Espai Sucre (Barcelona, Spain) – Desserts in Old Town
Espai Sucre, the restaurant, is tucked away inside the Old Town of Barcelona, its beyond-hip design protected by a locked glass door. Their mascot is an ant, presumably Huesped impenitente de azucareros, that’s attracted to sweet plants, sugar, syrup, and honey. Slightly threatening but sufficiently edgy for a cooler-than-thou dessert restaurant. It was established in 2000 and it is credited with inspiring the current dessert bar/restaurant movement in New York City today.
Espai Sucre, the movement, appears to be a school for exploring the culinary terrain of desserts and their roles in meals. They purport to respect the raw ingredients and tradition with an eye toward the future of technique. Pastry chefs can apply for stages at the restaurant, or school, through the web site.
This was the five course tasting menu:
“Marialuisa” cold soup with green apple and spicy yogurt ice cream
The green apple had a focused acidity, tempered somewhat by the delicious yogurt. There were hints of Indian spices throughout, particularly cumin. The honey melon gelee had a tinge of sweetness but the dish maintained little sweetness throughout. The foam seemed a bit lazy, barely able to stand on its own. A pretty good start.
Flowered flavour: raspberry, hibiscus, rose, tomato, vanilla and red wine
A study in texture and sensation. The various flavors, red wine soup, tomato ice, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry cream/foam, melded together nicely with the rose taking the lead. Again, this dessert wasn’t terribly sweet as it might sound. The textural differences of the ingredients provided some counterpoint among the elements. Very Good.
Quince cream with yogurt, spices and passion fruit
This was an overly foamy affair where the cream was more of an overbearing foam. The supposed lightness of the cream/foam served no discernible purpose and felt repetitive after the last two desserts. The flavors here were also a bit too chemical ala WD-50 on a bad day. Not Good.
Extra virgin olive oil cake, white peach, green olive and “San Simón”
The olive oil cake was given top billing but played a minor role in the dish. From what I remember, the white peach gelee, perched atop the miniscule olive oil cake, drowned out most of the olive oil flavor and, more importantly, the texture. The luscious mouth-feel of the cake should have been the star. Ok.
Chicory Ice Cream and Beer Float
What a concept! The beer foam, I’ll excuse it in light of its success, had a great hoppy taste that really captured the essence of beer. It wasn’t strong enough to interfere with the sweetness of the ice cream. The roll on the side, whose texture I can’t recall, had earthy and nutty overtones that blended quite well with the float. Excellent.
Overall, it was an interesting collection of desserts that proved more successful than others like New York’s Room 4 Dessert or the new P*ONG. Ironically, the lack of sweetness, contrary to the mascot ant’s attraction to such tastes, was welcomed. Texture seemed to be important in each dish but the similar characteristics and components of each dish got monotonous. They could switch up the styles and elements for a strong and compelling line-up of dishes. Nevertheless, an interesting diversion in the heart of the Old City.
Official Site: http://www.espaisucre.com/