Marqués de Riscal

Cebollas rojas asadas en sal con yema ahumada y panceta
José Ramón Piñeiro
Country: Spain
City: 01340 Elciego (Alava)
Address: Torrea, 1
(+34) 945180888
Closed: Sundays and Mondays. The traditional restaurant is open every day.
Price: 60/120 €
Tasting menu:: 75/91 €

  A fascinating architectural space, a furling wonder of design. It is worth a visit to Marqués de Riscal if for no other reason than to see Frank Gehry’s work, but once here you will find much, much more… infinitely more. The oldest winery in the Appellation Rioja, which seems to have reformed itself in keeping with the times, has the honor of offering a dream-like project comprised of a 5 star palace and a luxurious restaurant with impeccable service. As if this were not enough, the distinctness of this undertaking is also sustained in the cuisine, which happens to be truly gastronomic. Francis Paniego has managed to transplant the Echaurren philosophy to this establishment, capturing it with rigor and effectiveness. His team, headed by the young chef Jose Ramón Piñeiro, a name with an unforeseeable present and future, has succeeded in providing almost the same level of cuisine as at the restaurant in Ezcaray. And one dines as magnificently in either of the styles practiced here, both the traditional dishes of the region as well as the finest of contemporary, cosmopolitan formulas. Both styles make up a menu that is open to all palates, to different capacities, in consonance with an ambitious, universal project.
A day at Marqués de Riscal is something I strongly recommend to all those passionate about wine, gastronomy and life. For 10 € they offer a visit to the cellars with a tasting of two wines… and, when finished, you can continue to drink and eat tapas in the bar, dine in the traditional restaurant for around 40 € or feel like a marquis in the gastronomic restaurant sipping a Barón de Chirel 04, the best Chirel that my esteemed Paco Hurtado de Amezaga has made, or the Frank Gehry 05, perhaps the most exquisite wine that this historic winery has made since 1860.
Francis Paniego and Jose Ramón Piñeiro have managed to capture 90% of the dishes that my admired Marisa came up with at her popular dining spot: Echaurren. Those ham croquettes that, for the refinement of the béchamel and the delicacy of the breading, are arguably the best in the world. Her caparrones (a small variety of kidney bean) with chorizo and pork place this legume at the apex of stews. Her vegetable stew, the components of which utterly immaculate, submitted to a substantial reduction in cooking times, deserves the highest honors. And the lamb feet cazuela can easily turn you to gluttony, a glutton of jellies and sauces.
There are dishes that Francis has reinvented as well, like the breaded hake at 45ºC/113ºF over roast peppers and rice soup reaffirms the meticulousness of the disciple, as do the scallops, monumental, gigantic, with cauliflower puree and pepper-pineapple brunoise, or the colossal Norway lobster over vanilla potatoes with saffron mayonnaise. And what can be said of the yoghurt with Idiazabal cheese and tomato compote, a construction that points again to the gifts of this young chef and his ability to create a personal, captivating cuisine.