Our second Michelin destination in Madrid was the only 3 star game in town and we had heard you needed to book half a year prior to get in. Luckily, a business contact of mine cleared a table for us about 2 weeks before!
On the day of our reservation they contacted us to check on allergies and such and I explained Samuel doesn't eat any fish to which they said almost every dish is set and has fish. We faltered and discussed and finally Samuel, the mensch that he is, agreed to eat on thee suite with room service so Will and I headed off.
When the reservation was confirmed the week before by email the time given was 10:12pm. I did ask if we could come at 9pm when they open and they said no problem. On arrival at the whimsical revolving door decorated with flying pigs and other funny animals. The reception person said we were early. I told her that the manager, Magda, said we could come at 9am and she said fine and to wait a minute.
I joked with her and asked what would happen if we showed up at 10:13 for a 10:12 p.m. reservation and within minutes we were whisked away for a short of the kitchen before being taken to our table.
It was quite dark with a dark curtain around the table with multiple eyes emblazoned on it staring at us in the dim light; they lit a candelabra to give us a little bit of light and we ordered some Cava (Juve & Camps) and waited.
We sat in the most luxurious and comfortable gigantic gray leather chairs that have to be some of the best I've ever sat in at any restaurant and we were around a huge white table that could sit four comfortably. We heard noises, but could see nobody as the curtains remained closed. Even when the servers came in.
We were brought menus and told we could choose between 14 or 21 courses and there we no wine pairings, so we requested a wine list.
All of a sudden as if in a disco at 4 a.m. in the morning when they're sending everyone home, the lights went on and the curtain whisked aside to reveal the rest of the restaurant. There were about 12 other tables, but we could only see several from where we were and the distances were quite fare between them. I saw a huge ice cream cone filled with ice that was about 4 feet tall sitting on the floor which was a cooler for water and wine. Everything was ok indeed very whimsical with many funny animal statues everywhere (photos on FB). While i have always considered chefs to be performing artists, this was indeed very theatrical.
We ordered two bottles of wine from the sommelier Miguel who was most helpful and informative, if a but gawky and unsure of himself as if making his theatrical debut!
2012 "Pedra da guix" Garnacha Blanca from Terroir al.limit soc. in Priorat and an unreal 2005 Clos Martinet also from Priorat with Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Carignane, Merlot and Syrah that was so smooth it was like drinking silk. I must commend Miguel as while there were wines in the range from 30 to 3000+ Euros he guided us to those very reasonable below 100.
While we were still enjoying our Cava, the first of what was over 14 courses was delivered, but actually came in four separate presentations all called "Viva Mexico Cabrones!!":
-Green "mole" avocado with fennel, green tomato, octopus and bone marrow topped with that ever present nowadays cappuchina leaf
-Crunchy sandwich of oxtail (menu said bull tail) with black mole which I can only described as an amazing attempt at a Mexican style soft sandwich like a Rueben.
-Huitlacoche Taco with pumpkin flour and Palo Cortado (sweet wine) espuma
Each spring in Europe the white asparagus are a true specialty and here they came steamed with "vicchysoise" and toasted Buffala butter, red Japanese rice, yuzu, homemade Sriracha. Sansho Pepper and suckling Pig!! This was one of the most memorable dishes all night largely due to the fresh local seasonal ingredients and love used to prepare it.
Grilled and semi-baked red tuna belly was next with shisho and lime pesto "fettuccine," Quail fried eggs, botargo and bacon. It was like a Chinese BBQ sauce and while there was crunch from the beetroot, the eggs and bacon ice cream made this somewhat of a breakfast dish reminiscent of one we had years ago at The Fat Duck , but without the tuna or pesto.
Grouper was next and came with "duck royale" with five Chinese spice and gochujang, that amazing Korean spicy sauce, green mustard, chive and rice vinegar. This was presented as a "burger" piled vertically high on a buttered croissant with crunchy tasty duck tongues on an accompanying skewer with a mini mojito-shiso chaser.
Prawns with spicy bolognese were red shrimp with lily bulb, rocoto pepper, "karashi sumiso" (sweet Japanese mustard) and of course as the menu said, "his own grilled head" referring to the shrimp. The head was in Bangkok sauce, papaya and coconut; a bit way too see for me. There was sherry wine, miso and crunchy fried curry leaves as well for crunch and flavor.
