#FoodieFinds: Dining In Disfrutar, Barcelona
The restaurant's facade is a tad casual and unassuming, which is quite misleading as their food, is the complete opposite -- powerful and inventive haute-cuisine.
When entering Disfrutar, you are met with details reminiscent of Barcelona city life and bold Spanish colours: iron fixtures with accents of reds, splashes of blue and yellow. This motif continues through the narrow space into their open kitchen, which is covered in ceramic tiles that are cut into a plethora of shapes and designs, giving the whole restaurant layers of texture.
This colour palette abruptly changes as guests enter the much larger, high-ceilinged, back room. The main dining room is filled with ceramics, clay and more natural textures like weave for example – taking inspiration from fishing villages and the much more natural landscape of the Mediterranean. Diners eat in this white, light, spacious and quite minimalist space, which allows them to truly appreciate the food as each creation stands out amidst the somewhat plain room.
As we entered Disfrutar, we found out that we would be eating a 25-course menu and I thought: how on earth can I possibly eat all that? By the end of the meal, the question had changed, it had become: how could I not eat all that?
Don’t worry, you do not have to order the 25 course tasting menu, but it is encouraged. The chefs-owners (Mateu Casanas, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch) tell us that it is their best effort at showing guests what they have up their sleeves, and that they wish everyone will be able to try this experience. Each course is bite sized, purposed to give you a taste, not to overwhelm with oodles of food.
They describe their creations as avant-garde cuisine inspired by the Mediterranean. Every dish incorporates the essence of this region while introducing a myriad of foreign ingredients. There are flavours from all over the world highlighted in each bite, from French, Spanish, Middle Eastern, Indian to South East Asian touches. The goal is also to introduce diners to who the chefs are as people, for us to understand a little bit more about what interests them.
These fast rising superstars are absolutely the ones to watch. Chefs Casanas, Castro and Xatruch all trained under the legendary Chef Ferran Adrià in the famed El Bulli. In chef Adrià’s top-notch, cut throat kitchen, these three men formed a bond that has served them well. Their partnership has led them to opening two lauded restaurants: Compartir and Disfrutar. The later has been open since 2014, and has already garnered a Michelin Star and The Miele One To Watch Award for 2017.
It is clear that they have taken their life lessons to the heart, infusing their own interpretations into well-rehearsed techniques. Disfrutar created not only great food, but worthwhile experiences. I was told to smell scents while eating, and to even interact with my food. Inhaling a distinct smell changed flavours, and eating in a suggested order so as to introduce your palette to specific tastes completely transformed what you thought you would be tasting. Bread was not bread, olives were not olives and pasta was not made of pasta. It was so new to me. It was thoroughly eye opening and impressive to witness their inventive capabilities. How these chefs were able to play, innovate and experiment to develop unique dining journey is remarkable.
While enjoying the meal, the entire dining room can watch the bustling kitchen work their magic. On any day, you are guaranteed that at least one of the three chef-owners will be present and working the pass at both Disfrutar and Compartir. Their hands-on and very involved approach is what breathes life into their establishments.
Captivating, thrilling, innovative and delicious. Chef Casanas, Castro and Xatruch have forged something truly special with Disfrutar. Their combined talents shine brightly through their playful and soulful food – which absolutely does the restaurant's name justice. In case you did not know, Disfrutar means, to enjoy, in Spanish.
That is exactly what we did. We enjoyed every morsel, and the entire four and a half hour experience. Their charming and well-versed wait staff added to a memorable day.
From the bursts of flavours, sharp and delicate, to watching the open kitchen and admiring their artful plating – each dish of the 25-course meal was something worth talking about. If you are in Barcelona, eating in Disfrutar is a must do.
Let me take you through the highlights of this culinary adventure:
Wild hare laksa with noodles, coconut and ginger. The clam shell was used as the spoon and the plate. Their use of ingredients, incorporating them into the meal, totally enhances the experience. It changes the way that diners typically think about food, cutlery and produce.
