DiverXo, the pig’s taking off

Lisa Foletti visits the restaurant in Madrid: technique and (a lot of) creativity at the service of taste

26-09-2016
Lisa Foletti’s report for Identità Golose on he

Lisa Foletti’s report for Identità Golose on her extraordinary experience al Diverxo, David Muñoz’s restaurant in Madrid: a dinner that looks like no other, what with visionary ideas and impeccable food

Photogallery

Le immagini di questa fotogallery sono di Lisa Foletti

Pigs don’t fly. They’re heavy, clumsy. The same goes for men. Even men cannot fly. However, they’ve always dreamt of doing so, they’ve always tried to overcome their limits and look beyond. Flying means making everything possible, feeling free. It’s the lightness of being. And seeing a pig fly means “dreaming the impossible dream”, in the words of Don Quixote: seeing what others cannot or don’t know how to see. This is how a winged pig became the emblem of restaurant DiverXo, the temple in Madrid of tri-starred chef David Muñoz.

You can tell that Muñoz is a visionary, a nonconformist, a daring dreamer by the promotional short film he wanted (and starred in) for his restaurant, a film with strong and grotesque images, a masterpiece of photography in which the table becomes the stage for a liberating ritual during which guests abandon their inhibitions and gradually reveal their nature, in a visual and audio crescendo with a very strong impact.

Struck by this video, I arrived at DiverXo truly excited and full of expectations. I wasn’t as thrilled and full of adrenalin not even the first time I set foot in a great restaurant.

(Photo by evasionesculinarias.com)

(Photo by evasionesculinarias.com)

You can find flying pigs a bit everywhere, around the restaurant. Hanging from the ceiling, or peeping out from the walls, next to flocks of butterflies, large golden ants, huge ice cream cones and marmoreal female legs. Yet the setting is unveiled gradually during the dinner, because every table is wrapped by a heavy tent, from the ceiling to the ground, which is opened up (uncovering the table) only when the first course arrives. At your arrival, after a short guided tour of the kitchen, you’re immediately walked to the table in the darkness of the tent, with only the dim light of a candelabra.

The two dining room managers, man and woman, welcome the guests wearing a morning dress, red gym shoes and a matching bow-tie, with shorts and black nail polish for Javier Arroyo, the restaurant’s director and sommelier. The waiters, more soberly, wear dark trousers and a white shirt, with gym shoes and black braces tied in different ways. They are very many, and swarm between the tables in a constant yet organised way.

Overall, the setting evokes the “pop” style of someone called Kubrick (think of some images from A Clockwork Orange) almost reaching Fellini’s grotesque at times. A very theatrical setting, where everything is slightly over the top, but nothing is ridicule, out of place or tone.

It’s surprising this big circus doesn’t overshadow the culinary experience strictly speaking. In fact, it manages to blend with it, creating a harmonious and compact, powerful and original fusion.

(Photo by El Pais)

(Photo by El Pais)

There’s no menu, so you can’t choose what, but just how much you want to eat. The tasting journeys are made of “canvases” (lienzos), meals made with multiple elements, which the waiters gradually place on the table, assembling the dish while you’re already eating, in an almost uninterrupted sequence of tastings.

The first lienzo immediately traces a deep mark, giving the idea of what road you’re about to take. I can still sense those first elements very strongly in my mind: first the fennel and green tomato guacamole with lime spheres, avocado, steamed octopus and bone marrow; then the crispy sandwich of bull tai and black guacamole; finally the taco made with huitlacoche mushrooms, courgette flower and Palo Cortado sherry. I was ready for an “extreme” and crazy beginning. Instead, the balance between taste, texture, contrasts, techniques and sensations was surprising. An impressive start.

A series of 10 complex lienzos, filled with multiple and varied cultural influences, followed in this tasting dance. Muñoz touches oriental customs (the lienzo called “Typical neighbourhood Chinese restaurant in Madrid” was very fun, with a thrilling Wonton XO Soup: dumplings of stewed black hen with shitake mushroom, soup made with its bones, roasted with ginseng and crispy peas), uses Japanese cooking methods (such as the robata, a sort of barbecue), plays with the traditions of his homeland giving a new take on regional dishes (such as the hake cocochas stewed in a green clam sauce, sour apple, jalapenos and fresh wasabi), mixes different flavours and cultures (just like the lienzo called “Ooooh wait....Italia or India? Milano or Bombay? DiverXo world”: Milanese style bone marrow glazed with tamarind and basil, served with a mousse of toasted tomato and cardamom, and paired with ravioli with saffron with tandoori yogurt and mashed turnips with buffalo milk butter and summer truffle).

End of the meal (photo by Lisa Foletti)

End of the meal (photo by Lisa Foletti)

The result is a fun and pleasing culinary melting pot with very intense flavours, a pinch of craziness but well-grounded feet. Technique, culture and creativity at the service of taste.

The total absence of Italian wines in the wine list stands out, demonstrating how much work we still have to do in terms of promotion and distribution of our wine tradition. The rather moderate prices of the wines are also striking, with mark-ups that are decisively lower compared to the ones you’d find in Italy in restaurants of the same level, even less famous. I expect it’s a matter of different tax policies and commercial strategies.

The dinner continues with good rhythm, the tables around us are slowly filled in a continuous opening of tents, and when we leave at 2 in the morning the place is still swarming.

And the winged pigs are still there, reminding us that in order to be really free, we need to win over our inertia and take off, daring, dreaming and listening to our daimon.


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Photogallery

Le immagini di questa fotogallery sono di Lisa Foletti