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El Bulli, RIP

menton1 Jul 29, 2011 07:59 AM

The World's "Best Restaurant" is done in 2 days. Despite being packed to the gills every night, and just about impossible to get a reservation, the place is closing, as announced several months ago by Mr. Adria.

The claim is that in spite of doing maximum patronage the place is losing 700,000E per year. He makes up for it by selling books, he says. Hmmm.....

El Bulli
Spain , ES

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  1. monchique RE: menton1 Jul 30, 2011 05:38 AM

    Being one of this majority of "normal" people who did not get a chance to eat there, I will not cry on Ferran Adria's misfortune.
    I ate twice at the Hacienda Benasuza in Sevilla (his 2nd best restaurant), and was not that impressed by his genius. And the fashion has passed in any case, so it might be time to move back to proper food :o). I am far more touched by the untimely death of Santi Santamaria.

    6 Replies
    1. re: monchique
      PBSF RE: monchique Jul 30, 2011 08:58 AM

      I echo the same opinion. I ate at El Bulli about 10 years ago. I was truly impressed by the techniques and wizardry but not by the taste of the food. And I didn't think he sought out the best ingredients. And if he did, I couldn't tell. His closing of El Bulli is old old news, the publicity is wearing thin. This is not to take anything away from his enormous influence. I will also miss Santi Santamaria, a real gentle giant among Spanish chefs.

      El Bulli
      Spain , ES

      1. re: PBSF
        menton1 RE: PBSF Jul 30, 2011 10:43 AM

        It is old news, it was announced 2 years ago. However, with the actual closing happening TODAY, chatter about the event is stimulated again.

        1. re: menton1
          monchique RE: menton1 Jul 30, 2011 01:25 PM

          Nobody can deny the influence of El Bulli on today's cuisine! But whether this represents more than an experiment or the future of gastronomy, time will tell. Personnally, calcium chloride is not my cup of tea...

          El Bulli
          Spain , ES

      2. re: monchique
        PhilD RE: monchique Jul 30, 2011 06:34 PM

        Monchique - there is room for "proper food" and for innovative food it doesn't need to be either or. You clearly don't enjoy the innovative style, fare enough your taste. I love both and choose my restaurants accordingly, I ate at HB and El Bulli, the former was good, the latter superb.

        I wonder what he will do with HB when it reopens next year - will it be the showcase for the food from the El Bulli academy in Roses.

        Will the El Bulli influence continue - clearly it will, but it will morph and change and gradually become mainstream. Look at how "Nouvelle Cuisine" concepts have persisted in modern food. Think how sous-vide is now used to produce traditional "proper" food as it augments the braising process for long slow cooked food. I was in India last week and ate at "Monsoon" in Delhi and was interested to see how the El Bulli influence was influencing top end India food - it was really good and a nice change to the traditional dishes, especially the "Paan" cocktail at the end of the meal.

        Interesting article in The Telegraph that demonstrates its influence: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddri...

        El Bulli
        Spain , ES

        1. re: PhilD
          monchique RE: PhilD Jul 31, 2011 04:14 AM

          One could discuss forever the influence of El Greco in the style of Salvador Dali... I enjoy both!
          The main difference between "Nouvelle Cuisine" and "El Bulli" is that the former was a return to the genuine product itself, whilst the latter is more of a chemistry game. As for the sous-vide technique, which was used in mass catering long before Adria, it has some advantages apart from improving the economics of a restaurant. But like every technique that is fool-proof, the result is often boring and only rarely brilliant.
          Main problem is that every chef thinks he can imitate the guru Ferran Adria, and that rarely works too. As one commentator says in the article of the Telegraph: "I deeply regret not having been given the chance to sample deep fried tadpoles in a piquant sauce of marmalade, followed by a sorbet of Catalan goats' droppings". Some inventive chef is bound to try this one day!

          1. re: monchique
            PhilD RE: monchique Jul 31, 2011 04:02 PM

            It is a shame you focussed on the uniformed troll who commented on the Telegraph article.

            The point it makes is how widespread the El Bulli influence, the chefs who turned up for the last meal and spoke are highly influential: Rene Redzepi of Noma; Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz, Joan Luca of El Celler De Can Roca; Massimo Bottua of Osteria Francescana; and Grant Achatz, of Alinea. These are highly influential chefs who run some of the worlds most respected restaurants, thus it is disingenuous to say "And the fashion has passed in any case.."

            Of course sous-vide and many of the techniques used by, and popularised by El Bulli came from the industrial food and from food scientists. That is the whole point, the cooking applied techniques that had been overlooked or derided by "classic chefs" and brought them to the fine dining scene.

            An of course any technique in the wrong hands can be a spectacular failure and I have seen some horrors. But that said I have had more badly cooked meals of "proper food" - just because it is simple and ingredient driven doesn't stop a bad chef making a complete mess of it. with proper, simple, ingredient driven food good technique is as important as it is with the El Bulli style of food.

            To paraphrase your statement: the main problem is that every chef thinks they can imitate the gurus from Ferran Adria to Fergus Henderson, from Heston Blumenthal to Victor Arguinzoniz - without talent that rarely works.

