Perhaps it has to do with age, becoming more wise, or the evolution of the palate, but recently I have starting eating more “clean” - so to speak - with far more vegetables than protein in my diet. Truth be told the quality of the meat that I find weekdays around my office leaves so much room for wanting that I rely mostly on salads and soups for my weekday meals.

At the same time, the purity and the simplicity of the vegetables when done well is also a trend that is starting to develop in high end, and also elsewhere and I became more and more interested in this.

Thus, on a recent trip to Paris I could not resist going to and reviewing the mother of all veggie places, L’Arpege, a restaurant that places focus mostly on vegetables brought from its own farms around France and less and less on meat or fish. For a number of years Alain Passard, the master of Arpege stopped cooking meat altogether and only recently has he introduced it back in limited forms into his menu. Naturally I had the choice of going to the grand dames of Parisienne three star cuisine such as L’Ambroisie or Guy Savoy, but it was because of the craving for the freshest summer vegetables done in the most interesting ways that I decided for L’Arpege. Somehow the simplicity and treatment of the ingredients likened it in my mind to something close to Etxebarri, which was my recent favourite. Also, because the lunch menu is a measly 140 euros only compared to twice or three times the amount in the evening.

The only problem was my flight was delayed and I had a meeting starting in two hours time, so I had only an hour and a half for the grand tasting menu that should have taken around 2 or 3 hours to go through. Very amateur indeed, but what could I say? I told the servers fair and square. And behold, instead of the rumours on the much maligned French hospitality that should have resulted in “Sir, we cannot simply serve you in that amount of time” or “ You will not be able to experience L’Astrance in such a rush” all I got from the very friendly waitress is that sure, and they will do all they can to put together a menu that best represents the cuisine in such a short time. After that everyone else was also super-friendly and the whole experience was grand from a service POV.

Onto the dishes. As you might or might not know, Alain Passard has six gardeners working at the vegetable garden in Fille sur Sarthe and three people look after the vegetable garden in Bois- Giroult. It really is a sustainable and biodynamic environment in every sense of the word: “Draught animal power, no pesticides, no chemical fertilizer, watering holes for batrachians, stone houses for the weasels, hedgehogs and reptiles, perches for raptors, hedges, embankments and trees for the birds; all of this wildlife is welcome in our gardens, this way we avoid any treatment.”

Crème fraiche with Othello grapes, watermelon, tomatoes. A signal from the kitchen that everything will be ultra-fresh, ultra-seasonal, ultra-light.

Churned butter and bread. As expected, the butter was amazing, smooth, salty. Not sure about the bread though, could have been more fresh, warm, etc. Have had better much bread before.

Beetroot tartare with a fake egg on top. The beet tartare was seasoned or infused with fennel, it had a sweet, earthy, deep, flavour: really delightful. I just closed my eyes and inhaled the sweet and rich taste. On top the faux egg was crème fraiche with half a cherry tomato. Tomatoes were really everywhere – as decoration on the table and in nearly every dish. An abundance of the sweetest and best Summer tomatoes.

Next Arpege’s own tabbouleh. This version came with apples, carrots, not much parsley or root mixed with the silky soft bulgur. I mostly felt fruit mixed in in a non-traditional way. The best thing underneath it all was the creamy, purple-pink raspberry and cauliflower puree. What an idea! A bit of bite from the bulgur, some crunch from the fruit and veggies and the soft puree to cap it all off. Wonderful.

Next stuffed fresh zucchini with onions and peppers bathed in a Parmiggiano Reggiano foam and sauce with loads of fresh thyme. I must say I enjoyed this course only moderately, as the zucchini and its filling were too simplistic, however I ladeled up the cheese foam and thyme quickly.

Really interesting this next course. A consommé of tomato seasoned with geranium with three different raviolis inside. The umami factor in this dish was off the charts as the rich and rosy-tasting, bitter consommé merged with the first ravioli made of bitter lemon, aubergine puree and marjoram. Just a taste explosion. Then another scoop and the incredibly thin and delicious ravioli skin dissolves in your mouth to give way to tomato, bell pepper and basil cream. Add the consommé which cuts through the rich veggies with its bitterness and freshness and you have a perfect dish. The third ravioli was zucchini and garlic.

