Adria used to say that “the ideal customer doesn’t come to El Bulli to eat but to have an experience.”
The restaurant experience is an aggregation of multiple factors. Some of them are controlled by the chef. Andria’s stated that his main objective is “provide unexpected contrasts of flavor, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner.“ Other factors are controlled by the service that make sure you feel like at home, food comes on time and all your questions are answered….
But what the restaurateurs don’t mention are the other the the factors: the factors that they can NOT control, but are also important for “the experience” or probably it will be more accurate to say for “MY experience” One of those non restaurant controlled factors is WHO do you go with to the restaurant. If there is something that I will always remember in MY Bohio “experience” was my companion. This visit I went with my parents. I live in New York, so it is very rare to share some time with my family. Unfortunately I only see them a handful of days a year, so this time with them was something truly memorable, something to remember .
El Bohio is located 40 minutes South of Madrid, between Madrid and Toledo ( The old Capital of Spain ) in a city called Illescas. The restaurant has a classic La Mancha front, but don’t get fooled by this rustic facade, nothing is what it seems.
This restaurant is the most famous one in La Mancha Region ( Castilla la Mancha ) It has a Michelin start since 1999 and it is definitely a strong candidate for the second one. In fact in 2009 this restaurant was considered the Best in Spain, competing against names like El Bulli, Arzak, Quique Da Costa, El Celler…. The cook is Pepe Rodriguez Rey, alumni from Ferran Adria and Arzak. The sommelier is the other Rodriguez brother who helped us during the all the meal.
Special mention to the wine list, one of the most impressive in Spain, and with a good selection of La Mancha wines, Spanish in general and French.
The restaurant has 2 degustation Menus and also options for “A la carte”. Well recommended by Mr Rodriguez we choose the chef special Menu, a 2.5 hours 90 euros of pure enjoyment.
Ors the ouvres:
Back to front: Ensalada de pollo, chicken wrapped in lettuce then rolled in rice paper; sobrasada, a spreadable chorizo, with a thin translucent piece of fried pork rind masquerading as a tuile; mojete de la mancha, tuna stuffed in a cherry tomato and topped with crispy roe; black olive and parmesan bread topped with anchovy paste; a long rectangular galleta made with tomato and anchovies.
Sangria and Bun Chorizo. A taste of Spain!.
Queso, Lima, Trufa y Curry. This was a kick ass start, the unexpected just showed up on the table, not only because of the cold truffle sand on top of the warm Manchego merengue but also for the amazing settle down flavors from La Mancha. Amazing contrast, cold and warm, traditional vs modern cuisine in one plate.
Navajas – Razor clams with membrillo sauce. So delicate contrast between the sweat membrillo and the salt of the Razor clams
Ensalada de setas con rosas, trufa y papada iberica con espuma de almendras. This was a very nicely displayed dish, very colorful and well balance combination of green and pig jowl or chicks
Guiso de puerros con bacalao y patata esferica. Cod and spheric potatoe with leek sauce. Very interesting dish, specially the potato puree using the famous spherification technique a la Adria
Espardenas, Pan de la Sopa de Ajo y Yema Batida. I’ve never heard about Espardenas in spanish, so I had to look in the dictionary how to say this even in english…. sea cucumber. This is typical from the Catalunya coast, so not sure it they can be found somewhere else. It was combined with a very Manchego typical dish: Pan de ajo or garlic soup croutons. My grand mother used to make Sopa de Ajo, she was from La Mancha and this dish even reproduced with more modern techniques it reminded me a lot to the one I used to eat when I was young
Merluza con Salsa Verde de Ternera. Hake with a green sauce made of veal stock. Other contrast of Mar y montana, sea and mountains.
Gazpacho manchego. Everybody is familiar with Gazpacho Andaluz or the cold tomato and vegetable soup. But in la Mancha there is other type of Gazpacho, the one made with game meat and vegetable, after hunting. This gazpacho substituted tomato and vegetables by rabbit, mushrooms, foie, cous-cous and quail. Quite an impressive modern touch to this La Mancha traditional dish.
Ropa Vieja y el Caldo del Cocido. Ropa vieja is not only old clothes, it is other typical dish made with the “leftovers” of a pot after making a roast. And to be leftovers let me tell you it was delicious. The ropa vieja absorbed all the flavors from the cocido: pig, chorizo, garbanzo beans, carrots… The cocido soup as served on the side, warm and tasty. A little bit heavy for my taste but still very good flavors
Quail. Difficult not to like this perfectly cooked bird.
Unfortunatly I did not take note of what this dessert was, but it seems it was a dehydrated mango and some short of ice cream on top. A very good combination of cold and dry. Great texture.
Flan de Caramelo. This is the famous dessert from EL Bohio, a spherification of creme brulee. I can just say wow!.
Petite fours. Probably they were amazing, but after 3 hours of eating one of the best meals of my life, I could not even put this in my mouth. MACARON DE CAFÉ, GOMINOLA DE LIMÓN, PASTEL DE LIMÓN, CUBO DE CACAO AL 75% Y BIZCOCHO DE CHOCOLATEO
Overall, a place not to miss if you visit Madrid, worth the trip!. Pepe Rodriguez makes an amazing job at El Bohio, leveraging traditional La Mancha flavors with a modern touch. Definitely this Adria alumni, leave it to his maestro quote: “provide unexpected contrasts of flavor, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner.”
What a surprise! and what a great experience shared with my parents!
Avenida CASTILLA-LA MANCHA, 81
45200 Illescas, Spain
925 51 11 26