Marvellous Disfrutar

The restaurant in Barcelona run by AdriÓĺs main disciples is a prodigy of technique and flavours. And gets to the top...

20-10-2017

Photogallery

The beginning of a marvellous journey: Lengua helada de pasión con ron, frozen cat tongue with Rhum, passion fruit and peppermint. The play with temperatures begins
Rosa & lichis: pure poetry. Spherifications with rose water and a fake blackberry made with litchi
La remolacha que sale de tierra: beetroot sorbet and meringue
Panchino relleno de caviar beluga: one of the signature dishes at Disfrutar. A round mould is filled with a foam made with a very watery pastry dough, then caviar and double cream, then some more foam to cover it all. It is then placed in a pan with oil at 180°C for 20 seconds. Of course you can use cheese, tuna, sorbets instead of the caviar...

 

Disfrutar is the immortality of bullism (with reference to elBulli). It shows that Spanish avant-garde, for many reasons an old memory, can find new powerful and totally contemporary expressions. While the restaurant industry follows a specific road – minimalism, product is king, hidden techniques – Disfrutar goes against the tide: not that it neglects raw materials, in fact the research is very careful, as shown on the palate. Nor is it that the show overcomes the flavours: each dish is a balanced development of aromas, textures, temperatures; during a marvellous tasting of 30 dishes – small dishes, alright – we rarely go below perfection. The difference (which startles, surprises, charms) lies in this: each dish is so surprising and playful, in terms of aesthetics and techniques, it overshadows every other component. Our taste buds tell us Disfrutar is a great restaurant, internationally; the other senses tell us it’s even unique, in many ways

Eduard Xatruch, Mateu Casañas and Oriol Castro

Eduard Xatruch, Mateu Casañas and Oriol Castro

The kitchen as seen from the dining room

The kitchen as seen from the dining room

Disfrutar awarded at the 50Best 2017. Eduard Xatruch is the second from the left. Next to him Jordi Roca, Andoni Aduriz, Elena Arzak, Joan Roca, Albert Adrià, Eneko Atxa, that is to say the top in Spanish cuisine

Disfrutar awarded at the 50Best 2017. Eduard Xatruch is the second from the left. Next to him Jordi Roca, Andoni Aduriz, Elena Arzak, Joan Roca, Albert Adrià, Eneko Atxa, that is to say the top in Spanish cuisine

One in three, in fact. There are three chefs, Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas (owners and managers also at Compartir, in Cadaqués, opened in April 2012. See: The sharing restaurant). Bullinians, of course (see: Acquiring experience with Ferran Adrià): not only have they worked for over 16 years at the iconic restaurant in Cala Montjoi, but since 1998 they’re also part of the creative team, with Ferran and Albert Adrià. They’ve continued to collaborate with them  even after elBulli closed in July 2011, contributing until November 2014 in the conceptualization of Bullipedia (See: Dining with Ferran Adrià). One month later, they decided to start with Disfrutar, which is about to complete three years of intense and very appreciated life: Best new restaurant in Europe in 2016 for Opinionated About Dining (winning over the other 8 shortlisted restaurants, including three Italians, in fact from Lombardy: Lido 84 in Gardone Riviera, Seta and Tokuyoshi in Milan), a Michelin star that same year, Breakthrough Restaurant for the 50Best 2017, which placed them at number 55.

On the right, the kitchen; in the middle, the dining room; at the back, the winter garden

On the right, the kitchen; in the middle, the dining room; at the back, the winter garden

A harvest of laurels that: 1) hasn’t changed their attitude. They still look like three guys who work hard, with great humility and very seriously. Plus you can hardly see Casañas; 2) doesn’t make the atmosphere in the restaurant too glossy; in fact it still has an almost gourmet bistro-style freshness, in line with the basic choice of having guests relax, be happy, curious. Indeed “disfrutar” is the Spanish word for enjoy, feel pleasure, happiness.

A souvenir photo with the team at Disfrutar in the days of the first Michelin star, in 2016

A souvenir photo with the team at Disfrutar in the days of the first Michelin star, in 2016

And since the restaurant is about to celebrate its third anniversary, they’ve introduced a new, stellar menu. Before, you could choose between Classic and Festival tastings, with signature dishes in one case, and new creations in the other; now in both cases you can choose a short version and a longer one. Plus they’ve added the Disfrutar menu, which includes highlights from the previous menus plus three exclusive dishes. Of course, we chose this one.

