Enigma, part two: in Barcelona Albert Adrià opens again with a new identity. Here is a preview

A hybrid and innovative concept for a restaurant that on the 7th of June opened for lunch with an à la carte menu, made of very different dishes, and from 5 to 9 pm will offer cocktails and small dishes. It will always be closed in the evening

18-06-2022
by Niccolò Vecchia
Albert Adrià, in 2022 he will turn 53

Albert Adrià, in 2022 he will turn 53

Once upon a time there was elBarri. One could explain it as a small and very popular  food district in the heart of  Barcelona, whose roots went back to one of the most iconic restaurants in food history: Cala Montjoi, Roses, elBulli. In April 2021 came the news: Albert Adrià and the Iglesias brothers announced they would close the business with which they had given birth to celebrated establishments like Hoja SantaPaktaBodega 1900, but most of all Tickets. The latter, when they decided to close, was still holding tight to its deserved 20th place in the World's 50Best

A choice clearly linked to the crisis started by Covid, in face of the Catalan capital emptied of its international audience which was the backbone of a group of restaurants where 230 worked, and in particular of a world-renown establishment like Tickets

And while the pandemic tempest has passed (hopefully for good…), Tickets has reopened on the 15th of March under a new name, Teatro, a new ownership with entrepreneur Manuel Lao (who handed the direction of the restaurant to the three Iglesias brothers), and a renewed gastronomic identity (easier, and less expensive), yet faithful to its original inspiration, Albert Adrià had only one restaurant left. Enigma, his most ambitious and experimental creature, which was not part of the partnership with the others. 

How it was, and how it is still: the dining room at Enigma was not redesigned

How it was, and how it is still: the dining room at Enigma was not redesigned

On a Friday early in June, a day of bright sun, with lots of curiosity and a little emotion too we arrived at number 38 Carrer de Sepulveda, where Enigma was warming up its engins before the opening on Tuesday the 7th. A classic soft opening, with guests and friends called for a first test of Adrià’s new creature. We looked around and at the tables we saw local food reporters greeting and chatting, but also important chefs like Rafa Zafra, one of the fastest growing name in the Spanish culinary scene. 

Chef Rafa Zafra in Enigma’s dining room

Chef Rafa Zafra in Enigma’s dining room

All around, the restaurant looked exactly as it did 3 years ago. No renovations, no change of atmosphere and design. From outside it is almost invisible, one can only notice a hostess waiting to check bookings by the door, with no sign above: in the past, to access the restaurant you had to dial a secret code you got a few hours earlier on your phone. Then a long and windy corridor led you, and leads still, to a room with a minimalistic décor. Here, grey dominates, whether your eyes take in the stones on the walls, the iron of the furniture, the glass of the frames separating the different spaces, the ceiling covered in a very light fabric that hints at the clouds. 

However, his is where the similarities with the past end, because the experience is completely different. It used to be an itinerating dinner, with different stations, each with specific features. At the ned, you would sit in a dining room where you could eat the last dishes in the menu. Now that room is the one and (almost) only stop. 

Basil waffle with cream of pistachio and yuzu 

Basil waffle with cream of pistachio and yuzu 

Albert Adrià’s new Enigma has lost all its mysterious and vaguely lysergic aura, and has become something different, though not simple or linear. Many for instance will be surprised by its opening hours: from Tuesday to Saturday, at lunchtime from 1 to 4 pm, and ten from 5 to 9 pm for the Afternoon drinks. Sunday, Monday but most of all in the evening, Enigma is closed. 

In the short chat we had with Adrià, he summed up his idea: «It will be completely different, no more tasting menu, no more fine dining setting. No link with what the restaurant was before or with Tickets. At Enigma you will come to enjoy yourself: at lunch, we have the menu à la carte, with different choices. From 5 we change lights, launch the DJ console and we will focus on cocktails, while the kitchen will serve small dishes which are a more suitable pairing for drinks».

Cloud of lime with cream of corn

Cloud of lime with cream of corn

No fine dining, really? Our question comes naturally and is met by the smile of the chef: «Not in its final version. I prefer to call it fun dining, I prefer to think of a dynamic restaurant, in which we can find different things and satisfy different needs. However, if I think of the work we did to select raw materials, of the people working in the kitchen, of the research on cocktails, of the dining room team, it is clear those are our roots».

