Monday, August 02, 2010

Barcelona: Restaurant Sant Pau (***)


Sant Pau was not originally a restaurant that I wanted to try, but all that changed when I found out Chef Carme Rusecalleda is the first and only three-Michelin-star woman chef from Spain, my head screamed "Gurrls rawk and I must support!".

The restaurant is located about an hour away from Barcelona, in a deserted beachside town of Sant Pol del Mar. It was hot and dusty, with not many people in sight. All that changed with just one step into the restaurant that transported me into a different world. We were greeted by warm wooden parquet floors, linened tables filled with discerning diners, suited waiters, glasses of wines, huge vases filled with beautiful and just as huge stalks of flowers.

We ordered the tasting menu (Euro 144, tax included, all beverages excluded) which comprised of a series of appetizers (no further amuse bouche), soup, fish, choice of mains, palate cleanser, cheese and desserts that we took outside in the courtyard.

Interesting notes of the meal included:
1. each table had its own "special housemade loaf" of bread. It was a wheat bread that was not impressive actually. It was at room temperature and no butter was served unless requested.

2. The menu, I felt, had a strong Japanese-influence, which should not be a surprise given that Sant Pau has a branch in Japan (its first and only overseas branch). I know that Chef is based in Spain (I met her when she came out to the dining room to do some PR), and when Spain goes on vacation in the summer, she goes to Japan. By Japanese-influence, I mean, cooking methods, ingredients, nothing too complicated and a simple and clean presentation.

3. Her seafood was all executed really well. The langoustins were poached perfectly; the parrot fish, which was a first for me, was crispy and flaked meat sort of flaky in a good way . The tuna, oh mine! It was meaty, juicy, tender, full of umami goodness, and I am running out of adjectives. It was a bit salty but the sweet egg cake (think: tamago sponge cake) on the side was the perfect counter.

4. It was a good meal overall, and I did enjoy elements of surprise throughout. But nothing was so mindblowing that I would want to return again when there are 93874589767 other great restaurants around the world to try.