Tuesday, April 19, 2011

El Celler de Can Roca - (Girona, Spain)

Michelin 3 Stars

Congratulations to the Roca Brothers for not only becoming the Top Restaurant in the Spanish region, but also having been awarded the utmost prestigious status of being the No.2 Restaurant in the World,  in the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants World poll today.  My another visit to their sister restaurant at Moo in Barcelona was equally as impressive,  especially in the desserts department.


IMG_1633-1Although Nouveau-Spain cuisine has been associated with being the Grandfather of Molecular Gastronomy for a number of years, ever since Noma from Denmark began to invade and climb steadily up the list to its final top spot, there was no longer any hesitation that this would spell the end of what was to be a short lived era.  Trendsetters have already began to move on to the next shifting phrase, enveloping a new paradigm which sees the gradual death of Molecular cuisine designed for molecular cuisine’s sake rather than as a cooking enhancing method.  The voluntary closure of El Bulli this year and a dropping down in rating of The Fat Duck can only reconfirm this likely trend, and 2011 will become a permanent historical marker on the calendar as the year that Molecular Gastronomy became officially dead.   The forefront leaders  have already been planning for this inevitability,  and if the Top 3 restaurants of Noma, El Celler de Can Roca and Mugaritz are providing any clues to the trend, I believe we are likely to see an exponential explosion of Chefs practicing the preaching of local produce and fine tuning their recipes based on geographical terroir advantage and sourcing produce.  Interesting times ahead… 


Entrance -



Triangular Courtyard -
Best way to reach here is to take a taxi from the Girona Train station, takes about 5-10 minutes.

Aperitif of Sparkling Cava -
Upon arrival. 



Edible Bonsai Plant


Toffee Coated Acetuina with Anchoa stuffing -
A traditional Spanish olive with a salted anchovy stuffing is given a twist in presentation,
nothing molecular about this.  Lovely starter ~  9/10


Iced Bellini Sphere -
One of very few molecular foods presented here,  the waitress introducing this to us surprisingly stopped mid-way after mentioning peach, and couldn’t remember the rest of the equation.  I reminded her politely, perhaps you’re thinking of Prosecco ?  She knodded in a friendly manner despite the blunder, the service here is on the whole ultra accommodative ~  8/10


Deep Fried Anchoa Bones and Seaweed -
This was from freshly filleted anchovy bones, and fried like a cracker.  Very unique invention by the Roca brothers ~  9/10

Black Sesame Croquant -
We had no idea why this was presented.  This isn’t even powderized first like a true molecular croquant version and ended up tasting very sweet and strong in sesame flavour, completely out of nature with the rest of the amuse bouche or following courses.  Delete it ~  3/10

Bottled Mineral Water from Girona, Spain -
Spain has very good mineral waters, and they deliberately sourced this from local producers to showcase the region’s specialty products.  A scheme which we found consistent amongst other dishes.


Truffled Brioche (right) with Pot au Feu Broth (Left) -
The 1st Course, this is a mushroomy pastry that’s dipped into the chicken broth to be eaten. I didn’t mind this, but its nothing special at all for something coming out of the No.2 Restaurant in the world ~  6/10



Omelette with Caviar and Chives -
Another teasing appetiser, this was fun to eat ~  8/10


Pigeon Bon Bon -
Game meat seems to be associated with Chocolate throughout Europe these days especially in Spain.  When I looked at this I cringed, because bon-bon’s are really sweet usually but this was quite gamey and well balanced.  Wish I could buy these from a store!  ~  10/10

Lovely Restaurant Setting, without any additional pressure from tightly confined dining rooms or idiotic dress codes making you feel like you need to respect the restaurant more than they do you!    Even the lunch bookings start at a late 2:30pm, as typically Spanish.  This relaxed approach to life and food is reflected in the recipes itself and perhaps why Spain gets the international approval to be the current food capital of Europe these days..