The next course arrived in a multi-tiered steamer with steam (dry ice?) wafting all over and was quite visually stunning. Small thimble size Chinese pottery cups were filled with various wines to pair with each of the five "Dim Sum Madrid style:"
-Cod dumpling in salmon sauce was pairedwith 2012 Cappuchini 3 Puttonyos Tokaji "1413" fr Disznoko which I found a bit odd.
-Wonton XO soup was a guinea fowl dumpling with shitake, ginseng and peas as well as gelatinous pearls of pumpkin and Aliso flowers paired with Weinrieder 2006 Roter (red) Eiswein St. Laurent which was spectacular.
These were all served from the giant steaming system piled on a huge lazy susan that rotated just like in a Chinese restaurant.
It was fun, but iI managed to drop one of the slippery dumplings on the floor and it created quite a commotion.
You see everything in this restaurant is timed to perfection and I got them out of sync and they totally went insane trying to replace the dumpling and get it out before the next course which did not happen. It was quite hysterical
I also messed up my napkin because the sauce was all over the place and the napkin was never replaced. Even when I got up to go to the men's room later on, I noticed the napkins where never folded at our place or replaced with clean ones, which expects at an establishment of this level.
-Calamari sandwich XO was squid (spelled "squeed" on the menu), spicy aioli, black sesame and crispbread with sweet and sour sauce. The wine was Elixir 79, a late harvest Viura from Spain that actually had hints of lemon making it ideal with the next dim sum
-Lemon chicken XO had lemon passion fruit, 5 Chinese spice and borage flower
-the last dim sum was Char Siu-Bao XO -a bao bun dipped in sheep's milk with toasted corn paired with Neige Ice Cider from Quebec.
I also forgot to mention that the servers all wore variations of the same outfits all with suspenders which were crossed over, wonky or just loose. One guy sported a tails jacket with shorts!
The next course, technically halfway thru was number 7 of 14 (but as I said there were many more): Elver or baby eels which actually looked like pasta as they were so small and thin, cooked in a wok with oyster sauce, chives, Chinese onion, ginger and soufflé chicken, which looked a lot like shrimp toast, in aji sauce (yellow pepper).
We had almost rin out of the fabulous white wine, but our red was superb with the next course, one of my favorites:
Roasted Langoustine with ("his")bordelaise sauce, black garlic butter, homemade kimchi gel, and XO Lobster sauce with violet potato gnocchi.
Monkfish was toasted with maple syrup with a jalapeño chili gazpacho with vanilla oil and coconut that was out of this world.
We were starting to get full and asked the wonderful Manuel for a 20 minute break.
It seemed as if the entire staff were having a mental breakdown as nobody had ever obviously asked for this before. They were on a schedule and had to keep to it, but here they had a problem and decided to ask the chefs in the kitchen if it was even possible for us to have a break. Luckily they said okay, but it truly made us feel as if we were not in control of how we were going to eat.
Our "meat" course was called "Traveller Stroganoff" and featured a Japanese Wagyu sirloin cooked on the wok with achiote sauce, shimeji mushrooms and radish raifort chantilly. Fried chicken skins accompanied and were like chicharrones and colmenilla were the first morels of the season that were a most special treat.
"Animated cartoons...fantasy sweet world" was the 11th course and least successful in our minds. The tail of the Pink Panther was rhubarb, pink pepper, sheep milk and caramel milk that was interesting but marred by pop rocks which I really detest.
The second dessert was entitled "Does frozen cotton candy exist?" And was purple alisso (fleur de lys) with violet syrup, basil, blackberries and indeed frozen cotton candy. Oddly the basil was minty, but this dish was fun and tasty.
Afternoon snack first a Mochi Biscuit, followed by Croissant ice cream with chocolate, white cookies, black sesame and papaya sweet-sour ketchup all with a mini croissant.
Another dessert was Guava creamy pie with white chocolate, calamansi and beetroot with Thai basil, lychees and chocolate cookie powder which tasted like bubblegum with its guava globes, sweet yuzu and basil dust.
We left a lot of these portions on our plates as they were very sweet and there were way too many desserts as a matter of fact we were very glad when we were finished at this point and they didn't offer us and they didn't offer us anything to take home
We left full saying, "been there, done that" and having had a most entertaining night
I thought of the line from the opera Don Giovanni where Leporello says he is copying his master by "amusing himself " with the women as well. The Italian is divertiti from the same Spanish "diverso." Indeed DiverXO is an amusing diversion!