Posts in Restaurant Review: Spain
El Celler de Can Roca: End of History?

I have dined three times in the new location in Girona. Now, besides being a Michelin three-starred restaurant, Can Roca is the second best in the world according to Restaurant Magazine’s infamous “Top 100” list. I think that fame and a very busy schedule has taken a toll on Juan Roca. He does not have the time, nor the energy to concoct and perfect new great dishes. So what we are seeing at Can Roca is also endemic to many of the world’s highly prized trendy hot spots: There is a shift away from concocting memorable dishes towards creating a unique experience for the diner. 

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The Apotheosis of Western Seafood: Elkano and Güeyu Mar

It is probable that neither Abel of Güeyu Mar, nor Aitor of Elkano perceive themselves as great chefs. Probably they consider themselves as having mastered “a la parilla” (grilling) techniques. But there is no way you can find this level fish in any Michelin three star restaurant or in any of the so-called top 20 restaurants of the world (with the possible exception of Asador Etxebarri). 

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Bruce Palling and Wall Street Journal: Poverty of Western Restaurant Criticism and Ibai in Donostia

We are witnessing a very interesting moment in history today, regarding food and wine criticism.  On the one hand, there is a proliferation of bloggers, some with very good taste and the capacity to shape customer preferences. On the other hand, the established professional critics/judges are losing ground and credibility. This is for good reason. Maybe the common disease is that many critics may be able to tell good from bad ingredients, but they do not know about nuances and relative ingredient quality.  Hence they focus more on techniques applied to transform ingredients, and they are in a constant search for “novelty”. Such as Mr. Bruce Palling of Wall Street Journal. I read his review of Ibai in San Sebastian with awe and disbelief.

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El Celler de Can Roca

Joan Roca’s cooking has always technically very elaborate but also delicious. He often subjects the same dish to multiple cooking techniques. He is a master of sous vide, but he does not solely rely on it. He does not shy away from using rustic ingredients (offals), and he re-interprets tradition by adding one contrasting element to dishes made up of complementary ingredients. On the most recent visit he seemed to underemphasize the delicious component of his creations in favor of aesthetics and to display technical skills. Some dishes were not balanced or well conceived. However, good dishes are really good. One wishes that this hard working and talented chef moves away from trendy modern Spanish cooking and finds a better equilibrium without losing the Catalunian focus of his best dishes.

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Gastronomic Trip to Donostia/San Sebastian

6 trips in the last 7 years and we are as thrilled about the Spanish Basque country and cooking as we were in the beginning. Perhaps more so as we have finally understood well that what made this place a gastronomical mecca is more than the existence of a few internationally renowned restaurants but the prevalence of a culture, which sustains a way of life that puts a premium on community and tradition over full capitulation to the forces of globalization.

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