Sundried Tomato Brioche & a Sourdough Bread with Walnuts -
These were lovely.  Not very warm mind you, but its quality bread and one of the best around
~  9/10


Bread Stick -
This was made from a good dough, the texture was perfect ~  10/10



“Escalivada” with Anchovies and Smoke of Ember -
Some people think smoked dishes with glass lids are done to death, and sometimes I can’t agree with this more.  In this particular case, this typical Catalonian roasted veggies dish was re-invented and enhanced by the smoke gun’s flavour on the 4 types of dehydrated vegetables, consisting of eggplant, green pepper, onion and tomato.  Paired by anchoa to give it the unami kick ~  10/10


Fig & Foie Gras -
The Fig has been sliced up then binded together again with a sauce, then externally treated with a sweetish coating.  This was eaten with a foie gras sauce.   I personally didn’t think this dish was very creative in a sense, but the end result was nothing short of spectacular in terms of taste albeit more about simplicity.  I’m starting to see a trend here ~  8/10


A Godello wine from Valdeorras Region -
This was recommended by the head sommelier Josep, one of the Roca brothers running the restaurant and he mentioned how scarce production of this bottle is and it’s only available in Magnum size.  Grown on slate soil, this carries a mild minerality.  This is the type of wine I love the best, I am starting to think sommeliers can read people’s minds as it’s happened more than once before, Amber and Pierre in Hong Kong are also prime examples off the top of my head.


Charcoal Grilled King Prawn with Acidulated Mushrooms Juice -
Cooked to rare-plus, this is probably the biggest Palamos prawn I’ve ever had, fetched from ocean waters only less than an hours drive from Girona.  We’re told to make sure we suck on the prawn’s head.  Spain has really good mushrooms, and the fragrant Rovello here imparted an almost shiitake like intensity into the sauce but even more wild.  With flecks of lemon pieces to balance it all.  This is one of the most amazing prawn dishes ever, I mean the prawn was good itself, but it was the perfect cooking and the sauce accompanying it which impressed ~  10/10



Onion Soup, Crespia Walnuts and Comte Cheese -
The very condensed onion soup comes with some smart looking garnishes and sponge, before a viscous soup of thick walnuts and comte cheese is poured over the top.  This was a very powerful dish and not everyone on the table could stand the flavours, so opinions were polarized.  As a cheese person however, I found this to be great in taste, but a bit weird in composition and proportions as it’s almost like a rebellious “Anti-Onion Soup” ~  7/10



Sole, Olive Oil and Mediterranean Flavours -
This famous dish has been replicated in HK before, when the chef team visited a hotel locally!  Apart from the 5 sauces one also finds tiny dottings of either herbs or molecular pearls, used to enhance rather than overpower.  This dish tasted really good, but deep under I didn’t think it was anything overly special especially in terms of it’s ease of execution, as anyone could make a similar fish dish in a kitchen when equipped with a blender or food processor ~  7/10



Baby Squids with Onion Rocks -
The foam is made from squid sauce and the darker sauce beneath carried a strong Squid Intestines oceanic influence.  The squids were so fresh it’s not funny!  The middle pile of seaweed reminds one of Welsh Laver Bread.  This was an exceptional dish ~  10/10


Red Mullets with Suquet (Catalan Seafood Stew) and Lard -
Red mullets in Europe or Japan taste a lot better than the ones available in HK, hence they’re often used in many higher end restaurants.  This has already been deboned very neatly and the tail sliced cut, the potato gnocchi were each topped with a different herb for presentation and tasted great.  The fish flesh was firm yet soft perhaps from the lard used and almost raw in appearance, it was sweet.  Super sweet.  All enhanced by the seafood stew soup beneath.  Absolutely adorable dish.  It spells simplicity but is a genius combination of the right flavours and perfect execution, very down to earth.  And by now I was starting to understand how El Celler de Can Roca operates overall as a restaurant concept ~  10/10



Steak Tartare (2009 Adaptation) -
Using again local produce of Girona sourced beef, today they were serving the 2009 version of their tartare dish.  This consists of small scoops of Mustard Ice Cream, Souffle Potatoes, Spiced Tomato, Caper Compote, Pickles and Lemon, Hazelnut Praline, Meat Bearnaise sauce, Oloroso-sherry Raisin, Chives, Sichuan Pepper, Pimento de la Vera (D.O.), Smoked Paprika and Curry and Mustard Leaves.  The point of this dish is to taste the beef along a transitional exploration of its 5 main flavours.  To me this was getting repetitive as the Sole with 5 sauces above tried to do exactly the same, and it worked better in that dish than here because the sauces were all strong and overwhelming.  Its trying way too hard ~  5/10


