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Image 1: Chef Quique Dacosta has been working in this restaurant, previously named El Poblet, for more than 20 years, transforming a family style seafood restaurant into a cutting-edge Michelin 2-star cuisine. With enough confidence, he decided to rename the restaurant after his own name in 2009.
Image 2: www.quiquedacosta.es Chef: Quique Dacosta
Local Universe: €125 (30+ items) Mediterranean: €150 (50+ items)
Closed on Monday and Tuesday, and from November to February.
Image 3: A variety of herbs and flowers at the entrance.
Image 4: We booked months in advance for a Saturday lunch, but it wasn't necessary since we were one of the only four tables for the service! The dining room was quite plain resembling an art studio with a few contemporary decorations on the wall.
Image 5: And a display of century old Michelin guides!
Quique made an initial appearance to greet every guest upon arrival. Well dressed in shirt and trousers with a pair of shiny dress shoes, obviously he wasn't spending much time in the kitchen these days.
Image 6: Our server placed an envelope in front of us, and said the restaurant has only an "à-la-carte" menu with just two choices: 30 or 50 courses! Both menus had a lot of similarities and mainly differed in the core section of the menu - the 30-course "Historical menu" contained his signatures from the past, while the 50-course "Brave menu" comprised of his latest creations.
Image 7: Despite a shorter menu, we both agreed to go for the Historical one. Our Act One of the menu immediately arrived. At a quick glance of the menu and the impression we got from the opening scene, it seemed like a place for fun and conceptual eating, showcasing modernist cooking techniques.
Image 8: The 30-item menu began with a purple octopus wafer.
Image 9: Warm smoked cheese stick with a melted sweet cheese centre
Image 10: Served in a Chinese bamboo steam basket were buns covered by a thin slice of pancetta. It had a very greasy bottom!
Image 11: This "oak rinds" on a log were actually fried Jerusalem artichoke skins.
Image 12: A broth of "oak barrel" made with chicken stock and Barceló rum. Whoa, powerful on the palate! Way too early to have a broth of such concentrated flavours.
Image 13: Resting on a cute seashell was a crunchy sea snail with broth inside the shell!
Image 14: "Sea current" - a light broth with a long piece of seaweed which provided a fun sparkling texture.
Image 15: Garnished with blood orange zest were mini endives. Bitter and fruity!
Image 16: Didn't know rocks could be used to serve food! Laying on top were a pair of pickled Raïm de pastor, a local plant.
Image 17: Only the leaf part of the tip was edible!
Image 18: And to finish Act One of the menu, a colourful plate of sea cracker - tomato dusted sea star; sea urchin; and parsley and garlic.
Image 19: Act Two was delicatessens - a cured fish tasting of tuna, ling fish, bass, and octopus. Just like Chinese salted fish, the strong flavours was clearly an acquired taste and difficult to like when eaten on its own! The octopus was the more acceptable one.
Image 20: They suggested us to have pickled onion between each fish in order to fully appreciate this course.
Image 21: And with this thin cereal paper.
Image 22: This "act" finished with an edible pack of dried fig.
Hmmm, that was the first half of the menu, and sadly, I have to say the meal so far was more about style than substance!
Image 23: Act Three was much more palatable. It started off with Quique's interpretation of Bloody Mary. A frozen disk encased with liquid tomato paired with a chilled strip of celery. Sensational on the palate dominated by the spicy tomato. Cool!
Image 24: Then a piece of mackerel to be eaten together with pepperwort leaf. I quickly realised that the leaf dampened the intensity of the mackerel flavour making it more delicate. Definitely one of the nicer items of the meal!
Image 25: Following their suggestion of leaving a small piece of the leaf to try it on its own. OMG, it was very spicy, more like horseradish and wasabi! This was the uniqueness of pepperwort. It was an exquisite complement for fatty and strong flavoured fish like mackerel! Intriguing food!
Image 26: Dove nest - a smoky and runny quail egg bounded by a chicken stock gel. Nice explosion of yolk with a crispy fried nest. Excellent!
Image 27: Apple tart and Campari - a meringue covered by a layer of frozen Campari granita on top. Airy, bitter, very cold... Weird.
