Two green olives hanging from a branch of a well manicured olive tree... Beautiful, poetic and unexpected as the naturally bitter olives are covered in a thin layer of sweet crunchy caramel and filled with salted anchovies. When I travel alone I usually dine quite early, but as we all know this doesn't work in Spain. Even if I arrived at El Celler de Can Roca at 8 pm, the service started at 9. Thus, I had plenty of time to observe and discover the place. Maybe that particular residential Girona area is unassuming(the town is around 100 km from Barcelona), once you cross the doorstep of the restaurant, you find yourself in an oasis of elegance and peace. Chic, sleek and zen- something you would expect at a three Michelin restaurant which is also considered the second best in the world.
Behind all this- the Roca brothers. Joan is the headchef, Jordi- the pastry chef and Josep – the sommelier . It's Josep’s idea to dedicate special rooms to his favorite wines in the wine cellar. In the center of a room dedicated to sparkling wines you will see a bowl with silver dragees that remind cava or champage bubbles; Riesling notes are imagined as a piece of golden satin fabric.
Moreover, each wine has it's music which can be played on TVs once you pass by a particular room. The wine I had (Mas Martinet Els Escurcons 07 D.O.Qa Priorat and Vall Llach 05 D.O.Qa Priorat) grows in Priorat county. You could touch with your fingers the volcanic soil from where the grapes of that wine are coming while listening to an Andalusian song...
The sommelier was especially proud of Priorat wine and you could feel that love for Catalonia and Spain also in the plates . The dinner though started with "a world", inspirations from the recent brothers’ trips to Mexico, Peru, Lebanon, Morocco and Korea. Interpretation of guacamole, ceviche, hummus or a warm bite of miso soup (which I particularly loved ) were a nice beginning of a journey in Spain. The menu I had was a beautiful showcase of the Catalonian coast riches. The dishes were by far not straightforward ( and some did look like paintings you almost didn't want to destroy with your fork), but at the same time remained "food" as supposed to "art". ( El Bulli comes to my mind when I think of "art"...)
Gazpacho soup made only of olives with a small hint of tomatoes ( probably just for the colour), a whole charcoal - grilled king prawn, so delicious, I even ate it’s fried legs (which I usually don’t do) ; slightly smoked sea bream with yuzu and capers or Iberian suckling pig blanquette with Riesling " notes" ... For the desserts - caramelized apricot filled with light as air abricot sorbet ; "straweberries and cream" , probably born from the childhood memories... A real feast for your eyes and senses...
And here is the menu
The world: Mexico, Peru,Lebanon,Morocco and Korea
Marinated mussel ( eaten with it's shell)
Escudella soup (traditional Catalan soup) with St George's mushroom brioche
Oyster with black pearl, wrapped in it's own juice ( The pearl was made of black garlic, the juice- of melon and cucumber..)
Elderflower infusion,cherries with Amaretto, gingered cherries(and frozen) ,smoked sardine
Black olive gazpacho, spicy gordal- olive mousse, black olive fritter, manzanilla olive ice cream, toasted bread with oil,fennel jelly, winter savory jelly and picual olive ( If I didn't know, I could have sweared the gazpacho was made of tomatoes..)
White aspargus ice cream with black truffle, aspargus and black garlic (divine combination of flavors)
Charcoal grilled king prawn,king prawn sand,ink rocks,fried legs,head juice and king prawn essence
Red sea bream, yuzu and capers (the fish was slightly smoked)
Salt cod brandade, braised salt cod tripe,sald cod foam,olive oil soup,shallots and honey,thyme and chilli pepper, vegetable contrast
Iberian suckling pig blanquette with Riesling ( Josep's Roca interpretation of Riesling wine notes- mango terrine,melon and beetroot,beetroot purée , black garlic,onion and orange concentrate)
Goose à la royale
Pigeon liver and onion, curry caramelized walnuts,juniper,orange peel and herbs
Caramelized abricot with vanilla , caramelized abricot cream
Strawberry and cream