Disfrutar’s ongoing avantgarde

At every visit, the restaurant of Mateu Casañas, Eduard Xatruch and Oriol Castro surprises with new, delicious inventions

02-08-2019
Left to right: Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro and

Left to right: Mateu CasañasOriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch, the three chefs of Disfrutar in Barcelona

One of the best 10 restaurants in the world. Since the presentation of the Worlds’ 50Best, Barcelona-based restaurant Disfrutar, opened at the end of 2014 by Mateu Casañas, Eduard Xatruch and Oriol Castro, is officially in the top 10 (in fact, it’s at number 9). Over here, at Identità Golose, we had thought so for a while: after all, we awarded the three chefs as the best foreign restaurant in our 2018 Guide. 

Ever since our first visits to Calle Villarroel we have found here the purest heritage of bullism and of Ferran Adrià, of whom CasañasXatruch and Castro have been for many years among the most trusted collaborators. But there’s more, much more. The research at Disfrutar is ongoing, it never stops. In this sense one can say that Disfrutar faithfully continues the work of constant avantgarde preached as a real creed by elBulli. You can never stop. 

Over only five years, Disfrutar has reached the top and obtained almost unanimous praise among critics (with two Michelin stars). It’s still a young restaurant, in many ways. Yet Eduard Xatruch smiles when we use the word “young” for their restaurant. Because even though the establishment was opened in 2014, together with his partners he has formed a team for many years.

Eduard Xatruch

Eduard Xatruch

«Indeed, it sounds strange to think of our partnership as a “young” one. MateuOriol and I have been working together for twenty years. However, it is true that Disfrutar has only existed for 5 years and now we really feel at home here. As cooks we have surely reached our maturity, yet the Disfrutar project is still young: this allows us to experience a constant and very fast evolution. We’re serene, we’re sure of what we’re doing, we have the best team we could hope for, a space that meets all our needs. The results come as a consequence». 

And among other things, the results include the arrival in the top 10 of the most prestigious gastronomic list in the world: «I must admit - Eduard Xatruch says – that we did not expect such an important position. Acknowledgements like this always make us happy because they reward the work we have been doing over these years, but let’s not forget that for us, the most important responsibility is to make the people who dine at Disfrutar every day have a nice time. And every day we try to improve: then, of course, when these prizes arrive, like the one Identità Golose gave us in 2018, there will be even more people arriving with high expectations. Our task is to meet them».

Even during our latest visit, Disfrutar went well beyond any expectation: right from the arrival, from the welcoming, as always impeccable, with the dining room staff attending the guests as if they were the most important ones. At Disfrutar you feel special: both because of the always surprising marvels that one can find in the dishes, and for the obsessive attention to every detail in a lunch or dinner. An attention that’s worth entrusting them completely, even when it comes to the pairing of wines, which offers surprises and discoveries. 

Pigeon / Anchovy: the pigeon fillet is left to macerate in anchovy water. The result is exceptional 

Pigeon / Anchovy: the pigeon fillet is left to macerate in anchovy water. The result is exceptional 

Disfrutar is, today, one of the few restaurants that can afford to ask clients to dedicate over three hours to a culinary journey: the menu is built with great balance, and often allows to follow the inspiration of the three chefs, thanks to the “sequences” that include only one ingredient. In our case, it was anchovies (we’re still recalling with nostalgia a pigeon fillet transformed into an anchovy, exceptional), caviar ( the “Panchino” filled with caviar is by now a not-to-be-missed signature dish at Disfrutar), basil (the multi-spherification of pesto would seduce even the most traditionalist inhabitant of Genoa). 

Panchino filled with caviar 

Panchino filled with caviar 

«Our menus change very often, depending on the season, on the ideas we get for the  dishes: indeed, however, when we fall in love with a product it may well be that many dishes will be born that have it as the main character, and when we create a menu we create a sequence so as to give more meaning to our research on that ingredient, but also to give a leitmotiv to our culinary journey. Let’s never forget that at Disfrutar research and technique are always at the service of taste, which is our only priority».