Sandwich of jamòn iberico and pancetta

Sandwich of jamòn iberico and pancetta

We experienced part of the offer for lunch: indeed, the menu included very different dishes, with an immediate connection with pop and known things. Small entrees like Basil waffle with cream of pistachio and yuzu or Cloud of lime with cream of corn. A Sandwich, also small, in which a very small wafer includes jamòn iberico and pancetta

Prawn with frozen salt with salsa picada

Prawn with frozen salt with salsa picada

Calamari with umeboshi vinegar, sauce of salmon roe and jamòn salt

Calamari with umeboshi vinegar, sauce of salmon roe and jamòn salt

Grilled King Crab with green pepper sauce and fries

Grilled King Crab with green pepper sauce and fries

Prawn with frozen salt and picada sauce, in which the seasonings are matched very discretely with the protagonist of the dish, leaving its main role (and rightly so, given its fine quality). A Calamari (this in fact recalls a dish we tasted at the old Enigmawith vinegar of umeboshi, sauce of salmon roe and jamòn salt. And then Grilled king crab with green pepper sauce and fries (which almost look like patatas bravas served with a crab sauce). 

Pizza hazelnut paste and cream cheese

Pizza hazelnut paste and cream cheese

Pizza Pâté en croûte

Pizza Pâté en croûte

We have also tasted a couple of Pizzas in the menu, and we can say without any hesitation they have very little to do with the Italian concept. The dough aims to be thin, very crispy, almost like a canapé, though it is round and served in slices: the one with hazelnuts in the dough and topping of cream cheese was very good, and even more so was the one called Pâté en croûte, in which the ingredients of the French classic (in a fascinating clash between Italy and France in Catalonia) are broken and reassembled on an almost ethereal surface. 

Part pasta, part noodles

Part pasta, part noodles

Albert Adrià gives a personal take to Pasta too, for instance presenting a crossing of Italy and Japan, serving a dish of Basil spaghetti with Parmigiano Reggiano, and inviting to dip them in a cold broth of tomato water and then eat them like noodles in soba. 

The chef at the Sua station at work

The chef at the Sua station at work

And what he will cook

And what he will cook

The stations were once mandatory stops in the itinerating dinner at Enigma. They were partly kept. Two, in particular. Clients can choose to go, spending 50 euros for each stop, possible booking them in advance. There’s the Shinkai station, where they play with Japanese style fish and especially with the concept of Nigiri (which however we didn’t taste). And then there’s Sua, with plancha and josper: Mussel and yuzu kebabPiparras kebab (they’re green sweet peppers) with their sauceInstant tortilla with prawnsEel kebab with bay leavesCherry kebab with Spanish sauce. All this cooked on the spot, in front of the client, while the chef explains everything. Fun and delicious. 

Mussel and yuzu kebab

Mussel and yuzu kebab

Piparras kebab with their sauce

Piparras kebab with their sauce

Instant prawn tortilla

Instant prawn tortilla

Then we return to the table for the cakes, also very light, but with intense flavours too. Pistachio ring with thyme and puffed rice, Toffee flan with soya caramel, a delicious Chocolate and lime cake, in which the pastry below is so thin it returns, like with pizza, to challenge gravity. 

Pistachio ring, with thyme and puffed rice

Pistachio ring, with thyme and puffed rice

Toffee flan with soya caramel

Toffee flan with soya caramel

Chocolate and lime cake

Chocolate and lime cake

By the time we finished our experience, which lasted around three hours, it was five. And, as announced, the sunlight coming from outside was blocked, and colourful lights will lit, with music selected by a DJ. Soon the restaurant would change appearance. We didn’t taste the cocktails or the recipes designed for these four hours of service, we’ll do so on our new visit to Albert Adrià’s renewed Enigma, which is likely to find its balance during the first months of activity, testing an innovative, different unusual format. But one interpreted with the quality to which Albert Adrià has got his clients used over they years. 

From the Instagram account of Enigma, a preview of what will be served with the cocktails from 5 to 9 pm

From the Instagram account of Enigma, a preview of what will be served with the cocktails from 5 to 9 pm

Even this Club Sandwich Gran Torino will only be served during the Afternoon drinks (from Instagram - Enigmaconcept)

Even this Club Sandwich Gran Torino will only be served during the Afternoon drinks (from Instagram - Enigmaconcept)

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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