Sunday, August 16, 2009

Weird, Wonderful Comerç 24

The ice cream duo was cod and artichoke, but what could we expect? We were there for the unexpected.

The restaurant was Comerç 24 in Barcelona, founded by a chef formerly of El Bulli, the global shrine of innovative cuisine—think meat rendered as foam, cheese made from almonds, and “Kellogg’s paella” (Rice Krispies, shrimp heads and vanilla-flavored mashed potatoes). You may love those dishes or hate them, but you won’t forget them.

At Comerç 24, we had chosen the tasting menu. It did not deign to say what would be coming, all the better to surprise not just with the taste but with the concept of each dish: Sirloin infused with berries and roses? A winner. Consomme with gelatinized balls of egg, truffle, and parmesan? Intriguing. A tall shot-glass smoothie of mandarin orange, passion fruit, and mint, the flavors stacked like layers in a cake? Wow.

Of course, various foams made appearances. My favorite was the mashed potato foam that accompanied the sea bass. And then there were the gold-dusted macadamia nuts, a simple and satisfying interlude among complex dishes.

In total, we were served seventeen small-plate dishes, which sounds more outrageous than it was. Some were bite-size; others were more substantial yet still relatively petite. It certainly did justice, and then some, to the idea of a tasting menu.

We rated most dishes somewhere between very good and great. All had interesting twists of flavor and texture. A few went too far, like the cod and artichoke ice cream. However, such judgments are relative. The people at the next table claimed to like that dish.

Overall, the meal—or, should I say, culinary experience—was a unique mix of weird and wonderful. So for those in search of something seriously different, and who happen to be in Barcelona, you know where to go.

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