Restaurants & Bars 3

Guggenheim Bilbao Restaurant

Michael Lewis | Apr 5, 2002 02:09 AM

Once you've stepped over the seafaring Dutch Country & Western singers sat on the floor eating their packed lunches and pushed past the miserable looking cagouled Swedish couple sharing a Fanta and borne inspection by cruel German eyewear you're thankfully through the bar and inside the restaurant.

Not surprisingly, being the Guggenheim, the dining room is a bit.. well Arty, and if you're sitting on the banquette arty means uncomfortably impractical. I'm a big fat man known for the length of his members, but every time I wanted to take a swig of my organic vanilla & orange infused white wine aperitif I had to almost get up, doubling my belly in the process which didn't auger well for the digestive process. Especially since I'd ordered a seven courser.

The event kicked off with a miniscule glass of smoked leek porrusalda a Basque leek soup that indeed had a smokiness about it.

Iberian Pig Ear Tempura was next with, by way of Borneo, a wizened shrunken tomato and a cube of goat cheese. The shrunken head was very pleasant as was the goaty stuff but it's not surprising that the Japanese never tempuraed a pig ear even an Iberian one as, whilst not being unpleasant, its sole grace was to sound intriguing on the menu.

Salt cod or Bacalao is an unavoidable ordeal for the visitor to Northern Spain. But rather than the shoe-leather-smell-of-geriatric-ward product that I'd manfully chewed for hours on previous occasions the piece in the Salt Cod Terrine with Yeast Juice and Pumpkin was a joy, obviously the stuff the Basques reserve for their own use. A four centimetre cube of cod was balanced Palladio-like on four pumpkin pillars astride a frothy moat of yeast coloured yeast juice which tasted, not unsuprisingly, of fresh yeast. Quite to very nice. What wasn't nice was the plate, a large undulated ceramic square with a depression in the middle and a cruel way of distancing the stuff meant for my mouth yet further from said hole.

Baked fish of the day was Hake, to my mind the Chris O'Donnell of the fish world. Again I was due to eat my fishy words. An astoundingly correctly cooked bit of Hake crispily reclined skin side up on a yellow cushion of mashed yam (I think) also someone had thoughtfully drizzled some Cep sauce around the whole recumbence. Something slightly hot in the tuber mash was a welcome oral aphrodisiac and made this, for me, a very nice dish.

The Slab of Roasted Duck Foie gras was none too slab-like. In fact, were a form description necessary 'toe part of a shoe' of Roasted Foie Gras would have been better. It came with glazed liquorice flavoured carrots which were over-liqouriced for my simple tastes, and the liver, although well ovened was strung with those horrid tubey things that remind one inopportunely that what one is eating performed another, more animal, function before arriving on one's plate. Altogether un-good.

The tortuous big square plate made another unwelcome appearance this time filled with Creamy Pistachio, Coffee Extract and Cream. Having had to compress the contents of my stomach to get near the thing perhaps coloured my opinion of the dish. But nevertheless it was quite nice.

The luminary dish was a Frozen Egg Yolk covered with Fresh Ewe Milk and (more) yeast. A lone egg yolk was shorn up on some tiny biscuits and then anointed with the frothy milk-yeast mixture. It was extremely nice, the yolk was as if it had been churned but I was assured that it hadn't, and it had no flavour other than yolk but that, I was surprised to find out, is more than enough.

A chocolaty thing was next but I was distracted with thoughts of ordering another yolk affair. A surprising Basil sorbet was like a kick in fries though and the dish was able to maintain my attention long enough to lick the plate.

45 Euros for the food.

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