Xatruch and Castro on the stage of Gastronomika 2017

Xatruch and Castro on the stage of Gastronomika 2017

But before meeting their delicacies in Carrer de Villarroel 163, in Barcelona, we met Xatruch and Castro at Gastronomika 2017. They conveyed very interesting ideas, like the ones according to which, though technique has a main role in their restaurant, «we always start from products alone, then we apply our concepts». This is the case, for instance, with green walnuts, where the shell is so soft you can penetrate it with a large needle: «We’ve always used them, but this year we arrived to some special conclusions». They start from an assumption, at Disfrutar: «in the same way as it is a given fact that there are many types of tomatoes, the same applies to walnuts». They pick them between June and July and prepare them, because you couldn’t eat them then, they would be too bitter and astringent.

Another picture of Xatruch and Castro on the stage of Gastronomika 2017

Another picture of Xatruch and Castro on the stage of Gastronomika 2017

They recuperate an ancient Italian tradition (in particular one from Veneto, as well as other areas), according to which walnuts are picked on St John’s, on the 23rd of July, when they are still green, and then they candy them, after making a hole with a needle and put them into water (and a little ratafià) so they get rid of their bitterness and ferment. The result is an element in a dish made entirely of walnuts, in different textures and preparations.

Xatruch with Albert Adrià and Joan Roca at the market in Barcelona

Xatruch with Albert Adrià and Joan Roca at the market in Barcelona

Or using salmon roe as if they were eggs: they blend them and use this “egg cream” to make an otherwise classic Béarnaise sauce, and season salmon cutlets with a biscocho of Codium seaweeds. The head of the salmon is instead completely broken into pieces so as to separate the cartilage part from the mouth, with its gelatinous texture. And so on.

My notebook

My notebook

A last note: the notes you see above refer to the dinner at Disfrutar, described in detail in the photo-gallery. I usually note down the dishes and use an asterisk (the scrawl on the left) to highlight memorable dishes. This was the outcome: one asterisk after the other. Disfrutar is a feast for the palate and the mind. (Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso)

«Juli Soler and Ferrán Adriá taught us never to be satisfied. If you serve a dish that is very appreciated, you must immediately do better with something different. Our cuisine, both here and at Compartir, is nonconformist. Why so? Because we like cooking and therefore evolving» (Eduard Xatruch and Oriol Castro, Mateu Casañas)

«Tradition frees you. It’s a heritage that gives you energy, strength and inspiration to do something modern. If you don’t have a past, you cannot move on. Tradition is in constant evolution and it is freedom itself» (Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro, Mateu Casañas)

«With them the soul of El Bulli, now El Bulli no longer exists, lives again» (Philippe Regol)


SEE ALSO: Disfrutar: a shining star, by Angela Barusi


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Photogallery

The beginning of a marvellous journey: Lengua helada de pasión con ron, frozen cat tongue with Rhum, passion fruit and peppermint. The play with temperatures begins
Rosa & lichis: pure poetry. Spherifications with rose water and a fake blackberry made with litchi
La remolacha que sale de tierra: beetroot sorbet and meringue
Panchino relleno de caviar beluga: one of the signature dishes at Disfrutar. A round mould is filled with a foam made with a very watery pastry dough, then caviar and double cream, then some more foam to cover it all. It is then placed in a pan with oil at 180°C for 20 seconds. Of course you can use cheese, tuna, sorbets instead of the caviar...
Serving Sidra casera ahumada al momento, instant apple cider: they pour a mix of spirit and apple juice on dry ice
The tribute to walnuts begins. Here the kernel is recreated and encloses a fourth of smoked walnut. Delicious. They basically opened the shell without breaking it
Cáscara de nuez: jubilation. One tender, skinless walnut, another is green, made edible, and finally the last one is cooked and macerated in ratafià, as explained in the article. All topped with a drop of walnut oil and milk. The idea: there are infinite things you can make with a product
Candy salado de nueces con mango, haba tonka y whisky: the edible sachet encloses salted caramel and walnuts, raw mango and the aroma of smoked whisky
Milhojas de idiazábal, a millefeuille with Basque cheese. A savoury touch after the mostly sweetish previous dishes. Overall, they always go beyond the traditional sweet-savoury difference
"Hostia" de flor del mandarino: a dish that aims straight for the heart
La Gilda del Disfrutar. Gilda is the classic Basque pintxo made with olives and anchovies. Here we have Adrià’s famous fake olives, crispy on the outside (cocoa butter) and liquid inside. Plus marinated mackerel, Basque pepper seeds and their cream
Sandwich de gazpacho con guarnición olorosa de vinagre de Jerez: the fake frozen bread (it’s dry tomato meringues) encloses a filling in which the acid and aromatic notes of Jerez vinegar enhance the classic aroma of Andalusian gazpacho