Next they showed around a grand tarte made with the freshest tomatoes, all various colours and sizes with some anchovy fillets on top. Oh that puff pastry, and the lush tomatoes lacquered with garlic and the salty anchovy. It’s the simplicity and yet the amazing quality and freshness that is so inspiring here.

I was actually one of the three, or four lonely diners in the small restaurant. Interesting to see all the solo-foodies and what they do around the table and how they react. Seems weird in a way. The lady in front of me nearly had an orgasm from the tomato consommé and was constantly closing her eyes and mumbling, while the lady to right was constantly preoccupied with her camera and taking shots at different angles with and without the waiting staff. And I was taking notes vigorously while emailing back and forth regarding the upcoming meeting.

Anyway, I had the luck (?) of having the serving trolley right next to my table. I saw all the plates in their full glory before being whisked to the tables. Soon there appeared a massive plate with a great lobster sitting split in half on the middle of the plate. It looked like one of those sharing plates, that was meant for two or three hungry people. I was amazed to see that it landed right in front of me the next minute. Lobster with butter sauce and fresh steamed veggies, such as zucchini, mini squash, carrots and baby potatoes. The size of the beast was immense: its claw was the size of a baby hand.

The worst lobster I had was in Cuba, where the extracted the poor things from a cage in the sea and then dipped them in boiling water on my diving boat with some potatoes. No taste whatsoever. Then this must be the antithesis. Firm and sweet lobster meat, poached claw soft and pink, vegetables with a light crunch. All bathed in a rich and creamy sauce. The amount of meat was astounding, I could hardly get through it. It was overwhelming from a quality and a quantity point of view as well.

I had no time whatsoever to go for desserts as I had to run. But I did get a delicious rhubarb sorbet with crunchy nuts and a box of petit fours to take with me.

I missed the famous egg and probably three or four other world class and famous courses but I caught a glimpse of what cooking with the worlds freshest and best vegetables looks like. I was very glad I made the choice to go to Arpege and experience the true simplicity and quality of these vegetable dishes. That they are in no way inferior to dishes that arrive with caviar or grouse or lamb chops.

Flavours and umami can be extracted from an ingredient in the most wonderful ways, vegetables can be coerced to give a salty, deep, rich, creamy, sour, fresh, whatever flavour and one that is immensely pleasing to eat. I will definitely visit again to go for the full monty. I later found out that Alain Passard was cooking in his garden that day for Aiste and a group of foodies, so next time hoping that he is also there!

Overall: 9,5/10




How do you go about rating a Michelin 3 star establishment on a small blog? One that happens to be voted the best restaurant in the US, the San Pellegrino No. 3 in the world? You go about with caution, with respect, with a sense of the higher purpose.

I started ticking of the world’s best restaurants one by one when they were first announced by San Pellegrino couple of years ago, and I must admit I had a marvelous time both at the Fat Duck and the French Laundry. Both were deemed to be the world’s best at that given time. I hadn’t visited El Bulli unfortunately before it closed, nor the Roca brothers establishment yet. However on a recent trip to the Big Apple, and given that the date coincided with my birthday, I thought let’s splash out and give EMP a try. After all it held the World’s 50 best afterparty, and if the world’s best chefs had a good time there, I sure as hell will too. I was wrong.

 EMP is the brainchild of Daniel Humm, a Swiss-born chef who moved to the US seeking fame and glory. With his partner, Will Guidara, they have built a well-managed establishment that most associate with extremely good service and a maximum effort towards the diner having a good time. Most of the stories linked to EMP are not so much about the food, but the service, the circus that goes along with serving the food, the origins, the packaging if you wish. In that sense it has a close link to Fat Duck, although far less molecular and innovative, it also happens to dig out the folklore and the traditions of local (US) dining. In the UK this is currently brought to life in Dinner in a more bistro like environment, but one where the traditional dishes in new garments, i.e. the tipsy cake and the meat fruit are all iconic dishes of their time reimagined by Heston.