Image 28: Served on a long bark was pork jowls and paprika. A piece of fatty meat from the cheek on a thin crisp. Probably not the healthiest of food but it was one of the few tastiest items of the meal.
Image 29: A Red Pepper dish - a rather sweet red pepper that had a soft and slippery texture, which appeared to have been slowly cooked. But our server later surprised us by revealing that the red pepper was actually watermelon and the sauce was actually red pepper! Clever twist!
Image 30: Cococha, a traditional Basque snack using cod throat and pil pil sauce, but this was Quique's version using Iberian ham instead! The pair of semi-solid spongy thing was made with ham coated with a thick sauce which was also made with ham. Slightly rich but delicious, very delicious!
Image 31: A "smoked bread" to end this section of the meal.
Image 32: Now, Act Four, main courses accompanied by bread sticks.
Image 33: It began with The water of dried tomatoes 2011. Blanketed under the snow of tomato was…
Image 34: … Tomato custard with sun dried tomato and croûton. The flavour resembled gazpacho but a much thicker version (in a good way) and I particularly enjoyed the mix of texture - fluffy snow, creamy custard, crunchy croûtons... A wonderful dish!
Image 35: Gorgeously presented Cuba Libre of foie gras 2001 topped with a lemon ice cube that was decorated with rocket leaf. It was obvious that Quique loved transforming classics. The thin jello on top was his version of Cuba Libre, "rum and coke" cocktail, with foie gras underneath.
Image 36: Silky and seductive foie with fruity acidity from the chilled lemon ice cube along with an exquisite sweetness from the jello - served with a warm brioche on the side! An exceptional dish! The first few sections of the menu was more fun than tasty, but this signature course section was brilliant! I guess that's why they are signatures!
Image 37: Now a display of The Haze 2003. We experienced this kind of steaming visual effects many times in recent years, but he already had it on the menu almost 10 years ago!
Image 38: A miniature of forest appeared after the morning haze! Resting on a bed of green pea purée were tiny mushrooms, pine nuts, edible dirt, flowers and herbs. A dish of subtle flavours highlighting simple ingredients.
Image 39: Our server then brought us a gift from Denia! Yes, this was the kind of gift I like…
Image 40: Denia red king prawn, simple cooking but terrific timing; it didn't even need any seasoning. We were instructed to eat with our fingers and as usual, I sucked out every drop of juice from the head! These prawns live 600m deep in the sea offering an extra purity on the palate. It is a treasure of the region and no wonder he said it was a gift from Denia!
Image 41: Accompanied by tea of chards.
Image 42: Our server painted over sea urchin sauce and garnished with julienne flat beans whilst presenting us this Red Mullet 2012. Careful preparation as every piece of bone was removed. An enjoyable course!
Image 43: An aromatic rice course to finish our Main Act. Covered by an ash of truffles was Rice Senia 2008.
Image 44: Cubes of pigeon blood provided a contrast in flavour while the truffled crispy rice provided a contrast in texture to the creamy risotto. A delightful course except for fruitiness coming out somewhere from the cream which I found distracting.
Image 45: Act Five, the final section of the meal - dessert. An artwork of Citrus field 2005 using orange dusted crumbs with an orange wedge, lemon cream, and orange brioche. Not a bad dessert course.
Image 46: And the final dessert was Milk 2009.
Image 47: Inside the milk sheet was a sponge cake topped with milk ice cream. That was all for dessert. Very weak I have to say!
Image 48: At last, our server presented us a box but realised it was empty inside after pulling up the lid! He apologised, turned around, closed the box, and with just a few shakes…
Image 49: ... he opened it again and a pair of macaron, rocher, and marshmallow appeared from this Magic Box!
Image 50: To conclude the meal, a tree with edible packs of yogurt crisp, dried fruit, and chocolate balls.
Image 51: The meal had an entertaining element like the stylish presentations, the visual effects, the magic box; it also had an intellectual element like the pepperwok & mackerel and the watermelon & red pepper. It was clearly a thoughtful menu but like my El Bulli experience, out of the 30+ items, only 4 or 5 I can really label as delicious. Yes, a rather disappointing meal!