Can Roca (Girona, Spain) – Lingering Flavors
We found ourselves in the horrible tourist area near Girona’s beaches, specifically S’Agarro, with nowhere to eat. Can Roca was scheduled for the next day but we decided, “why not try it two days in a row?” To our surprise, a table was open with just a few hours notice.
What follows is a recount of the first meal; the second meal will be published shortly. It’s very interesting how much of a disparity a meal at the same restaurant can have from one night to the next. There are, of course, many variables including but not limited to: the chef’s mood, the cooks’ moods, the ingredients, the other diners, familiarity with the cuisine, and, on the second trip, familiarity with us. The difference was surprising – this meal was a low 2 star whereas we had a solid 3 star meal the next night.
We chose the Surprise Tasting Menu and asked for an additional dessert – the infamous Trip to Havana.
1. Amuses – Wasabi taco; parmesan cracker; and peanut butter/caramel – all were a bit lifeless.
2. Sardine w/ Green Apple sauce – uneventful
3. Champagne Oyster w/ Green Apple Bits – Oyster was huge and tasted a bit too much like the sea – none of the sweetness found in smaller oysters. The champagne was too acidic. Not Good.
4. Fava Beans w/ Mint Gelee & Chicken Broth – Fava beans were cooked right and the mint gelee was, again, subtle but rounded out nicely by the slightly salty broth. This dish lingered in your mouth for a few seconds. Very Good.
5. Scallops w/ Japanese Tea & Peas – The scallop was slightly overcooked and not that sweet. The tea ‘gelee’ acted as the carmelization flavor for the scallop – interesting technique. Good.
6. Mushroom Royale w/ Licorice Gelee
The non-licorice lovers loved it but they made a mistake – they didn’t let the taste rest in their mouth. The royale would coat your mouth and, if left untouched, the licorice finish continued to build in your mouth for well over a minute. The licorice finish perfectly complementing the earthy mushroom. Excellent.
7. Tuna w/ Mango & Beet Sauce Smoked in Ginger Steam – This dish was presented covered and then the lid was lifted – holy aroma. It smelled more like a smoky wood, not ginger, but it was intoxicating. You would get these puffs of smell whenever another table had their lids lifted. The tuna was good quality and the dish had a similar quality as the last – the smoke flavor would sit in your mouth and build for over 20-30 seconds. Very Good.
8. Smoked Sea Perch w/ Asparagus – The fish was overcooked but the perch had an redeeming intense seawater taste. If it was cooked correctly, this would have been very good. Good.
9. Pigeon w/ Taro Root, Roses, & Strawberries – Pigeon was tasty & cooked right with the acidity of the strawberries cutting its richness. The whole dish was a tad too sweet for my liking but still very good. Very Good.
10. 12-Hour Pork w/ Garlic & Quince Terrine – Everyone liked it but me – meat was somewhat tasteless to me. Not Good.
11. “Envy” by Gucci – The re-interpretation of the famous perfume – great idea, it tasted good, but it was hit or miss if it tasted like the perfume smelled. If you got the right combination of ingredients & proportion, it worked. Very Good.
12. Egg Yolk Ice Cream + “Coconut” – Very rich & very delicious – super fresh eggs. The “coconut” were ice cream dots that failed to mimick the texture of real coconut. Regardless, the dish tasted great. Very Good.
13. Trip to Havana – While it looks and tastes like a cigar, the amazing thing was the way the flavor hung in your mouth like cigar smoke. This is similar to the other dishes (fava beans, mushroom royale, tuna) and it’s a device I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else used with as much consistency. This is an absolute must-try when eating at Can Roca. Excellent.
14. Petite Fours – Nothing to write home about
Reading my notes, the meal sounds fine on paper but there was a refinement missing to the meal. Unlike most places, the desserts held their own against the regular meal; in fact, this might have been the greatest collection of desserts I’ve eaten (with only WD-50 in NY possibly contending.)
It has been mentioned that Can Roca’s cuisine has no discernable thread tying it all together. This meal was certainly an exploration into creating subtle, yet “complex” flavors (to use wine parlance.) Many of the dishes had taste profiles that carried a dimension of time – long finishes developed in the mouth (like a good wine.) This is something that most cuisine I’ve eaten doesn’t address and could be a reason why many people consider wine to be more complex than food. This meal had a character all its own, completely different the other French, Spanish, and English restaurants on the trip.