Here in EMP, there are far less iconic dishes, most change with the seasons and seasonal produce and most have a short life span on the menu. The magic is around serving these seasonal, yet strongly US tradition focused dishes with a French flair. I really don’t think they pull this trick off very well. EMP runs with a seasonal, daily menu that includes five nibbles, three starters, two main courses, one pre dessert and two desserts and then petit fours.

On the nibbles section we start with a cookie made from apple and cheddar. Yes, it’s a cookie, we nibble it quickly like mice. I should say at this point for a full disclaimer that we arrived at 9:30 to dinner for a late table (only one available) and the dinner ran for at least 3, 5 hours to 4 hours. By the end we were all pretty exhausted.

Next up various nibbles in beautiful lacquered boxes are folded out before us. Cucumber with cream cheese and rye, melon with goat cheese, cucumber with honeydew and mint and cantaloupe with smoked melon. Binding them together is obviously the smoked flavor of goat, the smoked melon, the rye and the creamy cheeses and the sweetness of melon, cantaloupe, et al. At this point it become apparent to me that we were in for a show rather than a taste sensation. Sure, the lacquered box was nice. But that melon? And the cucumber cheese sandwich? Heston throws in history, technique and sometimes magical wizardry. But this was something out of a nice tapas bar in Marbella.

Foie gras with strawberry and onion. We Hungarians really love our foie gras, therefore we are accustomed to extremely high quality. I like the fact that the acidity of the strawberry cuts through the fat of the liver, the cream of the onion gives it an additional texture and I like the plating. This was one of the more beautiful and better courses. A glorified bistro course. The Szechuan peppercorns would come back in another best course later on.

Next was the most memorable moment when we received our gougeres, or bread rolls, warm from the oven, flaky and incredibly buttery and fatty with a remarkable butter with grated sharp cheese on top. The rolls were out of this world and so was the butter. Bravo for this.

Next came caviar. Although the menu actually says foie gras, caviar and lobster, one of the big learnings at EMP was the absolute focus on non-expensive ingredients, once again paying to the bistro theme and when the big guns should have come out, then the was only a little squeak instead of a kaboom. Such was the case with our first picnic type hamper that came out with a luxury picnic course of pickled mackerel, caviar and cider.  I’m not sure what I think of this course two months down the line, but the mackerel was a far better version of what I have seen on my dad’s fridge over the years. It had a nice pickled flavor along with the preserved veggies in the jar. The caviar was bigger than expected, perhaps lake sturgeon variety from the states with a brownish grey roe. The cider once again was a clever and nice match for the pickled, sweet, salty food but the total composition didn’t strike a chord.

Some words about the service at this point deemed to be the best in the world by some. Casual, nice, charming at times, but we had at least three or four servers circling around us and they changed during the course of the meal. WE started off with an energetic and nice lad and then ended with a jaded and too intimate guy by the end who rattled off the names of the dishes quicker than you could say 1-2-3. I find that a lot in US restaurants that the servers seem to be entirely robotic, reciting the origins and the ingredients of the dish without any emotions or interest whatsoever.

Corn. Incredibly sweet corn cooked on the cob, then cut off and laid on top of corn cream with cured egg yolk and clam. The corn variations provided the umami of this dish with the clams adding a nice backdrop. Once again I found this lacking in depth and substance. Sweet, grilled, corn, nice and crispy, with creamy textures underneath. Bistro, yes. Three star? No.

And then adding to further disappointment I received the Lobster boil. One of the main dishes of the evening, the star attraction. With heritage obviously coming from the US, this is served as a big pot of steaming lobster tails with veggies and pork and sauce. The big question for me is, how much does this three star course differ from anything I could get at the Maine seaside joint? Two well-cooked scampis one EXTREMELY small lobster part, more like a langustino tail, some pieces of corned beef looking bacon, some dill, some potatoes. Now I’m not sure the average EMP customer may go crazy for this saying that this is the best lobster boil they ever had, but for me this was as simplistic and as cheapskate as one could get with ingredients. Eat with your fingers, they say after plating it out from a big steaming pot. Go crazy. This felt like a huge rip off. Was it tasty? No.

