Oriol Castro, Eduardo Xatruch and Mateu Casañas, with Compartir Barcelona's executive chef Nil Dulcet Padrós in the centre
(Photos of the restaurant and chefs are by Joan Valera, photos of the dishes are by Niccolò Vecchia)
A couple of weeks ago, we told you about Disfrutar, the Barcelona restaurant led by the trio of chefs Oriol Castro, Eduardo Xatruch and Mateu Casañas, which this year came second in the World's 50 Best 2023. On that occasion, we also reported that the three Catalan chefs have demonstrated their ability to excel in multiple restaurant formats. In fact, while today Disfrutar is the group’s flagship, after the closure of elBulli Castro, Xatruch and Casañas - who had worked in Adrià's kitchen for almost 20 years - had started over from another restaurant.
Not in Barcelona, but in Cadaquès, not far from the Gulf of Roses, at the easternmost tip of Catalonia and the Costa Brava, with a project called Compartir. Exactly one year ago, it also opened a second location in the Catalan capital. The first Compartir, when it opened in April 2012, was a way for the three chefs to start over with a completely different restaurant from the one in which they had established themselves. It would have been very risky to take on a creative, avant-garde proposal immediately, with the elBulli comparison ready to prove a boomerang.
Compartir means 'to share', and the explanation of this concept can be read on the restaurant's website: 'The gastronomic offer is based on dishes to be shared at the centre of the table, but the concept of sharing goes beyond the simple act of placing a dish in the centre. The whole team works so that we understand the deeper meaning of the verb: to experience experiences, moments, conversations, memories and sensations; but also to work as a team, to engage daily and to enjoy the way the cuisine is interpreted, and then to pass it on effectively.’
After that first step in 2012, at the end of 2014 the three opened Disfrutar in Barcelona. They wanted to resume the path of innovation, invention, and experimentation with new techniques, which was a fundamental part of their way of understanding cuisine, but they were also aware that in a town like Cadaquès they could never count on a stable clientele throughout the year. Nevertheless, Compartir has continued to reap great success in the following years, with its modern, bourgeois we might say, restaurant formula in which the link with traditions and raw materials is essential.
The dining room at Compartir Barcelona
For the kitchen, they chose Nil Dulcet Padrós as executive chef. Born in 1989, at a very young age, he met the three chefs thanks to a one-year internship at elBulli between 2010 and 2011. "I was lucky enough to be able to experience first-hand that cuisine that is so important for the history of world gastronomy," he told us as he showed us around the rooms of the new restaurant. Having seen in him a future promise, Castro, Xatruch and Casañas took him straight to Compartir in Cadaquès, and then entrusted him with the role of first chef de cuisine when Disfrutar opened.
"Compartir has a very different offer from Disfrutar," he told us, smiling, "this is, we could say, a 'normal' restaurant. Here diners come to eat dishes that are not to be deciphered, where the techniques serve to enhance the raw materials and where they can find familiar flavours, familiar recipes.”
Nil Dulcet Padrós with the three chefs in the kitchen of Disfrutar, in the early days of that restaurant
Were we to highlight the strong point, the keystone, of Compartir's dishes, we would not hesitate for a moment to call into question the sauces, as is fitting in a restaurant with a solid traditional anchorage, however contemporary. Glossy and clear, they make each dish delicious to the eye, even before tasting. For example, the carrot, purple carrot and coconut sauces are incredible. They are served with the sardines in escabeche, softening their acidic and savoury edges. The almond cream shows absolute softness. Mixed with the fragrant green olive juice, it provides the base for the red tuna cannellone with Mediterranean flavours, one of the signature dishes of Compartir in Cadaquès, which of course cannot be missed in Barcelona. The chicken sauce accompanying the Catalan scallops with confit potatoes is delicately savoury and rich.
Nil Dulcet Padrós in mid-June 2023 was awarded as Revelation of the Year by the Catalan Academy of Gastronomy and Food
Below are the photos of the dishes we tasted, with an important note: the portions you will see in these pictures are about half the size of those usually offered à la carte. As for the average price, oysters are offered at 5.75 euros each, appetisers are between 14 and 20 euros, and main courses are between 22 and 40 euros. Finally, the desserts are 10 euros.
Beetroot salad and ajoblanco sorbet
Oyster with jalapeño aguachile, mango and avocado
White asparagus with warm mayonnaise, mustard and cherries
Bluefin tuna cannellone with Mediterranean flavours
Sardines in escabeche with carrots and coconut
Crab with avocado and trout roe: it is called “comfortable” because the crab is completely cleaned, then emulsified with a light mayonnaise and served with a creamy avocado, lime and ginger, a ponzu sauce and some yoghurt sauce
Panchino is Disfrutar's signature dish, with its caviar and sour cream filling. It can also be ordered from Compartir, in the classic version or with a filling of veal tartare and fried quail egg. It is just as tasty, but the original one remains superior for its lightness
Cannolicchi with porcini and pine nut vinaigrette
Fried egg with tuna, avocado and salmon roe
Catalan-style scallops with chicken sauce and confit potatoes
Pork ribs with Pipiàn sauce and melon
Our 'Caprese': a savoury Italian dish turned into dessert. With basil-flavoured white chocolate ganache, mozzarella ice cream, cherry tomatoes osmotized with vanilla syrup, tomato and basil streusel, fresh strawberries, caviar and spherifications of balsamic vinegar from Modena
Hazelnut coulisant with apricot sorbet: in its simplicity, an unforgettable dessert
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
Reviews, recommendations and trends from the four corners of the planet, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose
Journalist, based in Milan. At 8 years old, he received a Springsteen record as a gift, and nothing was the same since. Music and food are his passions. Author and broadcaster at Radio Popolare since 1997, since 2014 he became part of the staff of Identità Golose
The three men from Disfrutar in Barcelona, who know how to create unique emotions in the kitchen: left to right Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas (created from a photo on their website)
Albert Adrià, in 2022 he will turn 53