Lamb, Peach and Apricot Terrine -
Cooked apricot terrine stack and raw sliced peach were paired with a perfectly cooked succulent lamb,  sided with a gamey goat cheese sauce, meat jus reduction and apricot puree and crackling.  This was a thoughtful dish, down-to-earth yet pushing the envelope all at once, but unlike the steak tartare above wasn’t deliberately trying too hard for the sake of doing it ~  9/10


Lemon-Distillante Sorbet -
The texture of this sorbet was like a meringue, I take it it’s been made using liquid nitrogen really quickly?  As this wasn’t explained by the staff.  Came with some lemon cake of more sponge pieces and bergamot jelly. They love bread/sponge here…  Refreshing  ~  8/10

Paper Cone -
We were told to sniff this, and also guess what it is.  Can’t remember exactly what the answer was but at the time we thought it was lemon detergent crossing over with Issey Miyake.  Totally unnecessary… if you want to copy The Fat Duck and arouse and awaken our senses,
please at least do it properly and give us an iPod as well…



Rose Souffle -
Not a traditional souffle but more like a rose espuma piped into a transparent sugar shell. This tasted good, but wasn’t exceptional and the portion was a little too small, with lychee puree and wild strawberries.  A little fussy for what can’t be discernible by the palate ~  7/10

Vanilla, Caramel, Liquorice, Dried and Caramelized Black Olives -
A combination of liquorice string candies, caramel jellies and 2 textures of black olives, with vanilla ice cream and a few more of the small scoops of ice cream as seen in the Steak Tartare dish above.  No one really liked this dessert much, although personally this did tasted good.  We just couldn’t work out the concept behind this recipe ~  6/10

From Left to Right:   Massapa Vainilla I Taronia, Mont-Blanc,
Esfera de Yuzu, Marshmallow de Café Irlandes, Palet D’Or -
Very lovely Mignardises, with a Torró de massapa made from Pakistani vanilla, Chestnut Sugar coated Mont-blanc, Sphere of Yuzu, Mashmallow made with Irish Coffee flavour,
and a home made round chocolate palet  ~   10/10



Look at that raw unpolished sugar used for the coffee –
reminds me of the Costa Rican Cane Sugar provided by Monmouth Coffee in London.


Double Espresso -
Made from a semi-artisanal Coffee Blend from within Girona, this espresso was amazing as it had a molasse toffee-ness to it and just a tad of fruit, very well balanced and made.  Guess how much a very well made Espresso in the World’s No. 2 Restaurants would cost you?  An affordable Euro €2.50  ~  9/10

Not everything worked or were 100% convincing, no…
But as years go by and your culinary experience grows and have gotten a bit tired of eating more and more crazily irrelevant dishes that might either challenge or puzzle further your perception of food, one comes to appreciate how this superbly organised restaurant can still spring a surprise yet retaining a sensibility about it all.  And most importantly,  they use and showcase as much local produce as possible, and I felt that the Spanish spirit has never been lost in the meal…!



Price: €150 Per Person including VAT
*A bargain in the Haute Cuisine category.  I suggest you to order more separate dessert dishes.

Address: Carrer Can Sunyer, 46, 17007 Girona, Spain.
Ph:  +34 972222157


  1. 近來去咗邊唔多見你喎,
    AMBER 上咗五十內,日本餐廳好堅.

  2. I went to El Celler de Can Roca last October; looks like the dishes haven't changed much. You can find an explanation of that dessert here: http://lizzieeatslondon.blogspot.com/2010/10/el-celler-de-can-roca-girona.html

  3. Thanks for the leads. I think we might have visited around the same time - but I am a very slow blogger usually : ) Takes me ages to write anything, only when I get free time : )

    Kind regards,
    HK Epicurus



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