Next the signature dish that everyone raves about: the duck. Honestly, this was the best course of the evening, albeit "just" a duck breast. A duck breast glazed with lavender honey and sprinkled with Szechuan peppercorns and aniseed. Yes, I really liked the cherry sauce next to it and I also liked the daikon radish strips that offered the crispy counterpoint to the rich and spicy duck. This was the second memorable course along with the foie gras. One side dish was also very nice with the smoked potato with pommes soufflé. The other I couldn’t quite understand how it related to the duck in any way. This was the panzanella variation- the tomato roasted and compressed with bread. Perhaps it was supposed to balance the rich sweetness of the duck with some acidity but it didn't work for me alongside these ingredients. Perhaps with something less spicy and sweet like a schnitzel.

Next up was a pre dessert that I didn’t take a pic of: Camembert with plum and basil- and then we moved on the desserts with an open-fire-roasted and glazed plum or apricot with a ricotta ice cream and oats. Yes, it really was a nice piece of fruit roasted and glazed with honey … with some ice cream.

By this point I was quite fed up. The play with the fruit roasted on a BBQ, the picnic hampers, the different type of boxes, with the “eat-with-your-hands” thing didn’t get me going in any way. The quality and the preparation of the ingredients certainly didn’t make me feel that something special was going on and the waiters were also growing more and more jaded and tired as the night progressed. This was midnight now, and the guy was grilling a lonely peach and a plum on a small Weber burner. This could have been a joke for a three star establishment but it was not. It was dead serious, meant to knock the socks of locals and internationals.

As a last course there was nice play on chocolate, but getting four bars of milk chocolate was definitely not what I was expecting as dessert. The four bars contained different types of milk coming from buffalo, cow, goat and sheep. We had to taste and match the chocolate types with the animal providing the milk. I can only hark back to Heston at this point who –after all the desserts and fanfare gave us a plastic map of Scotland and pasted jelly beans on the map shaped like whiskey bottles. Every gum bottle was made out different whiskey with a peaty, smoky or other flavor inherent to the production and the grain. An amazing trick at the end of dinner after a super memorable experience.

Here it was only fanfare, jaded waitering, lack of quality and quantity of three star ingredients, a play on American food heritage that just wasn’t creative or innovative enough and an all in all bad experience. I could go on and on about what I think makes a three star establishment or a San Pellegrino World's Best, but I think it would be useless. This one claims the title and the price range, but does not live up to the reputation. Truth be told: both my latest one star experiences in Paris beat the hell out of EMP.

Overall 7,5/10
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue NY



Idén is eljött az ideje a kedvenc fesztiválomnak, Nem, nem a Sziget, nem a Volt, hanem a Gourmet. Négy nap tobzódás a legjobb séfek és éttermek közt, ahol mindenki keresi a másik társaságát, mindenki jókedvű (most persze duplán van mit ünnepelni Széll Tamás és a Bocuse miatt) és minden olyan kellemes még az eső ellenére is.

Hol máshol találunk egy olyan rendezvényt, ahol az egyik borász a másikhoz látogat, visz magával két üveggel a legjobb borából, majd csatlakozik hozzájuk néhány Michelin csillagos szakács, tulaj, vendég, és rajongó és együtt beszélgetnek naphosszat? Közben természetesen mindenki bedobja a közösbe, ami van, szarvas baot, debrecenit, rázós levest, füstölt szegyet.

