El Celler de Can Roca

Joan Roca
Country: Spain
City: 17007 Girona
Address: Can Sunyer, 48
(+34) 972222157
Closed: Sundays, Mondays, the first two weeks of July and from 12/23 to 1/10. .
Price: 200/300 €
Tasting menu:: 155 y 190 €

 After El Bulli, this was the first restaurant to deserve 9,75/10 in the Lo Mejor de la Gastronomía guide; a mark currently shared with Noma. El Celler de Can Roca might be –and certainly is– the best restaurant in the world. For the whole business, for its cookery, its desserts, the rational luxury of its facilities, its service, its close relationship with the customer, its naturality, its cellar, ... and for its unprecedented value for money in the haute cuisine world. Globally speaking, Joan, Pitu and Jordi Roca have built a unique restaurant that perfectly meets modern demand and that reaches the top without any excess.

            Is this the best cuisine in the world? It is quite hard to compare it with Rene Repzepi’s, because they are completely different. The Scandinavian cook might be a bit more revolutionary and his innate genius might be slightly higher. On the other hand, Roca brothers’ work is more perfectionist, less intuitive, more intellectual and erudite, more technical, notable for its deep, reflective and harmonic creativity, aimed at reaching happiness and gastronomic heaven. Their ideality, more human than divine, wonderfully reflects the way of being of a family whose philosophy of life is based on silent effort, humility and naturality. Nobility and authenticity are the rule in both behaviour and dish. Unlike many “famous” cooks of the culinary circus, poses don’t exist here. What tells is not extravagance, but moderate and minimum glamour. Truth, essence and coherence.

            We are before a well-balanced and evolutionary imagination that is aware of the fact that regularity and virtuosity are supreme values which are attached to magnanimity. The aim of the house is to reach the best average mark for its 20/25-dish menu. They actually have made it! And this is what makes them so great. Scientific art.

            The appetizers rime with devotion and generosity: endless and talented, technical and exotic, they perfectly match with the spirit that pushed Spanish cuisine to worldwide recognition: stuffed olives, Campari, squids fried in batter, courgette omelette, truffle bite and brioche, trip around the world, … El Celler de Can Roca honours Spain and pays tribute to the most ingenious chef of all times: Ferran Adrià, so admired by the Roca family. Transcendental constructions are marked by leadership, here. The personal creations have all been redefined, like the red mullet cooked at low temperature, deboned and stuffed with pâté of its liver, saffron gnocchi, orange and aniseed-flavoured herbs. All the aspects of the dish have been developed in order to gain exquisiteness, naturality, juiciness, complexity and presentation. To such an extent, that this red mullet version is the best we have ever tasted. If the grilled sole served with Mediterranean flavours has been a real milestone, what can we say about the meunière version, proposed with an inspiring milky veil with toasted butter, lemon and capers, served with flower petals and citrus. The scenes, cheered up by the same main characters, but by different outlines, get transformed, reminding old memories and offering new and more attractive lines, such as the grilled prawn, raw and hot, served with prawn sand, ink rocks, fried legs, head juice, and prawn essence; a union of history and technique with no antagonism at all. Or the oyster al palo cortado, accompanied with white and black garlic, cold/hot effect, yin and yang, because contrast doesn’t exist; it just improves things. The trend of the house is unshakeable. Grilled sea urchins with orange and fennel; cod served with its tripe, brandade, oil soup, shallot with honey… Roca Brothers’ message, passions and resources are clear. These took on an exceptional dimension that place them far above all the Catalan cooks, whatever the period, and from all the Mediterranean cuisine, especially regarding meats and game, whose tastes and textures are really revolutionary: woodcock with brioche stuffed with its liver, breast and head; woodpigeon liver with onion, walnuts caramelized with curry, juniper, orange skin and herbs; hare “à la royale”, with rare saddle, jugged shoulder and Royale. And what can be said about the suckling Iberian pig, greasy and exquisite, utterly natural, accompanied with the typical accompaniments of classical and galactic haute cuisine: blanquette with Riesling, mango and truffle terrine, beet, garlic, orange concentrate and saffron pistil … presented in multiple consistencies and forms. Amazingly enough, the salads adopt a youthful, free-and-easy and liberate style, both the autumn orange version and the green one (see Great Dishes).

            Desserts are made by Jordi, the best restaurant pastry cook in the world, together with Martín Berasategui. “Venerable” and “Undergrowth” represent qualitative leaps in history and orange chromatism, based on orange, mandarin, passion fruit, carrot and egg yolk… These delicacies allow the guest to go to bed in spite of the excesses, which are in fact ingenious ideas, rather than excesses.