During our trip to Spain; we knew we had to try something by the Adrià brothers. We were unable to secure reservations for Tickets; so we reserved at 41º, it’s “younger, hipper, more accessible twin”. We arrived a few minutes late at the entrance to Tickets. A bit confused as to where to enter we asked the gentleman at the door. He replied “Solo si tienes reservas”. I replied that I did and he led us through Tickets; a carnival like scene into 41º.
We waited for a bit for someone to take our order. We salivated in anticipation as we saw dazzling dishes go from stool to table to stool. Finally, our server asked what we would like. I knew I must have a cocktail. I ordered the Mars Attack (14€). Antonio chose a glass of Cava. I must say my cocktail was spectacular. It was based on St. Germain and smelled of toasted sesame seeds. The foam on top was lovely and counteracted with the actual libation at the bottom. The cava, Torelló Brut Nature, way too yeasty for either of our palates (7€ per glass).
I could not pass up on trying out an oyster. The Oyster menu had a nice amount of choices. I opted for the ostra con consome picante y kimchi (4.80€). I am normally a purist; but I figured if I was going to cheat it would be at an Adrià restaurant. This oyster was gorgeous. The consomme added roundness and there was just the slightest hint of kimchi. This was quite lovely.
We also ordered four olivas del 41 (6.40€). These are the famed molecular olives. Our server warned that more than two per person would be too much. He was right. Two were perfect. These were very fun to eat. You pop them in your mouth and squish them between your tongue and roof of the mouth. The filling itself feels great on the tongue. Vodka would have been great with these.
Our next order was the gusanitos de arroz salvaje al curry (3.80€). Hmm…fancy Chex Mix? They were aromatic; but on the mouth there was little flavor. We did not hit anything interesting until the “worms” were gone and only the “cenizitas” were left. I could have seen these at a corner bar but not at a restaurant of such fame.
Next to make an appearance at the bar was the pan aereo com pancetta Iberica (2 pieces 6.40€). This dish was at least on the right track. The bread crackled pleasantly in the mouth and the pancetta was lovely. As I bit into the dish, I kept thinking about the lovely pancetta that I had just bought at the Boqueria, 18 months aged for 5€ (of which we made a sandwich when we got home). Disappointment was starting to set in.
The taco corteza de cerdo (2 pieces at 8.40€) was also disheartening. I was starting to be thankful about not securing the resos next door. Which I was quickly starting to think would have been a waste of more money. Again, the dish was on the right track. Good crunch; but the flavors were completely off. I was starting to see that these dishes were here to entertain and not to please.
Why did I think that ordering Nigiri here would be a good idea? Perhaps the amazing oyster was clouding my judgment. I ordered the Nigiri Ventresca (4.10€). Antonio went with the Nigiri Foie (4.30€). They both came on a bed of marshmallow fluff. They were incredibly difficult to pick up. The flavors did not match with the fish. Why would you ruin a gorgeous piece of fish by pairing it with sweets? The foie, I had hopes for. I love a good Sauternes with foie. Perhaps this could work. I was quickly proven wrong. The marshmallow fluff and the caramelized agents completely overpowered this lovely ingredient.
Our final dish was a delight. The Viaje Nordico was a piece of gorgeously sliced meat on a cracker (5.60€). This dish was elegant, sophisticated, perfect. It was dusted in a pulverized vinegar that I must obtain for my kitchen.
I looked around at everyone else in the place. Plenty of pictures being taken. Plenty of smiling faces. Perhaps my expectations were too high. But then again; when you are dealing with the Adrià name (from either brother) you should expect the best. Perhaps I will try another Adrià restaurant again. I was dying to get a taste of the mystique, the legend. What I felt I got was a taste of an overly contrived menu; which was definitely made with lots of thought and hard work; but that ultimately did not satisfy. Perhaps Tickets is better; maybe next year.
Final Note: I would go back for oysters and cocktails in a second.
41º is located at Avigunda del Parala-le 164 in Barcelona, Spain 08015
September 19th, 2011