Disfrutar – Barcelona, Spain

The second of two Michelin restaurants we visited in Spain was definitely the stronger of the two, and I would say this was my favorite meal of 2015.

Disfrutar was opened in 2015 by three head chefs of El Bulli, and unsurprisingly, gained a Michelin star in the guide’s next publication.  This was a truly epic dining experience, clocking in at just shy of 4 hours, and a highlight of our trip.

Again, I have to apologize because my descriptions of the food may be somewhat lacking. I chalk this up to three factors: 1) Sometimes it’s hard to completely understand the staff’s accents, 2) Sometimes it’s difficult to “get” all the descriptions of the food that is closely linked to Spanish culture, 3) We did the wine pairing, it was something like 12 wines, and by the end of this meal I was absolutely smashed.  Seriously, I’ve never been so hungover after a night of fine dining.  This just goes to show how truly FUN it is to eat at Disfrutar. There is no pretentiousness, and though the cuisine is arguably some of the best in the world, the restaurant is quite casual in the best way possible.  The vibe is jovial and the staff is very friendly.

There were three menus- a standard menu (~70 euros), a festival menu (100 euros), and the holiday menu (130 euros).  When eating at these kinds of restaurants, my theory is to always go big and really see what the restaurant has to offer.  However, the holiday menu featured a lot of game meat (primarily rabbit), of which I’m not a huge fan, so we took the festival menu.  The amount of food served for this price is outstanding, and the wine pairing is well worth the 55 euros.  It’s obvious the chefs and sommeliers put in great effort and meticulous detail to make sure the wines matched each and every dish or movement of dishes.

I can’t say enough about Disfrutar.  It may only have 1 Michelin star (perhaps it’s too casual to be considered for more), but it should be on every gourmet’s bucket list.  This is some of the most exciting food I’ve ever had, and in my opinion follows just behind Sagrada Familia on the list of Barcelona’s must-dos.

Let’s eat Disfrutar!

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“Welcoming cocktail” – Frozen passionfruit, rum, and shaved coffee that the waiter adds in front of you.

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“The beet that comes out of the land.” The waitress shook the dish and out of the soil came these two delicious bites of dehydrated “beets” flavored with yogurt.

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Texture detail of the “beet.”

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“Gin rose petal” – You just eat the little drops of gin. Like gin ikura.

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“Salty candy with walnuts” and mango on the right.

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A tomato “polvaron” – a play on a Spainsh Christmas sweet. The little drops are made from a rare olive oil.

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“Transparent pesto ravioli” served with a parmesan water. You dip the ravioli and put the whole thing in your mouth.

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Disfruta olives- brought over from El Bulli. These both look like normal olives but actually burst in your mouth. The left one is concentrated olive juice and the right tasted like citrus.

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The olives were served with this little spoon of citrus juice to accompany the second olive.

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Idiazabal smoked cheese on a biscuit…

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…Served with a glass of fancy apple juice.

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Amazing dish right here- “Crispy egg yolk over mushroom gelatin.”

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The inside of this perfectly cooked egg.

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The truffle gelatin underneath the egg.

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“Recuit de drap,” this was unwrapped and topped with the sauce and pine nuts in front of us. A kind of Spanish cheese made from almond milk and topped with a truffle sauce and fir tree honey.

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Detail of the anchovy served with the cheese.

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Langoustine cocktail sandwich. The toast dissolves away as soon as you touch it. Reminiscent of Gaggan and absolutely delicious.

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Salmon and mackerel sushi- the rice is actually cauliflower. Tasty, but a little random.

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Continuing the short Asian theme- delightful mushroom dumplings.

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Macaroni carbonara. The pasta is actually made from gelatin.

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Liquid salad- hiding at the bottom was another little explosion of juice for the mouth.

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Eel gelatin, soy milk, cream, and Ossietra caviar- you fold it up into a thin little empanada and eat in one bite. This was so good.

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Razor clam with two types of peas- the ones on the right were normal peas, while those on the left were concentrated drops of pea juice.

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Disfrutar’s take on ajillo- An entire langoustine with black garlic and parsley foam.

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Red mullet with pork jowls and aubergine “gnocci.”

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The final savory dish was “Thin sheets of veal” – served with a chunk of bone marrow and truffle sauce. Delicious, but a bit heavy after all the previous food.  We actually had to leave a few slices.

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Pineapple sorbet with coconut and licorice.

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“Cheesecake cornet” topped with strawberry gelato.

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The “tarta al whiskey” starts with them pouring nice whiskey on your hands…

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…Then you eat these with your hands- the deconstructed tart….

