November 4, 2013 3 Comments
In 1997, El Bulli, got it’s 3rd Michelin star. In 2002, it was named restaurant of the year. Back then, lead times to super-restaurant-stardom were still a matter of years, rather than months. (Check out Alma: Best New Restaurant in America 2013. Now, no sooner is the accolade laid on then the book comes out, all marinating time has been discarded. I find the lack of build up unsatisfying, like eating before you are hungry.)
There was plenty of build up with El Bulli. I watched Cooking in Progress (a film which proved that exciting food to eat is the exact opposite to make) and read Lisa Abend’s Sorcerer’s Apprentices. But by then El Bulli had already announced its impending closure, dashing my hopes of experiencing a meal there. But the silver lining is that Tickets opened soon after. It’s not El Bulli but there are El Bulli dishes, you don’t have to drive up a windy road to get there and it’s much easier (but still very hard) to get a table.
It turns dining on its head. When I search for the adjectives with which to describe the experience, ‘delicious’ seems besides the point. Instead “silly”, “unexpected”, “deceptive”, “fun”, “irreverent”, “textures” are more fitting. Instead of a fork and knife being laid out in anticipation of the meal, I get tweezers. While at Comerc 24 I marvelled at the use of large rocks as serving plates, here it’s all gravel and pebbles. (I wonder, does the gravel get washed after every plate is returned to the kitchen or is it recycled? How does one wash gravel? Do they lay them out on miles of tea towels to let them air dry?) The space is fitted out like a circus. Aspects of it; like the plasma screens running documentaries featuring Ferran Adrià and flanked by scores of Maneki-nekos waving their gold paws, are cringe worthy. It could very easily not work, I would go further and say it should not work. Read more of this post