A téma idén a hal és vad. Utóbbiból jelentősen többféle étel van sajnos mint halakból. Ha összehasonlítom a vadburgerek számát a halas ételekével, akkor csúnyán alulmaradnak a halacskák. Másik meglátásom, hogy a Gourmet is kezd picit street foodba átmenni, mint ahogy a nemzetközi tendencia is ezt diktálja. Ennek két oka is lehet. Egyrészt könnyebb kisütni egymás után a grillen burgereket vagy kolbászokat, mintsem pipettával és csipesszel mikro zöldeket rakosgatni a tányérra. Sokkal macerásabb és időigényesebb komplex fogásokat tálalni, és ez idő alatt talán a vendég már máshova megy. A másik persze a streetfood-osodás nemzetközi trendje. Egymást érik a bao-k, gyozák, burgerek, laffák. tekercsek. Jó is ez, nincs vele baj, csak nem biztos hogy a közvélemény ezek alapján pontos képet kap az adott étterem teljesítményéről. Pedig sokak számára ez az egyetlen találkozási lehetőség a fine dining-gal, illetve az ezt a műfajt képviselő éttermekkel.

Akinek van kedve, még ma és holnap kilátogathat a fesztiválra, itt van pár ötlet, hogy mit érdemes megnézni.

Kezdjük evvel. Marhaszegy, avagy brisket. Kap egy komoly szárazpácot, majd 12 órát a füstölőben tölt. Mellé házi csípős paradicsomszósz és káposztasaláta. Kaptam a zsírosabb és kevésbé zsíros részéből is. Szerintem egyértelmű, melyik tetszett jobban. Sőt, még a "burnt ends"-ből is kaptam, ami a leeső, égett széleket jelzi. Mit mondjak? Ez volt a legjobb BBQ amit eddig ettem itthon: szaftos hús, kellően zsíros, jól fűszerezett égett teteje és oldala. Igazából köret nem hiányzik hozzá, csak úgy magában érdemes falni és élvezni a füstös zsíros ízeket.

Ez versenyen kívül indul. Történt ugyanis hogy as Rosenstein család idén ünnepli vendéglőjük fennállásának 20-adik évét. Fantasztikus látni, hogy a két generáció, apa és fia és a sok unoka milyen remekül összetart és hogy építik közösen tovább a Rosenstein nevét. Apa képviseli a hagyományt és Robi pedig az evolúciót. Amit az ünnepi 20 éves fogadáson felszolgáltak az inkább a hagyományos ételek körét képezte, kiváltképp ez a két fogás: a pájsli és a harcsapacal. Két belsőség, kétféle módon elkészítve. 

Számomra a harcsapacal az egyik legkomolyabb étel amit ebben a műfajban ettem - múlt évben volt először szerencsém hozzá amikor is az öreg Rosenstein kondérban készítette el a Gourmet fesztiválon. Kb fél óra alatt elfogyott az egész. Állagra olyan mint a másik pacal, de mégis harcsa gyomrából készül, ezért kevésbé "ruganyos" és inkább hasonlít zsírosabb halhúsra mint gyomorra. Egyben könnyebb is mint a hagyományos pacal. A báránypájsli, tüdő szalvétagombóccal hagyományosan amolyan vadasmártással készül, Mindkettő zseniális.

Itt is egy harcsa, bár ez már a Tanti sütőjéből, Green Eggjéből került elő. Édes, ragacsos, miszos, szójás, mirines mártással sült yakitori harcsából. Bár ez is a street food vonalat erősíti, nagyon boldog vagyok hogy ebből ehettem, mert imádom a zsíros harcsát és nagyon jól passzolt hozzá a koriander és a ragacsos mártás.

A Tantinál van még vaddisztóoldalas is kimchivel. Kimchivel bármikor le lehet venni a lábamról, az utóbbi időben nagyon megszerettem. Kínai és japán konyhákon nőttem fel és úgy vélem a koreai konyha csak nyomokban hasonít ezekre, bár a forró lapon sült bulgogi nagyon olyan mint egy teppanyaki és vannak tartalmas ramen-szerű leveseik. A koreaiakra mégis ezek a fermentált zöldségek - kimchi káposzta - nagyon jellemzőek, és evvel nagyon bele is illik a fermentálást istenítő nemzetközi, főleg skandináv áramlatba. A vaddisznóhús lehetett volna omlósabb, a párosítás maga érdekes volt.

