Thursday, January 22, 2009

CAN GAIG can glow, but Barcelona's best is still Bohemic

I go back now to yesterday night, my first night ever in Barcelona (I was here a year and a half ago for only a day on a cruise ship). I had booked CAN GAIG (pronounced more like "gauge" without the "e" or better yet "getch"), Can being the Catalan for house, and Gaig the name of the famous Michelin-starred chef. I was impressed upon arrival when my coat was taken and no check delivered; a regular case at a Michelin-starred spot if you ever dine at them. I was escorted upstairs to a medium size room with about 18 tables and decorated mainly in red leather (banquettes) and black lacquer with curtains over the glass walls extending the length of the room. At 9pm, I was the only person there, and by 920pm only one more table of two and on table of four sat down; this was the entire patronage for the evening. I couldn't believe it.

After perusing the menu I wanted to try the tasting menu, b ut had an urge for a specific main course, which they would not do on the tasting, so they offered to prepare a number of the dishes at half-size for half-price, which seemed fair to me. My server/maitre d' was Anthony (I think really Antoine) who was French and had recently worked for Gordon Ramsey, with no kind comments for him! He made some suggestions, and I followed his lead.

The first amuse arrived with a small bowl of corn chips made with raspberry vinaigrette and black pepper. They were fun and had the consistency of giant Chinese noodles or pappadam. These were accompanied by a small slate with a COD FRITTER, a whipped BLUE CHEESE with Black SQUID BREAD, Almonds dusted with gold, and a CHERRY TOMATO in Olive Sauce. They were all yummy, and the cheese and small piece of bread was most interesting.

Kiko was the other maitre d'/server (there were two men in charge and two women that sometimes brought and cleared plates) as well as the sommelier and said he would gladly pair wines and keep the prices reasonable and my glass full; I loved this. First came GRAN RESERVA de la FINCA 2003 CAVA from RAVENTOS I BLANC which unlike other cavas had an okay taste and a hint of yeast, more akin to real champagne. This was accompanied by Amuse #2, a small tempura of SQUID with SQUID INK-no great prize here.

The breads arrived and Antoine rolled over a table with seven choice of Spanish Virgin Olive Oils. My favorite was a nutty fruity one from Priorat. There was also sea salt on the table (a very prevalent thing here it seems).

My first course was a ROASTED ARTICHOKE & SCALLOP dish. The artichokes were the highlight here. I loved the wine Kiko chose, a ABADAL Picapoll 2007 from Pla de Bages region and was perfect with the dish, especially since the scallop has some sea salt on it.

My second course was one of Gaig's signature dishes, but also a very traditional Catalan dish: CANELLONI stuffed with a magnificent meat stuffing that was almost like tartare and all this in a sublime BLACK TRUFFLE CREAM. This was paired with a Crianza (Tempranello) from SIERRA CANTABRIA 2005 in the Rioja region.

My entree wine was also a red Crianza (tempranello), but a much bigger and heavier one from RIBERA DEL DUERO called PAGODE CARRAOVEJAS 2006. It was tart, a bit tight at first and yummy with my intense plate the ROASTED YOUNG WOODCOCK. Chef Carles Gaig is well known for his game dishes and I really wanted to try to wild woodcock (called "becada" in Catalan). It was a finger-licking good dish, but almost a bit too rich. There was, alas, one small piece of buckshot in the meat. The presentation was quite nwild with a heavy sauce surrounding the flayed bird and a millefeuille with the ground meat of the woodcock on top. It was intense, and some of you might have flinched as it came with the bird's head (brains and all, which I was told to suck out---and they were very tasty) split in half and roasted as well and laying at the edge of each side of the plate to frame the meat. Sadly, this plate arrived within 5 minutes of my having asked Antoine to give me at least 20 minutes rest. I had indicated this numerous times, but I guess the kitchen was not listening. I sent the dish back and they told me they could only keep it warm for about 5 minutes. I was very upset and ate it 5 minutes later. Frankly, a super-uber place like this should have realized their mistake; they did nothing to correct the error. A lemon finger bath arrived and I told them I wanted to wait quite a while before anything else.

Kiko agreed to do a 1/2 cheese order and a 1/2 dessert; this worked quite well. The cheeses were PUYG CERVER a dry intense aged goat from Catalan, Saint Marcellin my favorite in the world-an oozy creamy delight from the Rhone, Reblochon and a mild Stilton. The wine was a LUSTAU EAST INDIA SOLERA SHERRY made from 50% Olorosa and 50% Pedro Ximenez. It was perfect and oh so Spanish.

The dessert was a small fluffy almost alcoholic tasting CREME BRULEE served in the Gaig tradition with a crunchy top, but also and underlying oozy caramel; it was different and fun, and not really Creme Brulee. This came with a Julian CHIVITE NAVARRA Muscat 2005 Late Harvest. I finished up and took my after dinner treats home for another day knowing that the meal was good, not amazing, but that they made some mistakes and should have corrected them before bringing the bill for 140+Euros!

Tomorrow, I am off to the countryside outside Barcelona for 4 days of meetings, touring and tasting!