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…Served with a vanilla cream.

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Chocolate peppers with salt and oil. The inside of the peppers is actually chocolate.

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“Coffee profiterole” – The final dessert. By the time this was served, I was totally wasted, so the picture alone will have to do.

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El Poblet – Valencia, Spain

So here we are at the 7th entry in this blog called “Let’s Eat Tokyo.”  Alas, it’s the 2nd entry featuring a restaurant located outside of Japan.  I like to travel and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to write about my delicious adventures.  Maybe I’ll rename the blog in the future. Whatever.

Anyways, the wife and I took a trip to Spain and visited Barcelona and Valencia.  While researching Valencia, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this delightful city has around 5 Michelin-starred restaurants.  After digging further into the restaurant scene, we decided to go for El Poblet.  Actually, we had booked Vertical, then they lost the star with the publication of the 2016 Michelin guide, so I cancelled the reservation there.  Sorry Vertical!

El Poblet is right in the middle of Valencia, a short 5 minute walk from the station and the major sightseeing spots.  Very convenient.  There’s 3 courses priced at around 45 euros, 77 euros, and 110 euros.  As this would probably be our only chance to eat here, we went big and were treated to 16 courses.  Drinks are very reasonable at 3 to 4 euros for a nice glass of wine, vermouth, or champagne.

It’s very obvious that the chef puts a large amount of effort into presentation.  This food is absolutely gorgeous.  Additionally, the furniture and interior decoration is very cute, as well, featuring colorful walls and pastel colored lighting fixtures.

This focus on presentation, however, sometimes comes at the expense of flavor.  This was especially apparent in the fish dish towards the end of the course.  Additionally, the chef uses A LOT of cream in his dishes.  You will leave this restaurant with a heavy stomach for sure.

El Poblet was good and reasonably priced, especially as I am used to Tokyo prices. Still, if I ever make it back to Valencia, I think I’d rather visit a restaurant like Riff instead of El Poblet again.

Finally, please forgive my vague descriptions of the food below.  The staff did not speak a lot of English.  Additionally, we were still jetlagged (damn Spanish people don’t eat dinner until 8:30pm at the earliest!) and I can’t remember all the ingredients that went into each dish.  Anyways, the pictures are pretty.

Let’s eat El Poblet!

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We were given a small bowl of rice crackers to snack on with our first drink. Not the most unique amuse bouche as I’m pretty sure these were poured out of a bag.

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The course kicked off with a big bang, both in taste and presentation. This is called “Coral” and the green chip is seaweed flavored, while the red is garlic. The colors were perfect for Christmas time. The dip was made from tofu and cream.

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Bread made with corn. Not cornbread. Very soft, hot, and delicious.

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“Petals of roses” – you eat only the petals with tweezers. They’re actually little slices of apple.

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Served with a very sweet apple “gin and tonic.” A very sweet appetizer, indeed. The small dish is a “cuba libre” consisting of cola flavored gelatin atop foie gras.

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“The living forest.” Under the “dirt” was a creamy concoction of porcini mushrooms.

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“Stones of Parmesan Cheese” – only two of these stones were actually edible. The coating was the consistency of chocolate and the inside was very creamy and cheesy.

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Detail of the “stone” after taking a bite.

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A grilled scallop in a ginger sauce. One of the meal highlights.

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“Tomato snow.” A creamy, cold tomato soup topped with shaved ice.

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“Sailor knot” – two different servings of razor clams.

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“Fried Oyster” featuring the same chip technique as “Coral.” An oyster tempura hides underneath the cream.

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The next dish was presented like this…

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Unwrapped, an entire shrimp is presented. Its only flavor is the saltwater in which it was boiled. Unfortunately, this tasted too much like seawater and was overbearingly salty.

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The shrimp was served with a side of soup made from shrimp head and swiss chard. It was served in a Japanese tea cup. Cute presentation and delicious umami flavor.

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A beautifully presented red mullet fish that is pleasing to the eye but a disappointment to the palette. Sadly under-seasoned and a big miss of a dish.

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The first of the two delicious rice dishes- a kind of green pea and squid paella. Closer to the over-seasonsed side, but I loved it.

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“Rice ashes” – this was tasty but I can’t remember what it consists of at all…sorry.

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The final savory dish was a delicious piece of iberico pork. The brown sliver is a piece of fried skin from a Spanish potato.

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“Citrus countryside” – Lots of different citrus fruits from around Spain with an orange cream in the middle.

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“Slates of chocolate” – the lighter pieces are a kind of chocolate meringue, while the darker ones are chocolate mousse coated in dark chocolate.

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Petit fours to end.