            El Bulli
            Spain , ES

      3. m
        Maximilien RE: menton1 Jul 30, 2011 05:53 PM

        It was, for the last couple of years one of the restaurant I wanted to go to;

        I tried getting a reservation for the last 3 years but no avail!!

        I've even told my boss that I might not come in unannounced one day if by miracle I'd get a call/email for a last minute cancellation!! (and that's from Montreal!!)

        The restaurant did loose money, but Ferran Adria made enough money with side-ventures, consulting to large corporations and publishing that the restaurant could live with that.

        IMO, So what ... the restaurant was the at the center of a culinary trend for many years; history will tell if that was only a brief fad or something lasting (in all forms and functions).

        Personally, I find the recipes and ideas of cooking and food preparaion very fascinating.


        1. PhilD RE: menton1 Jul 30, 2011 06:20 PM

          Menton - you have it all wrong. It isn't closing because it is losing money, it is closing because Adria wants to do something else (the charitable El Bulli foundation to train chefs and experiment).

          OK it does lose money, but it is wrong to look at the restaurant in isolation, if you look at it as a loss leader for the Adria brand it makes good sense. He makes moony from his other restaurants, from his writing and speaker engagements and from his work on food products for Spanish companies.

          If he wanted to make money he could have opened for lunch and dinner not just one or the other, he could have opened every day of the week not just 4 or 5 days, he could have opened all year not just for 5 or 6 months, or he could have increased the mark-up on wine which was ridiculously cheap (almost retail priced) and been less generous in the servings i.e. a glass of wine was refilled but only charged at the price of a single glass.

          El Bulli
          Spain , ES

          18 Replies
          1. re: PhilD
            Aleta RE: PhilD Jul 30, 2011 11:02 PM

            I agree with PhilD. It's not just about money. It's about doing something new and different. And maybe about spending time with family.

            We were at Tickets in Barcelona on July 15, where we had the pleasure of meeting Albert Adria (who was really working in the restaurant, not just doing meets-and-greets). Ferran was there too. He was having a quiet meal with a young relative (maybe his teenage son?). Typical of young people, he was more engaged by his iPod and headphones than by the creative genius sitting beside him.

            1. re: Aleta
              farmersdaughter RE: Aleta Aug 1, 2011 12:16 PM

              And how was the food at Tickets? Any particular recommendations (did I miss a written report of your feast)?

            2. re: PhilD
              klyeoh RE: PhilD Aug 2, 2011 08:38 AM

              I was at El Bulli in 2004, and was fortunate enough to meet Ferran Adria. Very passionate guy - he calls his cooking "a labor of love" - at least, that was how my Basque friend translated what Adria said to us.

              1. re: klyeoh
                menton1 RE: klyeoh Aug 2, 2011 03:56 PM

                I have a friend who ate there and characterized it as "sci-fi" food. They said they longed for those small Trattorias in Italy with the pure, simple food that looks and tastes like food! No foam, no syringes! Lol!

                1. re: menton1
                  klyeoh RE: menton1 Aug 2, 2011 07:57 PM

                  You know what - these days, I felt the same way as your friend about molecular gastronomy. But 7 years ago, it was all "oohs"& "aahs" when we were served all those deconstructed this & that. We even tried some copycat restaurants in Barcelona afterwards - tomato soup with chocolate cake crumbs, pork speared with coffee-sugar-glass-shards. I don't think I'm into those now :-D

                  1. re: menton1
                    butterfly RE: menton1 Aug 3, 2011 06:16 AM

                    Your friend could have found countless restaurants that fit that description in Spain... Why go to El Bulli if that's the kind of food they were after?

                    1. re: butterfly
                      menton1 RE: butterfly Aug 3, 2011 08:37 AM

                      Don't really understand the true nature of your question, but, if you used your imagination, you could have realized that it's something like... trying something you've never had before-- like a new movie, a different food, etc. You never try anything you've never had before? Sometimes it works out, sometimes not!

                      1. re: menton1
                        PhilD RE: menton1 Aug 3, 2011 03:22 PM

                        Menton - isn't their a subtle point here. I agree that it is good to broaden horizons but if this is the case it's appropriate to consider whether it is a good restaurant you don't like or simply a bad restaurant that didn't satisfy.

                        If you are going to expand your horizons it is important to make the differentiation before broadcasting your opinion i.e. I dislike Abba but recognise they are a great pop group, I dislike them because I don't like that genre of music, but I don't then go around saying every production of Mama Mia is rubbish.

                        I loved El Bulli but wouldn't want to go there once a week if I lived around the corner. It is (was) the sort of restaurant to visit once in awhile; my local trat is a more relaxing option for a post work wind down. Horses for courses and all that.

                        El Bulli
                        Spain , ES

                        1. re: PhilD
                          menton1 RE: PhilD Aug 4, 2011 10:42 AM

                          Great, Phil. Exactly the point. Looks like you agree with my friends 100%. Thanks!

