
The meal changes gear and moves up another notch with the serving of spider crab ravioli seasoned with sweet sea urchins and a touch of hot jalapeno oil. The name of the dish is “falsa lasana de erizos” (fake sea urchin lasagna).
I guess one does not have to paint the sea on the plate by using artificial emulsifyers or by mimicing the sound of the waves to create theater. Seafood is at its best when it is fresh, least cooked, and served without denaturing it.
We were then served a truly outstanding skate, one of the most flavorful fish. It was not “swimming in ice or snow,” but swimming in a good dose of excellent Arbequina olive oil amidst Mediterranean bounty: tomato, potato, onion, avocado, and cilantro. This dish is called “raya en vinegreta templada de guacamole,” as he uses the same ingredients as guacamole in the warm vinaigrette.
Is it original? No. Does it have to be?
Neither is the tortilla with chorizo and potato original! But, it is simply outstanding: puffy, very juicy and prepared with great eggs.
Memory may play tricks, but the only other tortilla which I give 10 out of 10 was in Galicia: Restaurant El Manjar in La Coruna.
But don’t fill yourself with tortilla.
Leave room for the bone marrow!
The flan with egg yolks and sugar (Tocinillo de cielo) is good, but coffee granita is my choice as the appropriate finish. But it is not as extraordinary as the rest of the meal.
Emilio Rojo Ribeiro is a very interesting wine. It is clean, pure, and has laser-like acidity and a noticeably minerally finish. It is not a fruit bomb and is not recommended for the lovers of oaky New World or Spanish Chardonnay. But IMO it may be Spain’s best white wine.
EVALUATION: 5/5 STARS. (INFORMAL CATEGORY)