Monday, June 25, 2012

Bio-Art: El Bulli.

Welcome to Food Week, a week wholly devoted to "They Actually Eat That"-esque entries. No, Mother Nature has not run out of weird things; it was simply a friend's suggestion for the next theme week, and hey, who doesn't enjoy the occasional weird food column?  You'd think it'd be hard to integrate this into a bio-art column, but really, almost every nicely-prepared dish is a chemistry project.

Cooking is an art, no matter how much Dunkin' Donuts and Mickey D's would like us to forget. In many restaurants, presentation is just as important as taste.The Japanese show the rest of the world up in this regard by having artistic lunchboxes every day. There's also designer sushi, but that's a trend that will get its own entry later this week.

Then there are food artists who are so creative that they shut down just to think up 500 new dishes and serve 26+ courses. Yes, really.

The only one of its kind, El Bulli is the place for different cuisine. It's located in Cala Monjoy, Spain, but you'll probably have to plan a special trip to Europe just to go there - don't plan a tour of castles that you can visit any time. Only 1% of would-be diners actually get reservations. This place is the highest of high cuisine simply because they do things nobody has done yet. (The keyword there is 'yet'- the fruity caviar above has since been imitated insofar as I can tell.)

El Bulli is the most innovative restaurant on the planet. They are closed six months out of the year just concocting a new menu. If they've done it before, they will not do it again. As per the owner's own words, "We have one rule here: It has to be new."  Here are a few examples, which should be enough to pique one's interest if not incite a Pavlovian salivation response.

Without spoiling any secret recipes, El Bulli makes dishes that combine the scientific with the tasty. All your favorite foods have been puffed into spheres, liquefied, and sprinkled with only the finest ingredients. It's like eating a pre-taste-tested lab experiment that has also been made visually appealing. For those of you wondering, yes, this is the place The Simpsons made fun of in the episode centering around foodie subculture.

El Bulli's offerings are all about calculation and presentation. Food is decorated in gold caramel, puffed into a foam, and delivered in jewelry boxes. No forks needed; this place is all about sensing what they've done in the kitchen - err, laboratory. Many of the dishes are one-bite wonders that are to be eaten just-so, with each dish precisely calculated to leave enough room for the next. Dinner is a show for all the senses. Enjoy it to the end!

As with many of the entries this week, here's the big question: Is it worth it? There is no price listing, but even with the supposed high price, El Bulli barely breaks even. It sounds like it tastes great, but there is probably a reason that the prices aren't listed. If any of you go there, tell me what you had! :D

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