Sunday, December 03, 2006

Somerville moves closer to Barcelona

For many foodies, Mecca is located on a mountain about two hours' north of Barcelona. Ferran Adria's restaurant El Bulli is famous as much for the difficulty of scoring a reservation (due to size, not snobbery; they're already booked up for 2007) as for the food. Here's a detailed account of one meal, which illustrates why it's so revered. And here's some background, courtesy of CNN.

The CNN report notes that Chef Adria's "ground-breaking techniques have inspired other chefs throughout the world to experiment." But who would have though such creativity would make it to Somerville?

On Wednesday night, in celebration of my completing the penultimate level of the Citizenship Game, we went to dinner at Gargoyles. (The Boy wanted to take me to Redbones, because you can't get more American than a big ol' plate of pulled pork with vinegar sauce, but I wanted to go somewhere with champagne, not somewhere where the lemonade is served in Mason jars.)

Gargolyes changes the menu seasonally, so we weren't surprised to find that the dishes were not the same as on our last visit. What we didn't expect was how drastically different the options were.

I can't remember the last time I saw so many ingredients I couldn't identify. Kalamansi gel? Bottarga? Escolar? (Umm, maybe I'll stay away from that last one.) And the combinations seemed to have been thought up by a six-year-old mad scientist: foie gras with raspberry streusel, smoked Dr. Pepper, and whipped malted milk. Crayfish bisque with ketchup and maple soda. Paprika suds. Dehydrated clam chowder.

So we started with champagne, or at least a nice hazelnutty prosecco. And then The Boy eased himself in with a green salad with blue cheese and a pumpkin waffle crouton, while I dove headfirst into a lamb cappuccino. You read that right. It came in a cappuccino cup and was topped with a creamy herbed foam (salsify, apparently) dusted with fine powder (fennel, apparently), underneath which were chunks of sweet, fatty lamb in a broth that somehow tasted of both meat and butterscotch. I can't explain it. Just trust me.

And then The Boy went for the hoisin- and honey-glazed duck confit, which came on banana leaves with sweet sticky rice, mango and coconut milk, and I opted for the "Terducken," which earned quote-marks for being a deconstructed take on the bird-in-a-bird-in-a-bird dish. This version was chicken breast and duck, roasted with a spicy turkey sausage, served with the obvious accompaniments of trumpet mushrooms, sunchokes and chocolate gnocchi. Amzingly, it worked; the gnocchi had a softness and darkness that made them seem like foie gras or some kind of truffle (the foraged kind, not the candied kind).

Usually we don't do dessert when we eat out, in large part because I get just ... tooo ... full ...but the creativity extended to the sweet section of the menu. And we couldn't resist the chocolate offering, which included a brandy snifter of dark hot chocolate; a small, velvety pudding; and something called "oil and soil," which turned out to be crumbled cookie and chocolate powder alongside a drizzle of dark sauce, the two textures working as complement and contrast.

It may be a while until we get a reservation at El Bulli. But in the meantime, we can walk ten minutes down the street and explore a brave Somervillian attempt at creating something similar.

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Blogger moppo said...

Well, Bulli for you! Lamb Cappucino, indeed...

5:51 PM  

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