Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tickets, Barcelona

Tickets is the culminating end of our food journey in Spain. Maybe not the sole reason I'm here in Spain right now, but if Chef Frania was not able to score me a seat at Tickets, I would still be in the planning phase of our Europe excursion. Albert Adria helms the kitchen of this highly regarded tapa joint in Barcelona. Tables are booked three months in advance and is much sought after since the shuttering of El Bulli. El Bulli has always been THE restaurant of my dreams and it is no surprise that being an avid fan of the Adria brothers, procuring a seat here was mandatory.

Unlike El Bulli's white linen, over the top, molecular extravaganza, Tickets is much more subdued. Less of molecular gastronomy and more of simple, fresh ingredients. Chef Adria appears to enjoy the focus of one singular ingredient and playing it up a few notches. Expecting smoke, bubbles, and eccentric food puns, I was surprised that his creations were simply ..simple. This did not bother me at all. In fact, this highlights the difference between the two brother's culinary style and allows Albert to pave a road of his own.

The jamon of all jamon - Joselito. Instead of curing the jamon for 12 months, this morsel of meat was cured for 5 years. Cut paper thin, this was by far the BEST jamon I've had to this day. Even A, who avoids pork at all costs, described it as "lovely".

Of course, spherication of olives is the gold standard of everything Adria to Andres.
 The Spanish olives compared to Bazaar's were much bolder in flavor and instead of one, we were able to try 4 different types of olives.

Of the 20 tapas we ordered, our favorite was unanimously the white anchovies marinating in olive oil. Umami, a word often abused and misused, is most likely the best word to describe this blissful creation. Never has a single item, untampered by enhancer or chemicals, tasted this umami.

Filaments of toro belly, with salmon roe, and nori. We were instructed to roll it into sushi with miniature tweezers, much like the instruments I tweeze my eyebrow with. A very  novel idea indeed!
Another encounter with papillote this trip! This item was not on the "English" menu and was served only to Spanish speaking diners. Fortunately, I noticed with my beady eyes right away and was able to get us one of this beautiful pea papillote.

Albert Adria at work
By mid meal, Albert Adria dropped by Tickets and even manned the stoves himself! This is unheard of in the US! Someone of his status would never be seen ladling sauces much less cutting fish. Albert Adria's restless nature is apparent as he zips one from one table to another and appears almost seconds later in the kitchen.

As our Spain trip comes to an end, I've grown to love wine and understand what "tapa" truly is. At the same time, there is growing resentment of how Americans have butchered the concept of tapas. Miniature pizzas should never be labeled as tapa and wine CAN be served in cups. Spanish cuisine is much more diverse and complex than just pinxchos and tapas and this trip has barely scratched the surface. Hence, there is still much to see and learn. Next up, San Sebastian...

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