You know you are in a pretty cool slash badass restaurant when everything from every single plate to the silverware to the glasses is engraved with the chef's name. The guy must have a pretty high opinion of himself to put his name on everything. I have no idea how much that must cost but it looked super cool. I mean, not even El Bulli has this feature. Recently ate at Martin Berasategui (or as my husband calls it, "Marty B's") on a random weekday night and it was delicious. From the moment we walked in, three guys approached, one took our coats, another asked for the last name on the reservation, and another guy showed us to our table. It was raining cats and dogs that night so the restaurant was not super busy, but there were a few Spanish speakers seated in the back by the fireplace. Many of the servers spoke English (a huge plus) and the restaurant also had an English food menu and English wine and champagne menus. But besides us, everyone else was Spanish.
Going to this place reminded me of going to a rich friend's house, or should I say, a rich friend's "estate". When we pulled up to the parking area, the restaurant looked like a big mansion. It's in a residential area and feels super exclusive. The inside is modernly designed with tables set far enough apart that you cannot hear the conversations going on next to you, and there are two fireplaces close to each other at the back end of the huge dining room. The servers who poured our drinks, from water to champagne to wine, all wore white gloves. Very classy. All in all, my husband and I had a really nice time visiting this restaurant, and will definitely be back.
Here's the rundown of the current menu (175 euros per person, portions will leave you very full at the end of the night):
- mille-feville of smoked eel, foie gras, spring onions and green apple: classic dish on their menu since 2001, it consists of about three layers the top one which has crispy apple. Under that is a thin piece of eel, followed by the onions and a small piece of foie. I thought this dish sounded too heavy at first but when it arrived it was just right. The portion was small and had just enough eel and foie to taste but not feel overwhelmed. It could have used a little more apple on top to add crispiness.
- squid soup, creamy milk ravioli served with a squid crouton: this was one of the highlights of the night. Anyone who is really into Japanese food will appreciate the dish. The squid ink ravioli is really more like a squid ink udon. It is perfectly cooked and super smooth, very easy to chew. The broth is amazing, it tastes like they cooked 20 fresh squids in it. They serve a little squid ink cracker on top of the plate which you are supposed to put inside the soup and break.
- oyster with cucumber, kafir, and coconut: palate cleanser according to my husband. It tasted fresh and more like a summer dish. The oyster (you get only one on the plate) was briny and delicious.
- black/fruit garlic with beet ceviche, ice radish, and raifort cream: this is a new dish they are trying out and they asked for our opinion as to whether it needed any additions/subtractions/improvements. It's basically sweet, black garlic paste smeared on a plate and topped with beet ceviche, little roe of some kind of fish (turbot?), cream and a side of iced radish. You're supposed to scoop everything together and sprinkle the ice on top. Tasted awesome, the best past was the ice. It's tiny shaved pieces which melt right in your mouth. My husband liked the dish as a whole and wanted to have the radish ice as a palate cleaner again during the meal.
- little pearls of raw fennel, risotto, and emulsion: I thought this would be actual risotto but it wasn't. The chopped fennel pieces were the "risotto"- like pasta. The emulsion was tasted good, but I couldn't tell what it was made from...
- smoked balloon with mille fevilles of endives, oily fish, watercress and chickweed: Genius idea, reminds me of the El Bulli guys putting juices inside little edible packets and serving them on plates to be eaten in a single bite. This is the same concept- you get a clear balloon of broth inside which you must not spill on to the plate. The watercress emulsion was delicious and didn't taste bitter (which is always a fear when cooking watercress) and the amount of fish they put on the plate was just enough.
- Gorrotxategi egg resting on a herb: Perfect. Perfect. Perfect! This dish comes topped with truffles. Honestly, how can one go wrong using truffles? This was probably my favorite dish of the night. When the chef came out to say hi that night, I made sure to tell him how much I enjoyed the egg dish and the squid ink udon dish (above).
- Warm vegetable hearts salad with seafood, cream of lettuce and iodized ice: this dish is also another famous one at Marty's, and I could see why people like it. It not only looks pretty but it actually tastes good. Oftentimes, a restaurant can be good with plating but the actual dish can leave you wanting more. This dish looks like a big oil canvass of colors done by some abstract artist. There are so many colors and textures on the plate (liquid ice, smears of sauce, lobster, a big heart shaped tomato in the center), I almost didn't want to touch it. Touching the plate meant ruining Marty's canvass. But food is meant to be eaten so my husband and I just dug in, starting with the liquid portion first. The serving plate for this dish is uneven and by that I mean there is a deep end of the plate that is filled with liquid (melted ice with bits of green veggies) and a flat end of the plate that contains pieces of lobster, green, tomatoes, etc. Amazing. We initially thought this would just be a simple salad but it was so much more. If you get a la carte at this restaurant instead of the tasting menu, definitely order this salad.
--> Side note: Every single plate during our meal was different. Each one seemed to be tailored to the dish we were having.
- Red mullet with crystals of edible scales, tail and marine salad with sesame and nuts: how they managed to intricately place about 10-15 "scales" on the piece of fish is beyond me, but this dish was another highlight (besides the squid soup, egg dish, and salad). The scales are made out of some kind of crunchy materials but I couldn't tell exactly what.
- Special game meat of the night: I had the pigeon breast while my husband had the hare a la royale. The hare was rather a heavy meat, which he preferred. I liked the pigeon breast better because it was more tender and easier to chew. I honestly don't remember the sauces that came with each dish (I think mine had a red sauce), but both were very good.
- Melon with caipirinha, lemongrass sorbet, crispy flowers and sheep's milk: the perfect dessert to follow the game course. They give you three pieces of melon gelatin surrounded by edible flowers and dollops of sheep milk, and a small scoop of sorbet. Just enough to refresh your palate.
- Finally, a chocolate frost with mint, asparagus, caramelized pumpkin seeds and coffee ice cream: just when you think you have no more space for dessert, they serve another amazing dish. First of all, the chocolate "frost" is really more of a black sea sponge. It's surrounded by roasted seeds (with sugar coating I think) and shaved ice that tastes like mint. The mint is DIVINE! That and the black sponge is all I distinctly remember. Everything else was just a sidekick. The coffee ice cream is really good, but for me this dish was all about the ice mint and the chocolate.
Overall a great evening. The tax is included in the final price, but not tip. In Spain, people generally don't leave a tip. However, we left a little something because the service was impeccable and we also noticed that the Spanish couple sitting close to us left a small tip on the table. So we decided to do so as well (again, not required but certainly appreciated by the staff). Since it was raining outside when we left and we had no umbrella, one of the guys who served us during the night gave us umbrellas and escorted us to our car (and ended up getting wet himself).
P.S.- in case you go to the bathroom, the door marked "C" is for men and the one marked "S" is for women.