“What do you mean you haven’t heard of El Celler de Can Roca? It’s the 2nd best restaurant in the world!” This is the 1st reaction I received when I asked about the restaurant we were going to that afternoon for lunch.
This was the beginning of my lunch of numbers. A lunch I will never forget.
Celler de Can Roca does indeed have the title of 2nd best in the world and I’m pretty sure they are striving for number 1. The surprising part to me is that the 3 star Michelin restaurant is in Girona Spain – not some big metropolis in Europe or in NYC. As we entered the restaurant it was simple – you would never guess that you were walking into such a prestigious place. 3 brothers with different focus have found the perfect recipe to blow your culinary mind.
Joan – the architect of taste dreams up the multiple courses
Josep – the magic of El Celler finds wines to compliment it
Jordi – provides the sweet anarchy to finish
The restaurant is run like a machine pumping out a mix of seemingly artistic creations and science experiments to its eager customers.
My first stop was the nerve center of it all – the kitchen. 30 chefs work in the high tech kitchen set inside an old family villa. There is constant, yet controlled movement, like a ballet of food – precise, delicate, flowing, and beautiful.
I move on to the sitting room where a drink is served without a glass. How do you drink a mojito without a glass? The waiter explains that you put the whole green ball (the size of a marble) in your mouth at once. The ball explodes in my mouth with flavors of rum and mint, introducing me to a whole new way to enjoy a cocktail that I never thought possible.
Next a bonsai tree is brought out and placed on the table in front of me – upon closer look it’s an olive bonsai tree, and focusing in deeper another level I find olives hanging off the branches. Not just any olives, but caramelized anchovy stuffed olives – a sweet and salty concoction that tastes as good as looks.
After my 2 courses of appetizers I sit down at our table and for the next 4 hours. 17 courses in total and 15 wine pairing are paraded in front of me by one of 20 waiters and waitresses working that day with choreographed precision. The serving staff and glide in and out, almost invisible, removing and placing new table settings . Each physical plate and dish different from the last, each with a new set of utensils, and a new shaped glass for the wine pairing. The restaurant is home to over 1000 pieces of silverware and 2000 pieces of glassware.
It was as if fine art was being paraded in front of you – beautiful composition, color, and texture – with taste that you can’t even imagine. With over 30,000 bottles of wine to choose from in the cellar, the 3 sommelier’s and 2 sommelier’s assistants had plenty to choose from to find the perfect pairing with each course.
A waiter came out and began the ‘show’ by placing a paper globe in front of me with a ribbon on it. He unveiled it and inside the globe was a little bite size flavor concoctions representing each of the 5 continents. I was asked to connect the flavors to the country from each continent – South Korea, Peru, Mexico, Lebanon, and Morocco. It was a fun food and a travel game- a match made in heaven for a traveler like myself.
After the ‘opening show’ of the paper globe, this is what I saw for the next 4 hours – and I enjoyed every delicious moment of it.
My favorite dish is hard to choose, but I really enjoyed the elderflower infusion with cherries and smoked sardine – such an unusual mix of flavors and visually it looked like a cherry blossom tree in my bowl. Surprisingly I loved the smoked sweet breads too. And the caramelized apricot was so beautifully presented and crafted it was a shame to eat it.
And the final number of course is the bill – 240 Euros per person for the Festival set menu and the wine pairing.
If this gets your taste buds yearning for a similar experience, then make your reservations early as the wait is 6/7 months for advanced bookings for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 10/11 months for Fridays and Saturdays.
The only number I didn’t want to know is how many calories I consumed – instead I chose to not think about it and go take a 90 minute siesta.
To learn more about Costa Brava – then listen to the Amateur Traveler Episode 339 – Travel to Costa Brava, Spain
I was a guest of Visit Costa Brava for this Michelin Star meal. However all of the opinions expressed here are my own.