I was recently in Spain for Madrid Fusion, one of Spain's biggest gastro-festivals that included a “who’s who” of culinary heavyweights from Spain and elsewhere, including Ferran Adrià (who announced his two-year sabbatical from his famed El Bulli restaurant), Sergi Arola, Grant Achatz, Alain Ducasse, Cheong Liew and Mark Best.
While there, I enjoyed an extravagant lunch at the 2 Michelin star rated Sergi Arola Gastro (www.sergiarola.es), a top restaurant in Madrid and probably one of my best dining experiences in Spain. It is presided over by avant garde chef Sergi Arola, who enjoys a unique culinary pedigree. A disciple of Ferrán Adrià (who has redefined culinary techniques with over-the-top creations like freeze-dried foie gras, atomized martinis and edible hibiscus paper) Arola trained in Adrià’s kitchen laboratory in Barcelona, working alongside the master chef for 8 years.
Make sure you set aside two to three hours for this extraordinary gastronomic experience. The menu is simplified by offering 3 “sampler” selections – a “Gastro” menu (160€), “Sergi’s” menu (125€) and a “Basics” menu (105€). There is an incredibly extensive wine list that features over 500 labels, mostly from small producers, which are, shockingly, all available by the glass.
I was dining with two wonderful food journalists from Sydney and Singapore, and we chose the “Basics” menu – which consisted of 10 courses from the “Sergi’s” 14 course menu,.
Patrons are first served some “snacks”, consisting of large olives, croquetas, thin plantain chips, Arola-style spicy stuffed, potatoes and spicy tomato toasts.
Sushi-sashimi Marinated Hake with rice ice cream
Maki – Squid stuffed with vegetable and monkfish liver
Sausage of duck liver and sweetbreads
Baby Scallops with Creamy rice cooked with Idiazάbal cheese, bacon and asparagus
Roasted Skate with Green Lentils du Puy
Slow cooked Sirloin braised with turnip from la Cerdaña, carrots, and salsify
And finally, we chose a "light" dessert – Sliced Granny Smith Apple, confit of celery, and apple and celery ice cream
And just in case that didn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, a canister full of macaroons, grated chocolate, and hard candies, was presented as a final touch.
I was truly inspired by the magnificent presentation and the unique combination of ingredients. If you're feeling up to the challenge, check out his recipes.
James Moore is a producer, publicist and freelance writer. When not traveling the world, he's home in Los Angeles, testing and photographing food to post on his blog Cook Like James
by Ann Nichols