A frozen bonbon of wild hare and fois gras. This had to be eaten right away as it had the consistency of ice cream.
A chilled soup "cocktail" of wild hare with tarragon, orange rind and a spray of Armagnac. It was a totally new way of serving soup. It changed the experience as what you see tells your brain to prepare for something else, but instead you drink something savory and umami.
Preparing the soup "cocktail"
A liquid salad of tomato, lettuce, pine nuts and olive jelly.
Tomato polvoron that was served with the liquid salad.
Have you ever seen transparent penne before? I know of glass noodles used in South East Asian cuisine, but never with Italian pastas. This one of a kind pasta is incredible. It is made from gelatin that was infused with jamon iberico consume. Not a carb in sight! The fluffly carbonara sauce is a foam that is pipped over the noodles. If only we could have this no-carb alternative everyday!
Deconstructed ceviche: monk fish, spicy sorbet made from peppers and carrots, garnished with lime and cilantro. It by no means looks like a typical ceviche but it certainly tasted like it!
Disfrutar's corn tarte tatin, with foie gras and carmaelized corn. It looks just like corn, doesn't it? This is in fact, a technique called spherification. The first layer is a very fine crisp topped with foie gras, and then spheres that mimic the look of corn on the cob! Absolutely gorgeous.
Transparaent porcini and pine nut dumplings: Not your ordinary dim sum box! The casings were made of gelatin instead of rice flour.
Tempura egg yolk on top of black chanterelle jelly. It was a rich, silky bite, chuck full of flavour. The decadent egg yolk was balanced with the slightly tart notes from the mushroom. I wish I had several more!
Tomato meringue "bread" with frozen gazpacho. With the "sandwich", we were served a glass that was filled with sherry vinegar, but it was not meant for drinking. We had to smell the sherry while eating, in order to bring out different notes and layers of flavours. Very innovative!
A delicate and flakey mille-feuille with idiazabal cheese.
Here, our waiter prepared the glasses in which they would serve nitrogen apple cider. Each glass is smoked with with rover oak wood, tableside.
The making of nitrogen apple cider, tableside.
"Fake olives". Don't these look just like olives? There were extremely fragile casings that held an olive flavoured liquid, paired with olive oil.
Multi pescadito frito: a catchy name for satisfying umami bite. It is crispy rice fried fish and sea weed with trout roe on a cracker.
"Salty candy": Disfrutar's walnut praline, accompanied with a sliver of mango, topped with whisky and Tonka bean. Absolutely yummy! The salty praline is sealed in an edible wrapper created from gelatin and glucose, and is topped with some salt.
"Gin rose": each petal held gin, rose water and a tapioca ball. One petal contained what looks like a true lychee, but was actually a lychee shaped and flavoured sorbet. The petals were used as spoons, vehicles, to consume the Gin Rose.
A fine, fluffy yet thick, vanilla cream pudding
This was my favourite dessert. These were no ordinary peppers. Disfrutar presented chocolate peppers, garnished with olive oil and a crisp of bread. The green pepper is filled with peppermint chocolate, while the red one was filled with chili chocolate and salt. The balance and variation of flavour was so unique, and mouthwateringly delicious.
Pandan and coconut sponge with mango sorbet and spheres, in pandan juice. This creation reminded us of Asia, as each bite was fragranced with such distinctly South East Asian flavours. It was light, airy, smooth and not too sweet. A very well balanced dish.
A sweet hazelnut oil encased in sugar paired with an egg yolk custard. Before enjoying this dessert, our waiter eloquently explained what we were about to eat and then proceeded to pour whiskey into our hands! Yes, read that correctly. He asked us to hold our hands out, palms facing up, and then splashed some whiskey on us! I thought he was joking and then before I knew it I had alcohol in my hands. The instructions were to rub the whiskey in our hands and smell its essence as we ate. It was completely shocking, but incredibly exciting.