Ezt a bitang jó burgert a Mezzoban lőttem. Különlegessége, hogy rabo de toroból, avagy bikafarokból készül. Egy hentes sokáig izzadt amíg lefejtette a húst a farokcsontról, majd pogácsává formálták és kisütötték itt is egy green eggben. A marbellai sztárszakács Dani Garcia receptje alapján készült a hús is és a hozzátartozó burger szósz is, ami egy kicsit tárkonyos, mustáros, talán kicsit currys (?) de alapjában véve állati jó szósz hozzá. A bucit se felejtsük el az is szuper. Szóval mind méretében, mind állagában, mind ízében kitűnő burger.

A következő áldozat a Budavári Gasztronegyed, ezen belül az És/ Baltazár/Pierrot/PestBuda standja volt. Itt Litauszki séf specialitását, a karfiolkrémes haluszonyt próbáltam. A krém állaga és textúrája remek, selymes, A halfarok pedig jó kis roppanós játékot ad az egésznek és ízben is ad hozzá nem is keveset. No meg a marinált zöld karfiol. Nekem valami hiányzott ebből a kompozícióból, talán még egy kis haltöpörtyű a megkoronázására, mert így nem volt benne elég "matéria". De nem akarok telhetetlen lenni persze.

A Bocknál a tavasz ízei egy tányéron. Végre egy szép kompozíció. Fürjtojás, sóskamártás (de milyen isteni!!), zöldspárga és füstölt tokhal. Miért ér véget a tavasz ilyen gyorsan? Ezeket az alapanyagokat akár egész évben folyamatosan rágcsálnám. A tányér maga elég pasztell, a tokhal füstössége sokat segít rajta. A sóskamártás egyébként brilliáns volt.

Bevallom nem a legelőnyösebb kép az egyik legjobb fogásról. Ez eredeti olasz alapanyagokból készült encsi focaccia, burrata, és porchetta. Megszórva némi "stracciatellaval", pisztáciával. Valójában teljesen mindegy mi kerül rá erre a teljes kiörlésű, légiesen könnyed, omlós, ropogós tésztára, mert nincs kifejezés, ami leírja pontosan hogy mennyire jó. Ebben készül, ni:

Ezeka  srácok tényleg tudják mitől döglik a légy és pontosan értik milyen alapanyagokhoz kell nyúlniuk hogy ilyen teljesítményt nyújtsanak, Bravo.

Ez a Costes lazacburgere. Túl nagy erőfeszítés vagy kreativitás nem szorult bele sajnos: egy nyers, vagy legjobb esetben langyosra készült lazacfilé, egy kis remoulade-szerű mártás, pár rukkola ágacska és egy zöldes belsejű buci. Őszintén szólva elég felejthető volt,

Sárközi Ákos Michelin csillagos séf kompozíciója következett. A szarvas "bao". Na most ez nem bao, hanem inkább gyoza, de valójában szarvasravioli. Végülis teljesen mindegy. A lényeg a fricska, a csavar amit a Borkonyhások minden évben kitalálnak, annak érdekében, hogy mindenki feltegye magában a kérdést és várja is, hogy mivel készülnek idén. A bambusz gőzölőben készölt szarvasbaogyozapelmenyitáskaravioli alatt egy olyan zöldségragu volt, amiben előfordult cseresznye, újhagyma, uborka répa többek közt és egy kevés, szója, méz szezámolaj, hogy a keleties világot még közelebb hozza a Millenárishoz.

"Rázós leves". Hát nem mókás? Körtébe csomagolt kókusztejes sátrgarépakrémleves. Na, szerintem ez egy emblematikus fogása lehet az idei Gourmet-nek. Ötletes, szépen kivitelezve, "interaktív" mert ugye rázni kell!, állati jó ízvilággal. Meg is dícsértem a Borkonyhás srácokat, hogy ennyire intuitív módon minden évben rá tudnak tapintani a legjobb marketing fogásokra.

Ma este is megyek. Kostolok tovább!



It was not necessarily a pub that I had imagined as my ideal venue for dinner in Lisbon. Yet all the blogs, competent forums and critics highlighted one top target place not to miss out when in the city. As I later learned, even my favourite gastro-entity --Anthony Bourdain-- visited the place: Cervejaria Ramiro being one of the few restaurants he called on there. Before leaving, I had sent out the address to a Brazilian colleague of mine asking what if we had had a dinner there. He declared the place was 'nothing special', just average, but I had faith in it.

