Tickets and Pakta, unlimited flavours

The new life of the Adrià brothers: memorable tastings in their restaurants (yet not in all of them …)

17-03-2015
by Carlo Passera
Albert Adrià (full name: Albert Adrià Acosta, he

Albert Adrià (full name: Albert Adrià Acosta, hence the triple stylised “A” in his logo) is the soul of the restaurants grouped under the Bcn5.0 “umbrella”. We visited three of them, the main ones: two unforgettable meals, and a disappointing one

El Bulli orphans are left without parents; still they can console themselves with various stepfathers. One can hear El Bulli echoes at Tickets, the first restaurant in the Catalan series of Albert Adrià: a success that has nothing in common with the traditional restaurant (informal service, chaos, you can eat at the table or at the bar, nothing is elegant except for the food), but which for four years now has conquered gourmands, sold-out is a rule here, even though prices are not quite those of a taperia. The experience is of the highest level and evokes the bullian myth, the genius of the Adrià brothers.

Marinated beef loin on black malt bread, sweet onion, smoked cheese and powdered vinegar, served at Tickets
Marinated beef loin on black malt bread, sweet onion, smoked cheese and powdered vinegar, served at Tickets
These were the remarks we were making in front of two beautiful olives. Which were spherified, as in a 2003 dish at El Bulli. Still, even today many conservatives wonder: «Why spherification? Isn’t an olive already delicious in itself?». The answer given by Tickets: the two we tasted there were the best olives we have ever had or, more correctly, these two “things” were much tastier than the best possible olive, because inside the agar agar thickener ended up as many essences of the fruit (from different olives, one from Seville and the other from Jaen) whose taste was enriched, made complex and unforgettable by a thousand elements: cinnamon, lemon, star anise and pepper or rosemary, thyme, garlic and orange... Amazing.

An ode to olives, that is, yet Tickets is much more than that, a fascinating kaleidoscope of flavours and textures. The best, according to our notebook: marinated beef loin on black malt bread, sweet onion, smoked cheese and powdered vinegar; a “banal” Gillardeau oyster was extraordinarily married with yuzu kimchi, yet then you wonder how a simple wild strawberry can enrich its charm with such surprising secondary aromas. We are left speechless even in front of a crazy Raf tomato salad, with basil air, extra virgin olive oil, pistachio oil, mandarin gelatine, milk stracciatella and, again, wild strawberries. Pure magic.

Wild whiting, tiger’s milk, mashed sweet potato, toasted chestnut, caramelised chestnut, porcon mushroom and coriander, a dish signed by Dani Miro, a young member of the team at Pakta
 

Wild whiting, tiger’s milk, mashed sweet potato, toasted chestnut, caramelised chestnut, porcon mushroom and coriander, a dish signed by Dani Miro, a young member of the team at Pakta

 

This enthusiasm was not left alone, because it infected us at Pakta too, the Adrià’s restaurant offering nikkei cuisine. While Tickets is experienced as a direct child of the Catalan brothers, here we have to give credit to the mediation of a chef, Jorge Muñoz, who succeeds in a gigantic accomplishment: he balances wild, apparently unrestrained aromas – strong bitterness, racy spiciness, intense acidity… - in a surprising equilibrium; he presents explosive flavours that smoothen in the palate resulting in exceptionally elegant and complex notes. The Yuba stracciatella with black truffle, soy sauce and dried soy salt; Sea urchin with yuzu ponzu, a whip of iodine, citrus, sweet and savoury memories, altogether; Wild bass with yuzukosho (a spicy yuzu sauce), coriander and miso (an extreme dish, mostly bitter, acid and spicy, yet capable of not killing the fish); black salted codfish meeting carob honey, mashed potatoes, yellow aji and spring onion. Desserts are also of the highest quality, we recall the Soy sauce flan with caramel and mirin and the Green tea Bombon Pakta with yuzu ganache.

In the face of these splendid experiences, we feel the offer of Hoja Santa fades; while Pakta aims at aromas while keeping them at bay, the taste notes in the Mexican cuisine of Paco Mendez – especially the spicy ones – seem rather out of control. A great delusion, frankly speaking.

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