Recently we read that Spanish Avant Garden / Innovative cuisine was dead. This theory was support by the closing of El Bulli in 2011 and the current economic crisis in Spain. I can not disagree more with this theory. By the time El Bulli closed in 2011 it was not only a restaurant but an idea, a movement, and and ideas can not be contained between 4 walls and therefore can not be closed. This movement has transpired beyond a Cala Montjoi and influenced the way food and restaurants are understood today. Beyond introducing new techniques, changing the role that chefs play in society, strengthening relationships between farmers/food providers, El Bulli changed the way we understand food. Fine-dining experience was no longer about eating the most expensive caviar or lobster but instead the art of transforming nature into culture.
As the Barcelona Olympic Games helped transforming the City in 1992 into one of the most vibrant architecture / design forward cities, Ferran and Albert Adria have been transforming the culinary scene in Barcelona. BTW don’t ask me to explain their new adventure, El Bulli Foundation, Bulli pedia and so on because I’m still not getting it in spite of their almost weekly events and news.
Adria’s transformation is beyond understanding at this point, but there is no more evident successor of El Bulli concept that his latest 2 restaurant: Tickets and 41,
Tickets is a playful version of El Bulli ( or now 41 ). Fun decoration, vibe and more importantly with this economy, accessible with reasonable prices so everybody can try the famous El Bulli tapas, that can be ordered a la carte. This is an example that innovation doesn’t need to be expensive. (if we can call innovation serving food from 2007 ; ) ) This is not like eating at El Bulli, don’t get me wrong, probably you will not get the same emotions as a person that went to Cala Montjoi in 2007, but this is a good place to try how it used to be back then and get visibility on what food is beyond something to stop being hungry.
In addition to those 2 restaurants Adria will be soon opening in Barcelona a nikkei (japanese – peruvian ) restaurant called Pakta and a Mexican restaurant (July) called Yaguarcan. If you can not wait to try Nikkei food and you are in Madrid not to miss Nikkei 255 one of the best outside Peru.
But if there is place that you can get close to the original experience of El Bulli it is without a doubt 41º. This restaurant started as a cocktail and snacks place, not a tasting menu type restaurant but it seems that customers were ordering everything possible on the menu. This was not sustainable for Albert Adria, so he turned 41 into what is now: 41 Experience. A tasting menu restaurant that server 41 snacks to 16 to 20 guest each night.
When we heard that 41 was re-vamping the El Bulli concept we couldn’t hep ourselves but try and book this impossible reservation. The 41 Experience as if it was not enough by itself, was part of a culinary weekend in Barcelona that included restaurants as exciting if no more than 41 like: Koy Shunka probably the best Japanese / Spanish fusion restaurant in Spain and Dos Palillos from Albert Raurich, former chef de cuisine at El Bulli: A restaurant that reproduces a Japanese tapas bar. 2 restaurants worth a trip to Spain.
What can I say about the 41 Experience…. it was very unique. Not being a big fan of the usage of molecular cuisine techniques for the hell of it, 41 Experience was great. All the dishes were interesting, extremely well executed and actually tasted even better of the original ingredients. And all mixed with quite playful cocktails!
41 currently is located next to Tickets, both are connected by a small hall. That being said there are plans for Albert to move 41 to a new bigger location where the original concept of cocktails and small tapas will be revived. In this new space also the 41 experience will expand to more sits per night.
The 41 space is also very unique. Very dark restaurant, with ambient lights almost like a chill out disco and great music like this XX remix by Mathew Dear. Tables are covered with a black leather table cloth and the main point of light is the one lighting the dishes. All the senses are stimulated at 41.
What to say Albert Adria. The shadow of Ferran is too big for Albert to shine, but in my opinion Albert is one of the most talented chefs of the moment. At 41 Albert doesn’t only demonstrate his skills on Spanish molecular cuisine, he goes beyond and does a Culinary Tour around the World: Mexico, Peru, Japan, Scandinavia, …. great conceptualization of flavors and cultures. It is like Albert is saying: we came up with all this type of modern vision of cuisine before you ever heard about it.
Menu started with a section dedicated to Pizzicato Five a Japanese band from the 90s, very pink and fun.
Overall a top dinner. But what make it a even more memorable was the cheese course and the desserts. It was so good and eye opening that since then I’ve found it very hard to get impressed or fulfilled by any other molecular forward restaurant. Great
El Bulli closure is not by any mean the end of the food innovation in Spain, with chefs like Albert Adria, Quique Dacosta, Dani Garcia, Aduriz, David Munoz, Roca brothers or Angel Leon between other, there is not doubt Spanish cuisine will continue evolving.
But if I can find a meaning in El Bulli closure that would be the end of an era of chefs working 18 hours a day in the kitchen or research lab, and the beginning of new era where chefs are now stars that rather spend their time in symposiums or opening restaurant chains on behalf of their name exploiting dishes that made them one day famous. Something not to look forward….
Avinguda Paral-lel 164