Lasarte in Barcelona? Or Alkimia? Or Cinq Sentis?
I've read some brief and promising sounding write-ups of Lasarte -- Martin Berasategui's BCN outpost -- but none on Chowhound. Any recent reports? We've got 4 nights there and want to do one El Bulli-esque type place. We were also considering Alkimia and Cinq Sentis. We're going to be there the second week of June, and I don't know whether we're too late for a reservation. Any experiences, menu recommendations, and pricing info would be appreciated. Thanks!
Try for lunch in Girona at El Celar de Can Roca - it's probably the closest in style and quality to El Bulli (but the last train back is around 9:00pm so not feasible for dinner unless you stay overnight). Good service from Barcelona - around an hour by train each way and a 10-minute taxi to the restaurant.
Haven't been to Lasarte (but I 'hated' Berasategui (the original)). I found both Alkimia and Cinc Sentits more 'international' in style. Lean towards Cinc Sentits (it's cheaper), but on my list to try are Moo and L'Esguard (in Saint Andreu de Llavaneres) - both of which are in the 'deconstruction' movement.
You might also try Espai Sucre - they have a dessert tasting menu that also qualifies.
Here's my report on Berasategui:
After getting lost (with all the place names in Basque country being changed e.g. San Sebastian is now Donostia, and Pamplona now Iruña, getting lost is even easier; we followed a sign towards Irun instead of Iruña) we anticipated our first 3* on this trip. Only one tasting menu choice, but it seemed to offer good value so we both went for it. The wine list contained many choices new to me, so we asked if they had matching wines for each course. No, not possible. The sommelier preferred to select wine from the list depending on individual tastes. Eventually, we just asked for a red and a white of his choice – there was almost no selection of half bottles. The white was VERY oaked – not a particularly good choice for modern cuisine. The red was a better match although simple (but at 85€ for the two, not unreasonably priced).
On to the meal which, frankly, was disappointing. One criticism of cutting-edge cuisine is that the techniques can over-dominate the meal. This may have been the case here, as almost every dish featured (and some were dominated by) gels. Even the salad course contained ‘jellied lettuce’. Although the flavours were good, the parade of gels was boring to the palate. And this wasn’t helped by a concentration on smoked fish, Now, I enjoy smoked fish (Chowspouse less so), but smoking does tend to blur the underlying taste. So the overall impression was of a repetitive sequence of ‘smoked fish and jelly’.
And that soon became boring. Not a truly memorable meal and we speculated that Martin Berasategui had overreached himself with his numerous other endeavours (and restaurants), but indeed he was in the kitchen and toured the tables towards the end of the evening.
Cinc Sentits was better, but I didn't think the ingredients went well together. For example, the signature maple syrup dish was served first, giving a sweet mouthfeel that lingered into subsequent courses. And seeing the chef walk out part way through the meal (I think he had an appointment somewhere) was a little disconcerting. All around a not bad meal, but didn't strike me as outstanding. Again, I also had problems with the wine choices - which really surprised me as most places had a very acceptable list. At cinc sentits the choices were more international. Certainly less depth. And the service was perfunctory too. I'll see if I can find more detailed notes on this meal - I have them somewhere but can't locate them right now.
With regard to Alkimia, I apologise - I had it confused with Abac - I had wanted to go to Alkimia, but it was closed on Mondays (which was the day I had free) so we ended up at Abac instead.
Abac was entirely patronized by visitors/tourists - not a single local in the entire restaurant. Service was arrogant - not just for us but for adjacent patrons (we were actually treated better). No tasting menu was available the night we were there and absolutely no help given with the wine - we were just told to choose what we liked (but actually not a bad list). The overall impression we got was that we were 'ugly Americans' and didn't know anything about food (or wine).