Wednesday, April 2, 2008

La Broche: Sergi Arola

La Broche or The Clasp in English

While working at the Brown Sugar Bistro, i had the chance to work with Chef Kelvin Lee, he was the former Executive Chef of the Fullerton Hotel and had just left the post of Chef de Cuisine of the San Marco's Group. He was giving Yuan a hand while in between jobs and when he heard that i was heading off to Europe, he insisted that i visit La Broche. He had worked there under Sergi Arola and described the kitchen to me in full detail.

This 2 star Michelin Chef had spent 2 million Euros on the refrigeration system alone. He has 3 separate walk-in units, 1 for fish, meat and vegetables. The unit for fish had a special mist system that keeps live fish alive for a few days. The restaurant has it's own backup generator to keep these refrigeration working in case of a power failure. Talk about going overboard.

Of the handful of important restaurants in Madrid, no less than 3 are powered by the creative wizardry of Catalan chefs; Ferran Adria at the Terraza del Casino, Santi Santamaria at Santceloni, and Sergi Arola at La Broche. Since La Broche opened in February 2000 in the Hotel Miguel Angel just off the Paseo de la Castellana, Arola's restaurant has become one the hottest places to see and be seen in.

Ferran Adria was Arola's mentor and boss at the famous El Bulli, home of molecular gastronomy, on the Costa Brava. He has passed on his almost alchemical fascination with transforming textures and extracting essences, so there are times when Arola's cooking requires you to be suspended in disbelief. Some of his work almost defies description, think sea and land snails roasted in lard, combined in a kind of crazy warm salad with miniature violet potatoes (the latest fashion from Peru), capers, tiny marinated onions and chanterelle mushrooms, all arranged on a square of fine phyllo pastry. This is a surrealist creation worthy of that other Catalan master, Salvador Dali.

Anyway, i had my reservations there sorted out even before i left. This meant an extra stop in Madrid that i hadn't planned for. I managed to wrangle lodging with my godsister who was visiting family there while on exchange so i took her along for lunch.

This was the first time i went to such an atas atas(societe haute) place without my mum/sister so i did feel a bit out of place. Hell, the wait staff were much better dressed than i was. Thankfully i was with my godsister. We do crazy things together all the time so her presence gave me a boost of courage.

When we were seated, our server rolled up this trolley full of bottles which i thought was whiskey but turned out to be olive oil, at least 15 different types of extra virgin. He asked for our preference and i gave him a really dumbfounded look in return. I thought i had haute cuisine figured out in general, i know that extra virgins do come with varying flavours but come on. To actually ask us to choose which ones we wanted? I recovered after a moment and asked for something light for my godsister and one more earthy for myself so we could share.

After that he came and gave us 3 different types of bread, which i forgot to take photos of. Speaking of photos, we were in a really swanky restaurant but i was a student about to fork out nearly a hundred and fifty Euro a head for lunch. Boy, was i gonna take a photo of everything.

Vanilla, Spanish Cheese & Red Pepper salts along with Butter for the bread

This was the first of the Tapas set that comes with any order and the empty bowl was where the balsamic vinegar(5 choices) was poured. I failed to take a photo of the nifty tableware they used for the other bread and olive oil.

Flat Breadsticks with Pesto, Tomato Concasse & Parmesan Aioli

The 2nd Tapas item to come were these breadsticks. Nothing special about them but the dips were really out of this world. Sergi Arola is known to pay very fine attention to detail and i know it sounds weird but i could have sworn i was eating liquid Parmesan. That was how well blended the dip was.

Jambon with Smoked Catalan Cheese

I feel really silly now that i didn't bother to ask what ham and what cheese was used.

Potato Fritatas with Ajo Aioli

My first thought when i read this on my menu was that it was going to be a stearic and oleic overload but i was happy to be wrong. The pommes de terre were crispy and not at all oily and the mayonnaise was light on the tongue.

Anchovy with Apple and Celeriac Reduction

This dish was exquisite. I don't even like anchovy but this was really something else. The fish melted in my mouth and the reduction was really in harmony with the flavour of the fish. It was also the last dish of the Tapas set.

Tagliolini on a bed of Morel with Parmesan Cream

This is where it really got good. The purpose of the trip was to get a real immersion into the cuisine and little did i expect to find the BEST pasta i have ever eaten in Madrid. I had really good and satisfying pastas in Tuscany later on in the trip which were more value for money but this miserably small portion is unrivaled in terms of taste alone. I don't have the vocabulary to describe the taste sensations they bestowed upon me. Even my godsis who kind of likes everything she eats was left stunned for a moment. The only word i know that suitably describes this is 'orgasmic'. Sometimes i have wet dreams of successfully recreating this dish but each time i wake up, i know it's not a possibility. Still, i'll try it out one day.

Cheese Risotto with Sea Cumcumber

This dish was really good too but really paled in comparison to the tagliolini. A method of cooking sea cucumber that i'd never seen before.

Tataki de Atun Rojo

After the primeras placas were polished off, the main courses were served up. We had the Red Tuna Tataki and the Roast Beef.

Roast Beef with Duck Foie Gras Ice Cream

The beef was simply heaven. Tedious to eat cos i didn't wanna ruin the presentation like the barbarian i am but it was really good all the same. May sound odd to have a duck liver ice cream with it but it made sense to me. Foie Gras should be eaten at room temperature and since the beef was piping hot, it's genius to have the foie gras cold. Foie Gras and beef are a match made in heaven as evidenced by it's popularity in the upscale burger joints that now dot our island.

Sweet Endings: Assorted Handmade Bonbons, Macarons and Truffles

We received a platter of sweets for dessert. A perfect way to end the perfect meal. Those Michelin guides really know how to do their job. I tried making reservations at the Fat Duck too but there were no vacancies for the dates i had. Just as well, i doubt i'd have been able to afford a 120 Pound degustation there.

Happily Sated =)

I went into the kitchens and met the Chef himself but was too shy to ask for a photo with him. Something i'll regret till the day i go back for another lunch there.

Happy Eating!

La Broche

Calle de Miguel Ángel 29-31
28010 Madrid, Spain
+34 913 993 437

No comments: