Thursday, January 17, 2008

Abac

Abac just got its second Michelin star. I’m not sure if this was before or after I ate there, it was only a couple months ago, October 27 to be exact. I think this was also my first Michelin-rated place to go to, although since I’ve gotten to Spain, I’ve been delving into the world of fine cuisine a whole lot more. Been researching the best restaurants and getting my hands on every tasting menu financially possible, which is not too often. But I’m glad of that, after only a few, I’d say maybe five in about a year and a half, I think I’m going at a good pace. They’re delicious, and it’s always suspenseful to wait and see what the chef puts on your plate, but at the same time if you do it too much they all start to melt together and seem repetitive.
We know their purpose is to dazzle you, to push things to the next level or to a new concept completely, that’s why we go, so our eyes and taste buds can be equally impressed. But there’s only so many times where you can see something typically savory used in a sweet dish and something typically sweet used in a savory dish, and still be awed. I guess the beauty is which ingredients they pick and what combinations they use.
One thing that stands out in my mind is the pea cake for dessert. But now I’m starting at the end, so I’ll come to that later. Let’s start at the beginning.
Of course, everything is pristine, white, and very spacious (for a Spanish restaurant which is normally cramped) and the waiters are dressed in suits. It’s nothing new, but it is clean and definitely doesn’t distract from the food. First of all, they brought out some paper-thin crispy sheets of potato that were golden brown, and a little cup of pork rinds. I guess you could call them ‘fancy pork rinds,’ although I’ve never been the type to go to the store and by me a bag of pork rinds, I did try these, and remember them being light and airy, kind of like a pork puff, if you will. Next up was one of the starters, cockles in some sort of green sauce. I’m sorry to say I don’t love cockles, but it seems to me they like to serve them at these swanky restaurants, because the last tasting menu I did also served them. I ate them, and they were fine, but anywhere I go I’m not going to swoon over them. Next came a yogurty thing with a few pine nuts on top and it didn’t seem like anything special until you got to the bottom and there was a layer of rich, crunchy goodness. Afterwards came a dish that I think was beautifully plated, the colors were really bright, but we agreed that the flavors didn’t work as well as they could have. And I’m very ashamed to admit right now that I didn’t come home immediately afterwards and write this review because I have my pictures but as I’m looking over the menu I can’t find what it is, so I’m going to try my best to describe it: it was some sort of fish or seafood, I remember thinking it was similar to scallops but not them, and it was wrapped in cucumber and had a watermelon sauce, and as the picture shows, garnished with green beans and bits of leaves. I wish the flavors had worked together, but something was missing. Next came what is translated on the menu as “squid packed with salad, ‘pil-pil’ sauce, iced tomato and cherry.” It was like a browned squid stuffed with lettuce and served with an almost ranch-like salad dressing. Dan was extremely impressed with this dish, and I thought it was very good, especially for me not loving squid. The only part that wasn’t amazing and that I didn’t feel I needed to eat the last drop of was the iced tomato and cherry. It was just so-so. Alright, about a year before this dinner, I started to eat foie gras. I still think it’s inhumane and a bit gross (even though many try to persuade me otherwise), but what can I say, if it’s on my tasting menu, I’m not going to turn it down. On the bright side, it is extremely rich and soft and usually melts in your mouth. Everything in moderation, I say. So now came the foie gras. It was wrapped in a transparent leaf of lettuce and served over a bed of pureed corn and a few baby corns. Very good, nothing to complain about here. And I really liked the aesthetics of it, being covered with something, yet still being able to see through to the foie. The next dish might’ve been my favorite of the night, it’s hard to pick, but it’s definitely one of my standards: tuna steak. Abac translates it as “Tuna Fish with Marrakech cumin, suckling pig juice.” They were going through an apparent ‘Asian phase’ at Abac, as many of the dishes had a slight Asian touch, with the tuna being no exception. Giant, perfectly cooked (meaning barely done), slices of tuna fell onto each other, surrounded by a few baby mushrooms, some greens, suckling pig juice, and a crunchy something-or-other to top it off. The shame when I couldn’t finish my beloved tuna; this stuff was rich. I so badly wanted to save some for later because I knew how much I’d be missing it in a few hours time (alright, a little more than a few hours, this was no light meal). The tuna plates left us with a smile on our faces, but not much room in out tummies. Much to our delight, and horror in trying to figure out where this next entrée was going to fit, came out milk fed lamb with vanilla sauce. I’m normally a beef girl, and if you asked me to describe the flavor of lamb, I couldn’t do it, but I know this was extremely tender and tasty. It came out thick and pink, and it was so good I couldn’t stop, even after all my tuna. I got down most of the lamb as well. The sauce was definitely vanilla, Dan thought it was a little heavy on the vanilla side, I liked to get a bit in every other bite. It had a little bok choy on the side, which I never knew I liked until this day. Thank God—the cheese plate. I hate seeing such perfect, different food go to waste. Food that I’ll never prepare for myself they way they do, so it was a bit of a relief to see that the meal was winding down. I loves me cheese. They wheeled out this cart of different cheeses, and I don’t know how else to put it, and I hate to have to use this word, but it was a little cheesey. Let me explain: there were fake leaves scattered about, as if to add something, but it really did just make it look cheap and tacky. I thought this was the place that had the simple and elegant down so well upon first appearances, but this cheese plate did not go with the restaurant. Looks aside, they asked us each which cheese we would like and we got a little slice on a plate. Normally, I’d object to just one cheese, but considering my state of almost extreme-stuffedness, I happily accepted. Almost finally (there’s still one more thing after this) came our dessert: the pea cake. It was like buttery, moist, spongy, pea cakey goodness. Also served with a vanilla sauce. It always makes me happy to see those little tiny seeds from vanilla beans. On top was some sort of macerated fruit, I can’t even remember which, but it all worked. Over the fruit was an egg-shaped scoop of sheep’s milk ice cream, very subtle. It was all sprinkled with these very bright, deep green and red colored crunchy things, I’m not sure what they were and honestly wasn’t a huge fan. They looked like cheap candy to me and I think it would’ve been better looking without them, but they were easily avoided. In the menu this is called ‘Green peas, eucalyptus, and sheep milk,’ so I’m not sure which part was the eucalyptus, but I’d be happy going in there and just getting a pea cake if they’d let me. I’d also like to get that recipe… When we thought it was all said and done, they brought out a little tray of tiny treats. Chocolates on the steps and other little sweets like homemade marshmallows and thin crispy pralines on the bottom. At least they were all small. It’s amazing what you can get down with so much food coming your way. If you go to Abac for a tasting menu, remember to pack an extra stomach, and if you’re not in for that much, get the lamb. And the tuna. And the pea cake. And the foie gras. And some cheese. And those little chocolates at the end.

2 comments:

Moomar said...

Looks like a fabulous place, wish I had been there. Thank you for the detailed pictures and reviews.

Steve said...

I'm surprised you can remember the meal after the wine and cocktails :-)

Nice write up...