And while it is very true that technique, in the restaurant in Barcelona, never dominates the pleasantness and the flavours of a dish, it is also true that the techniques that CasañasXatruch and Castro use will leave you surprised and amused. For instance this happened to me when they served a dish made with asparagus, anchovy and... bottarga made with quail egg yolks. A real surprise to watch, while the dish was finished right in front of the guest, and pure enjoyment to taste. 

Asparagus with anchovy and quail egg yolk

Asparagus with anchovy and quail egg yolk

«One of our goals has always been to invent a new technique, rather than inventing just a new dish. Three years ago, we presented the multi-spherification technique which has been very successful and now is immediately associated with Disfrutar. To this day we’re looking for new ways to apply this technique and one day we thought of how egg yolk can be considered a natural spherification. So we created a sort of multi-spherification of quail egg yolk, we have joined them and preserved them in salt with anchovy colatura. The result we were looking for was a particularly buttery, rich texture, which can remind one of a very tender bottarga, but one that tastes of seafood preserved in salt».

The idea of constantly innovating the techniques used in the kitchen is one of the pillars of Disfrutar. Hence a surprising dish like Airy bread caviar ice cream makes use of a solution that has been used for many years, renewing it and creating an absolutely irresistible dish, one you can eat in a few seconds, before the magic… melts. 

Airy bread caviar ice cream 

Airy bread caviar ice cream 

«This dish was born from a technique that Heston Blumenthal invented some 15, 20 years ago and used for chocolate. The basic idea is that when you have a fatty mixture, processed so that it creates some bubbles, when you freeze and stabilise this mixture, you’ll obtain an airy and spongy texture. We thought of using this technique with other fat products, to create savoury dishes. Hence, we tried with caviar paste, we have created a foam with a siphon, using only caviar, then we put this foam in a vacuum pack. When the foam inflates, we freeze it immediately. This way, we make a frozen sponge of caviar fat, which we serve on top of some more caviar, paired with sour cream and soft almonds».

One of the most important new techniques for the chefs of Disfrutar gave life to one of the most delicious dishes tasted during our latest visit: Coca-pizza without flour

Coca-pizza without flour 

Coca-pizza without flour 

«We’re very proud of this technique, which we invented around one year ago, because it allows us to do many things. We use some very thin sheets of potato starch and inulin: we create various layers of potato starch spread with inulin. When we cook the mixture, it creates air among the different layers, which inflate, and the inulin makes these layers crispy, as if it were pastry. Now you can do endless things with it. It’s a preparation that has no flour, no fat, so it’s super-light. You can make pizza, like the one you had, or canapés with jamòn, or small cakes with whipped cream... there’s plenty of possibilities».

The tasting menu at Disfrutar includes many surprises. For sure, it’s one of the best restaurants in the world, but most of all one of the most creative and funniest. So much so we already miss it. And if you now want to go (you really should) bear in mind that the restaurant is always closed at the weekend – it’s been like this for some time. Something unusual, perhaps, but with a very serious and very contemporary reason. 

Prawn and mango brittle 

Prawn and mango brittle 

«Every person –Xatruch explains – has a right to have fun, to enjoy their family, their free time. We’ve always been convinced of this. Working in a restaurant, on many occasions means working when others are not, of course. But you must set a boundary. So we’ve made a decision: we’re closed at the weekend, and take care of our private life». Another excellent reason to praise this great restaurant and the three chefs behind it. 

And here are some of the (very many) dishes tasted during our lunch at Disfrutar.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

Chicken bones with garlic 

Chicken bones with garlic 

Tomato and almond tart 

Tomato and almond tart 

Lobster salpicòn 

Lobster salpicòn 

Zabaglione with passion fruit and rum 

Zabaglione with passion fruit and rum 

Whisky cake

Whisky cake


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