Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cinc Sentits

Cinc Sentits, one of my first restaurants in Barcelona. My first tasting menu here, that’s for sure. I revisited it for the second time about a month ago for someone’s surprise birthday dinner, and after that, D declared it the best yet. In Spain. And possibly one of the best in his life. Good choice me.

So if you haven’t heard of Cinc Sentits, it’s a pretty nice restaurant, but I don’t think it’s as high-profile as some of the $$$$, famous restaurants in the city, although it does the same sort of modernization of traditional dishes with foams and curious combinations, etc. Only it might do it better. At least one person definitely thinks it does, he voted it better than Mugaritz, which is much more recognized internationally.

Cinc Sentits has a very clean, minimal interior, and a cubic orange vase with a single flower on each table. They have 2 different tasting menus, and during the day they do a menú del día (which I just had a couple days ago, but this is about the dinner) for about 30 euros.

So when we went for dinner a few weeks ago, we chose the longer menu (as I tend to do). I didn’t get the wine pairings, D did because all but one were white. Before starting, it helps to know that although the chef is Catalan, he spent a long time in Canada, which influences some of his food, most notably in the amuse that every table gets at the beginning, lunch or dinner. It’s a layered shot, sea salt at the bottom, followed by maple syrup, and topped with a cava sabayonne. And you do shoot it, all in one gulp, and it’s delicious. That union of salt and sweet is one of my favorites.
Now let the menu commence. First off there was a gel of sea water and peppers with a cockle, spear of asparagus, and cream of asparagus. Alright, alright, so I just went on about how this was a spectacular meal, but first of all I don’t like peppers. And this was my first sea water gel, and I’m not crazy about it. D gobbled it up though, and this didn’t get me started off on the wrong foot, it just gave me more room for the other stuff. Next was the foie. Yes, the foie. This more than made up for previous gel of sea water. I have decided this was the best foie gras I’ve ever had. And I used to be a foie neophyte, it’s just been a little over a year since I first had foie, but I feel like I’ve gotten a good amount in since that. This was seared foie on a coca of leeks (coca is like very thin, crispy bread) and topped with scallions and salt. Man, this was delicious. When we tried it, we were both like ‘whoa,’ and we dicussed what other foies might top it, or if this could be it. I was trying to remember all the foies I’d had, but it was hard to concentrate on anything else but the plate set before me. So I’ve recently concluded that that was the best. Period. After the foie gras, we got a tiny dish of peas, a langoustine (a big shrimp), and a foam of various spices. Delicious. I have a weak spot for shrimp, and I’ve been to lots of restaurants here that know how to cook them just right, before that point where they get rubbery, so I wonder why not everywhere can do it…it must not be too hard. But Cinc Sentits followed suit and presented us with goodness. Now I’ve never been a huge fish fan, but I continue to be surprised with the preparation at certain places. I guess if you’re willing to pay for it, you can get some quality stuff. So this was a red mullet with a squid ink sauce on a bed of wild rice and an alioli foam. Absolutely great. I’m not so schooled in fish family, and I don’t even know if I’ve had red mullet before, but this was a really nice dish, and I ate every last bite. Then the meat came. This was a quintessentially Spanish dish. Can you guess what it was? If you said pork, you’re right. I think it might have been cochinillo, which means young pig, and it came with an apple sauce and a roasted apple slice. I’ve either been in Spain too long, or else I actually do enjoy pork now, because this was good. I’ve gotten used to the crispy, salty pork dishes here, and the contrast with tender, fatty meat makes for a real party on the tongue. I wasn’t so crazy about the apple sauce, etc., but it didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of Spain’s pig products. How did I already get at the cheese course? I’m ripping right through this review here, I think it’s because I can’t say much more but ‘good’ and ‘yum.’ So, here’s the cheese. I’m not sure what it’s called but I can find out because the second I tasted it I was almost sure it came from a cheese shop in town that we frequent, owned by a friendly Scottish lady. It was served with a little blob of confit onions, and I guess it’s enough to say that I’ve gotten this cheese from the shop more than once on my own, so you could say I like it. Onto the first dessert. It was pure pinapple. No, they didn’t just serve us diced pineapple, but they might as well have. It was pineapple sorbet, bits of pineapple, and a pineapple sauce. I didn’t like it. I was hoping for something better, it tasted like pure pineapple. So, I got some guts after a bit of coaxing and asked if there was a different dessert they could give me, claiming a dislike for pineapple. I also mentioned if there was nothing else, I would even take another piece of cheese. So I got another piece of cheese. Then the grand finale: thank god there was chocolate involved. I sometimes (always) get a little disappointed when there’s no chocolate to be had. On a tray came floating through the air little cups of chocolate mousse, a scoop of dotted vanilla bean ice cream, in a ring of salty, olive oil cake crunchies. It sounds very simple, there were no foams of who-knows-what, no sea water gels or anything, but it was definitely the right road to take. You can’t go wrong with a good chocolate mousse and pure vanilla ice cream (which I approve of when accompanied by chocolate) and salty crunchies. I thoroughly enjoyed. And I must make one note here, it’s not a bad or good thing, it just happened: every bite it took with the crunchy cake bits reminded me of a cereal I used to eat as a kid, and I don’t know what it was, but something about it gave me this weird taste of childhood, and I couldn’t pinpoint it. I have been told to mention that this is a reconstruction of a very simple Catalan dish, which includes bread, olive oil, chocolate and salt. It's actually quite delicious, sometimes I like to melt chocolate on some toast, drizzle on some oil and top it off with salt for a different dessert. So this was the Cinc Sentits experience, and we were the last ones in the restaurant, like the first time there. Their service is friendly, and you might get anywhere from 2-4 waiters at different times, which is a lot for the size of the restaurant; and they all say bye with a smile as they leave the restaurant (I guess this goes along with being the last ones there, even later than the waitstaff). Before leaving, we talked a bit to the chef’s mother who also works there. And when we went back this week for lunch, they remembered us. Side note: this is not typical Catalan behavior, but remember, they lived out of the country for a long time. So we like Cinc Sentits. We like the food, and the people, and it's good to go to a place where people not only give you good service, but ask where you're from. And where if you get some rare pineapple dessert, you can ask to change it for something else. Looking back now, I wish I had just gotten two of the chocolates...


Anonymous said...

this is amazing! the pictures look good enough to eat!
i am doing a project on spanish food and wow this is the best ever

Cav said...

Hi, do you think I could grab your picture of the foie gras? I'm blogging about my meal at CS and my picture of this dish turned out really blurry! Will credit you, of course.


Courtney said...

Hey Cav, yeah, as long as you credit me with a link to my blog, you can use the pictures...and by the way, what's your blog?