                    2. re: menton1
                      Maximilien RE: menton1 Aug 3, 2011 10:19 AM

                      I think it's not fair to go to El Bulli and "longing" for simple tapas or trattoria kind of food.

                      They are two different kind of culinary experiences and should not be compared.

                      I've been to high end restaurants (Le Cinq in Paris) where I felt out of place even if the food and service was spectacular, but I wanted to try the experience and found out that it was not what I was looking for when wanting high-end eating (but I found it at Pierre Gagnaire for example)


                      El Bulli
                      Spain , ES

                      1. re: Maximilien
                        menton1 RE: Maximilien Aug 3, 2011 02:04 PM

                        "Not fair"?? Well, this isn't a football match and, if that's what the person prefers, regardless of the different categories these restaurant experiences are in, each to their own, no? Matter of personal preference. Don't worry, there are still plenty of folks devastated at the closing of El Bulli, and it has gotten mass acclaim, so EB does not need my friends to extoll its virtues as well!

                        1. re: menton1
                          Ptipois RE: menton1 Aug 8, 2011 04:53 AM

                          If you go to a Jackson Pollock show, do you go through it longing all the while for the Rembrandt paintings that aren't displayed there?
                          That would be equally unfair to Pollock and to Rembrandt.

                          Indeed I do believe it is not fair at all to compare Adria's cooking to other chefs and to other styles more geared towards the pleasure of eating, simple or sophisticated.

                          Come to think of it, an art exhibition may be provocative. You may enjoy what you see there but all the while you may be shattered. You accept that, it's okay because it's art. I wonder why the same isn't accepted from cooking, when somebody so talented as Adria proposes it.

                          I went to ElBulli several times since 1998 and every time it has changed the way I think of food, consider food, study food, work on food. Every time it has brought precious, unexpected fuel to my developing experience of how the senses of taste and smell interact with other senses and also with the process of thinking, memory, imagination. Every meal at ElBulli was a tremendous, sometimes violent, invitation to opening up to a larger experience of food than one usually gets, even in the best restaurant serving the tastiest food possible. Adria was not about "fine dining" but about patiently exploring what food, deep down, really means to the heart and mind.

                          I never went there strictly for a "pleasant" experience (Adria was also unique in playing on perceptions related to taste, not just on taste itself). A pleasant experience I could have in many other places and ElBulli did not play in that range, I knew it and accepted it, and as a result I always got a positive experience since I wasn't expecting what Adria wasn't going to deliver. I think this is an aspect of his cooking that has been little understood, as much by his detractors as by his 'followers' who were only interested in the chemical/provocative aspect of his art (as is plainly visible in the uninteresting, show-offy, touristy, sometimes downright disgusting mess that is praised as "Spanish molecular cuisine").

                          Adria claimed he was not doing "molecular cuisine" and I do believe he was dead right. To him, only the result counts, whatever means he uses, from the simplest to the most sophisticated. Some of ElBulli's preparations required plenty of technique, however some of the most striking dishes were obtained through extremely simple methods, sometimes as minimal as steeping a fresh almond in a saline solution or in lemon juice. And from a series of differently-flavored, visually identical fresh almonds, it once dawned on me that he had just reinvented the whole history of eating.

                          1. re: Ptipois
                            monchique RE: Ptipois Aug 8, 2011 06:23 AM

                            Glad you enjoyed your gastro-philosofico experiences at El Bulli. . But it does not seem to work for everyone... As I said in an earlier post, I never had a chance to eat there so I will never know what I missed. However, Hacienda Benasuza left me cold, may be the Maitre has to do his magic himself.

                            El Bulli
                            Spain , ES

                            1. re: monchique
                              menton1 RE: monchique Aug 8, 2011 07:10 AM

                              Well, Marc Veyrat has opened a new place in the same quarters as his original restaurant in Veyrier sur Lac, just outside of Annecy.

                              1. re: menton1
                                monchique RE: menton1 Aug 8, 2011 07:54 AM

                                Bit too far for me to go tonight, but will certainly keep him in mind.

                                1. re: monchique
                                  menton1 RE: monchique Aug 8, 2011 04:59 PM

                                  Oh, are you in Roses?

                                  1. re: menton1
                                    monchique RE: menton1 Aug 9, 2011 05:17 AM

                                    No, I live in the Algarve (Southern Portugal).!

                    3. re: klyeoh
                      Rella RE: klyeoh Aug 11, 2011 08:25 AM

                      I deleted my posting, but the posting still shows. Sorry.

                  2. menton1 RE: menton1 Aug 9, 2011 06:54 AM

                    I heard about this restaurant Ferrugem in Portela trying to do some of the things that Adria has done. Know anything about that place?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: menton1
                      monchique RE: menton1 Aug 9, 2011 09:05 AM

                      Have not been there yet, but I have heard of it, and it's on my next list for Porto / Braga. It gets good reviews like this one: http://mesamarcada.blogs.sapo.pt/3321...
                      One of the best compromise for a touch of Adia's style would be Chef Marco Gomes at Foz Velha in Porto (when he is there...)

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