Kabuki Wellington (Madrid, Spain) – Warning Signs
Madrid dining, on the high-end, leaves one wanting. I should have visited La Broche but a few bad reviews kept me away. In turn, I committed a cardinal error – visting an un-vetted sushi restaurant. Once you’ve tasted the best, it’s near impossible to eat ordinary again. This has led me to avoid any sushi-themed restaurant that I’m unfamiliar with, unless dragged against my will.
Kabuki Wellington was the same place you could eat on any given day in any international city. It was billed as Spanish fusion – Japanese concepts with Spanish ingredients. If the sushi didn’t scare me, the fusion should have, but somehow I ignored all of the warning signs. The dining room is trendier than the last hour, Nobu being its obvious influence – more warning signs. But I booked the restaurant in hopes that the fusion concept could work. I didn’t expect the highest quality fish, but I did hope to see some creativity.
There are two tasting menus – the Kabuki menu and the Traditional menu. The Kabuki menu was supposed to showcase the fusion aspects of the cuisine. Superior sushi is within driving distance from home so the Traditional menu would be a waste of time. The Kabuki menu is below:
Seaweed Salad with Partridge
This reminded me of The Future of Sushi article in the New York Times where non-seafood items were being piled on top of rice (because of rapidlly diminishing seafood quality.) Was this the future? The seaweed salad was your standard refreshing bite before the meal, but the partridge was overly dry. I wasn’t convinced its gamey qualities belonged in the salad, but its taste was of secondary concern.
Hamachi with dates and coconut
The dates were cloying, the fish substandard, and the dish failed as a whole. However, the sweet coconut worked quite well with the fish by itself. Its sweetness complemented the fish and, upon chewing, its creaminess added a satisfying mouth-feel. An interesting idea that could be turned into a very good beginning.
Whitefish with truffle
Truffle! The warning bells were ringing loudly in my head. I took a skeptical bite but I was shocked – this was excellent! The surprisingly good, milder fish yielded to the pungent truffle aftertaste. And these preserved truffles were better than many of the truffles on my Truffle Trip earlier this year. The flavor was intense and fresh – quite a preservation effort.
Corn Flake Prawns with Tamarind
An amateurish job – greasy, completely over-spiced, and over-cooked. It’s an insulting dish considering the menu cost in excess of 90 euros/person.
Spiced, straight-forward, better than average tuna quality; but how does this qualify as an offering in the Kabuki menu? Part of the downfall of this meal was my expectation of more daring ingredient swapping – the fusion. Where’s the Spanish influence on this dish?
I need to catch a few tunas, cut them open, and better understand the nebulous toro regions. This fish had little taste, less fat, and its texture resembled plastic. It was average, at best. My bigger gripe was that I was paying for the Kabuki menu – I can eat amazing toro all day long at Kuruma Zushi or Sawa – I didn’t travel to Spain to eat imposters.
Selection of Sushi
At this point, I had given up, admitted defeat, and expected a few traditional pieces of nigiri. When the selection of sushi came, I perked up – this plate looked more interesting than the preceding dishes. The butterfish with truffle was largely the same effort as earlier – good but I’d expect some variation. The kobe beef was overcooked. The quail egg sushi was the best taste of the night – the egg burst and gave the rice a risotto-like effect. This was a great idea that worked quite well.
Pepper & Squid Tempura with Green Tea Salt
A better effort than the previous fried dish but they should remove the fryer from their kitchen.
The meat was overcooked and the morel mushroom had a horrible muddy taste. Who would think a dish with kobe and morels could strike out?
Churros and Chocolate
This is a formulaic restaurant: Japanese exoticism + fancy digs + fusion attempts = high margins and trendy crowds. The ingredients were largely average, the conception confused at best with only two bright spots. However, the meal was a failure as a whole and it was nowhere near worth the price Kabuki Wellington charged. There are a dearth of options in Madrid but do not be tempted.