The next night was the beginning of a 3 night Madrid marathon and I don't mean the kind where folks run for charity. Ours started with a 1 Michelin star on Tuesday and continued with a 3 star on Wednesday and ended with 2 on Thursday night.
First up was DSTAgE, which is indeed is how it is spelled, although there is no agreement on the pronunciation: d-stage or duh stage with a short a? Each letter actually stands for something:
As most restaurants open at 9 p.m. we had a reservation for this time, but when we walked in, while we were seated in the bar right away and ordered our drinks and began to sip them, it seemed that everyone else was getting some kind of amuse and attention, while we were ignored for some 20 minutes! We wondered if owner/chef Diego Guerrero, who was not in residence, would have allowed this.
Country music played mixed with Downtown by Petula Clark and Queen as we sat in the exposed brick and venting pipes room with minimal decor. As soon as you walked in you knew this was about the food and not the ambience or setting.
Finally a gorgeous mirrored plate of two whole fried anchovies with head and tail on a cracker with aioli were brought to Will and me; a nonfish Mocho Thai substitute for Sam. These were so flavorful and there wasn't the single bone and I actually have to say they tasted much better this way. We later learned that this was a traditional way to serve anchovies as a tapa on a cracker.
The three of us were ultimately escorted into the rear room where our table was right next to the kitchen, but first we were asked to stand in front of chef who was preparing a shrimp tartar on a giant block of Himalayan rocksalt. His real name was Octavio do but he went by the name of Junior in the kitchen here and apparently spent a year in Kansas working in a small town on the Colorado border. We chatted as he worked the tartar and added various ingredients but we were completely thrilled when he pulled out an Australian finger lime which basically looks like a miniature zucchini and is cut open to reveal a citrus tasting caviar that pops in your mouth. Emulsified shrimp heads with chili was used as a sauce and then he added cilantro and placed the mixture on a banana leaf and added some fried shrimp legs for crunch and asked us to enjoy them right there in front of him. He took a short break to prepare a coconut and grapefruit canneloni with tostones but no flower or eggs for Samuel. Jamaican water, hibiscus tea and lime salt were an unexpected flavoring as well.
As always you can see many many many pictures on my Facebook page of this entire experience.
We took our seats and our next course arrived which was roasted Avocado Masato with an Amazonian white cream of fermented yucca, mole poblano, coriander flowers and shoots and wild strawberries which was served warm and while as a quasi guacamole didn't blow me away the overall ingredients mixed together really made an impression. We had chosen the wine pairings and this was paired with Junmai Ginjo sake DeWasakura Dewa Sasan which was smooth but had the slightest licorice taste and indeed was the only licorice taste we got during our entire two weeks abroad.
Samuel's favorite course came next but this was truly the most way out there ingredient we had had in awhile: Bloated dry-aged cow tartare from Galicia (aged 4 months) with a cayenne kimchi, sea urchin and begonia leaf.
Prior to the meat arriving, Zulema, one of our serving team brought over the tiniest glasses and proceeded to pour some house made beer with the following label on it, "De mayor quiero ser cerveza" or when I grow up I want to be beer. She told us not to taste it until after we ate the tartar which we did and it had an amazing chocolate taste and was probably the only beer I've ever like in my entire life. The complete combination of "bloated tartar" and beer was indeed something we shall long remember.
There was organic kamut bread made with sourdough that was cold fermented for 48 hours.
The journey continued with aji-kubak (akin to the aji we recently had in Ecuador) and Pigeon leg which was prepared buy another server, Javier, table side with coriander and crispy rice in a small cast iron pot. The dish with season perfectly and was served with a Capellania Viura from Rioja aged in wood, making it very much like an American Chardonnay.
Blood sausage(looking like a scoop of sorbet!) from Beasain was served in a spring onion broth with young leeks and ashes and was as soft as could be and melted in our mouths. The sharp acidity of the Xarello from Pairal worked with this dish they called Pil-Pil.Sam was getting a variety of homemade fruit drinks as well as we proceeded through the evening. One was raspberry based, another fruit with a sesame seed rim and chocolate.
Crispy pork bao buns with foam arrived in the cutest piggy containers and while amazingly delicious it was the bed of crispy fried pork pieces they sat upon that had us thinking that this could easily replace popcorn in movie theaters. Alas another orange wine appeared Tenuta 2 from Segovia, which was okay but I sure wouldn't be buying these types of wines to drink at home.
Our next course, Sartenes o canciones, was Grilled Cod with Iberic Kombo sauce and citrus oxalis topped with caviar, while Sam got an a amazing plate of grilled vegetables from Galicia. 2015 Ponta da Borga was a blend of two grapes I have never heard of:Brancellao and Merenzao.
We were thrilled to have a Ribera del Duero (Tempranillo red) 2005 next from Alonso del Yerro, and I have to add here that the wines were always poured before each course arrived so we could taste them alone and then experience them with the food. It was a superb red wine and served with the most gorgeous Pigeon breast with a slightly spicy Sichuan sauce and waffles as well as Chinese lettuce (cabbage?), citrus zest and cappuchina leaf, which seemed to appear in almost every other course we had for the next 3 days. A crispy Chinese red chili laid across the top of the dish and none of us dared to touch it until Javier explained that it was boiled in water and seeded so the spice was reduced. Sam and I gave it a go and it was actually quite delicious and then Will bit into his and his mouth seared with fire; must be an English thing. All I could think of while I sat there was this would surely the best Pigeon and Waffles or Chicken and Waffles I ever had.
A small ice cube arrived with a purse of celery and apple placed inside a begonia leaf and Javier declared it was a pre-dessert called a margarita cocktail. It was more of a half bite palette cleanser but surely worked.
Diables Catalunya was the first dessert wine which we called raisin love. It was served with one of the most bizarre desserts I think I have ever had in my entire life which consisted of an ice cream made from potatoes and black truffles served over a soft sand like grain seasoned with vinegar and pieces of toffee.
It was good for sure but I'm not quite sure whether fell into savory or sweet or somewhere nebulous.
A huge plate of Corn flavored cotton candy arrived topped with soft popcorn which we were told to roll up as there was a mango sauce underneath and it would form a quasi taco filled with sweet corn; it worked. At this point Samuel wrote on my notes "I love this restaurant please give it 5 stars."
S' was the name of the next wine, yet another orange one, but this sweet made from PX by Bodega Sauci. It was a very good dessert wine and a fabulous pairing with what was called The Spice Trail. The plate arrived with spices divided into pie piece like design in a circle, each spice in a different color and covering a superb chocolate ganache that was so light.
I could have lived without the chocolate pop rocks in the ganache but overall it was an amazing taste experience.
The last dish to come was called purple garlic and was a meringue of garlic filled with garlic cream and chocolate dust. It was an intense garlic flavor but with sweetness which I really liked, but have to admit that if you don't like garlic you really wouldn't have like this.
We headed home after the chef who headed up the kitchen came around and asked how everything went and we just told him we were simply blown away it was a truly wonderful experience which indeed earned 5 stars in our book!