When dinner time came, I set off to reach the place with a pinch of doubt whether i really hit the jackpot with my choice that night in the Portuguese capital. If you're wondering about how life is in Lisbon, I can tell that you that you can walk hours and hours, uphill and downhill and get properly tired of it, but it is a bit wiser to use the old tram system crisscrossing the whole city, which is quite a usual sight for a Budapest resident. While for people from the rest of Europe or for American tourists it is a quite exotic experience. 

Good and even better districts / quarters come one after the other as we travel the city, but all are said to have been shabby, shanty-towns with a lot of pensioners living there a bit earlier. By now all of these areas have developed into a place swarming with young people, hippies, bohemians, artists and the prices rose accordingly. Lisbon is a super city, very pleasant, highly recommended to everybody.

Now back to Ramiro. The place is puritan and literally a bar. The only difference between a bar and this place is that here you can see huge aquariums filled with water all along the edge of the guest area between the kitchen and the tables. In those big water tanks lobsters, crabs and langoustines  swim about, together with some more exotic creatures from the sea. 

The menu is quite promising even at first sight. It is a long list of everything that lives and kicks about in the sea. It is important to note, though, that Ramiro specialises on crab and other crustaceans, basically hard-shelled things, so they don't have many / any fish.We place our order and ask the waiter what type of garnishes he would recommend; spinach, mixed salad, french fries or whatever... The waiter gives me a look as if I came from planet Mars and slowly shakes his head. Here you cannot find such superfluous things as these... only delicacies from the sea grilled or steamed in white wine. Nothing extra. A slice of lemon maybe. This simplicity feels promising, since it tells you a lot about the quality of the ingredients at hand. Prime quality gives you self-confidence and makes all the senseless extras redundant-  anything that can distract your attention from the main attraction.

Ham plate. Fat and flesh proportion per slice is ideal. Well cut. They do it so well on the Iberian Peninsula.   

 And the garnish that goes with every course....hm...What a garnish! Fresh, crispy bread basted with melted butter. I think it worked out better than spinach, especially when it came to mopping up the juices.

Gambas pil pil. Simple as it may seem, the proper proportions are hard to find. The right amount of  chili, garlic and oil. It is also about how the different tastes 'find each other' and open up in the small iron skillet. The shrimps can almost be be considered as accessories if the chili flavoured oil is good, suitable for dipping all your bread in. Mine was like that.

Small mussels, cockels like Vongole (littleneck clams) with coriander, garlic, oil, white wine and butter. Gorgeous. Some extra fun that it is not parsley, rather coriander that is sprinkled over the top.

King-crab: white and brown. The white meat is the one that can be gained from the claws with the help of hammers and pincers. The brown part can be found in the head with stronger sea-taste, and a creamy meat, which is basically from the liver and other internal organs. That is why the taste is more intense. For those who are stronger sea-taste fans, scooping such things up is a real orgy. White meat on the other hand has a more neutral taste.

Flame coloured carabinero crabs. The Palamos prawn -which I ate in Basque Country- was similar.It's basic trait is that --when stripped of its shell-- chewing on its white meat you feel a heavenly sweet taste. Almost melts in our mouth. Sea, but sweet.

Giant lobster grilled. This was also tasty, the white meat a bit sweet, properly tight after grilling. But it could not catch up with the carabinero.You can't really describe much about this meal, because the ingredients, the crustaceans themselves, the masters at the grilling station and the slice of lemon served with the dishes does not require any longer description. After my adventures in Basque Country and my detour in Portugal I can increasingly appreciate this minimalist, puritan cuisine, which intends to make the most out of simple raw materials without any twists. And what's more I have an intensifying crave for richer and deeper sea tastes: a crab head that can be sucked out,  the brown meat of a king crab, the oiliest smoked fish and such things......

Overall: 9/10 
Cervejaria Ramiro