Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunlight Dancing * Alkimia * Barcelona

What an array of dancing sunbeams is Alkimia, Chef Jordi Vilà’s Michelin One-Star in the Eixample, not so far physically – or conceptually, perhaps – from Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia. Here is a stylish restaurant in which taste and texture are always central. The restaurant would broadly be placed within the canons of the new Spanish cuisine, but without straining the boundaries of the pleasures of taste. Combinations are newly inspired, but serve their own gustatory ends. Not only was the restaurant airy, but the food was as well. Perhaps not spectacular in its limits of adding those extra, luxe touches of cuisine, the lunch (a tasting menu) was unfailingly delightful.

Barcelona, Alkimia, Interior

I began with a simple but memorable shot of tomato water with bread crumbs on top and a slice of fuet covering the glass. These simple ingredients provided a happy start in a restaurant that respects its food.

Barcelona, Alkimia: Amuse, Tomato water with bread crumbs and Catalan sausage (Fuet)

This amuse was followed by a lovely and bright compilation of Zucchini flowers, tomato, quinoa, olive oil, and gorgonzola ice cream. These carefully calibrated tastes were effectively and beautifully combined in a small glass in which each taste worked in tandem.

Barcelona, Alkimia: Zucchini flower, tomato, gorgonzola ice cream with quinoa and olive oil

The most astonishing dish of the afternoon – still on my tongue after several weeks – is a composition (the proper term for so many of Chef Vila’s creations) of watermelon, smoked salmon, blanched almonds, with ajo blanco (white, garlicky gazpacho). Despite the seemingly odd mixture, each bite was a triumph of flavors that matched salty to herbal to sweet.

Barcelona, Alkimia: Smoked slmon, Watermelon, Blanched Almonds with Ajo Blanco

Chicken Cannelloni with almond béchamel and an apple and radish salad was another dish that was stirringly composed. I found it less compelling that the previous plates – less savory perhaps, but I did admire the stylish side salad on the plate.

Barcelona, Alkimia: Chichen Cannalloni with Almond Bechamel, Apple and Radish Salad

Red Mullet (snapper) with tomatoes, peaches, and almonds was confident and, again, beautifully composed. Perhaps it was slightly salty, but the accompaniments were delightful reminders of late summer. Here is a chef deeply and confidently in debt to modern cuisine.

Barcelona, Alkimia: Red Mullet (Snapper) with Tomato, Peaches, and Almonds

Two desserts concluded the lunch: the first was a riff on a traditional Catalan dessert: pastry with lemon sauce, vanilla ice cream and coffee cream. The second, the better of the two, was a fruit compote with melon, lychees, ginger water, plum cake, and lemon ice cream. An outdoor dessert served indoors. This dessert – not heavy a bit – almost floated away.

Barcelona, Alkimia: Catalan Pastry with Lemo Souce and Vanilla Ice Cream

Barcelona, Alkimia: Melon, Lychees, Ginger Water, with Lemon Ice Cream

And like the dessert, I floated. In most cities, this meal would have catapulted the restaurant into the local heavens. The fact that this was Barcelona! means that Alkimia is part of the culinary chorus.

Industria 79 (Eixample)

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