It seems that we normally adapt our gourmet experiences to our destination and rarely is the journey exclusively intended for a singular restaurant but El Celler de Can Roca deserves the kilometers.
The anticipation doesn’t start on the day of the reservation but much further back, months before, when you book the table and the date lingers in the back of your mind bringing a smile to your face from time to time as you know the designated moment is gradually getting closer. For us, excitement is in full bloom when we enter the taxi, telling the driver we need to go to El Celler de Can Roca. There is no need for any further detailed explanations; all taxi drivers in Gerona know exactly where it is and they are eternally grateful for having such a gastronomic temple that attracts so many people to Gerona and has given us a reason to visit the city again and again. During our latest trip, our driver told us about how he had recently taken a young couple who had been saving up for the experience claiming that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that is absolutely true. Everyone who values the art of cooking and dining should visit El Celler at least once in their life. It ought to be some sort of obliged peregrination.
While you are walking up the path that leads to the patio where you can see the original stone house and add-on designed by Tarruella&López+Trenchs you can’t help but feel goosebumps as you know that an amazing experience awaits. For us, it is our version of Disney World; we are marveled the entire time.
The restaurant is elegantly designed setting the tables around a triangular courtyard where the trees act as sculptures. Each centerpiece is three stones representing the three brothers: Joan, Pitu and Jordi because Celler couldn’t exist without the three. They are a clear example of genetics working at its best, three siblings each unique in their own special way. Joan, the mastermind in the kitchen, knows how to artfully combine elegance with innovation making each meal not only surprising but fun. Pitu, an outstanding wine taster with a privileged sense of smell and last but not least, Jordi who I believe is simply nuts. Honestly, who would come up with an ice-cream that tastes like a cigar and which is ridiculously delicious or find inspiration in a perfume for a dessert? The three, woven together, make Can Roca.
We started off with the appetizers.
A trip around the world: Mexico, Peru, China, Morocco and Japan. These bite size snacks evoke different memories.
The olive tree bonsai is a charming classic. The anchovy stuffed olives are caramelized
Whitebait fried tart, a reminiscence to the south of Spain
Carpano with grapefruit and black sesame bonbon – refreshing burst in your mouth (both in the picture below)
Truffle bonbon and brioche – could have taken a dozen of those brioches home.
Now, on to the actual courses… sprouts, flowers, leaves and fruit consommé cooked at low temperature
Elderberries infusion with amaretto cherries, gingered cherries and smoked eel – lately I have become a huge smoked eel fan
White asparagus contessa and truffle – it was like being a kid again when you would get the contessa ice-cream cake for dessert but now a billion times better.
Smoked sardine cheeks
Ortiguillas salad, razor clams, sea cucumbers and algae
All of the prawn – here you will eat very last bit of the little fellow
Norwegian lobster cooked with Amontillado vapor
Grilled Sole with fermented black garlic, white garlic, and parsley and lemon juice – Joan know his sole and he know just how to get it right
Cod with miso and hazelnuts
Lamb, bread with tomato and garlic puree
Young pigeon parfait with onions, caramelized nuts with curry, juniper berries, orange peel and herbs – simply delicious
After all of this we still managed to make room for the desserts. We started off with natural yeast dough (masa madre) ice-cream with cacao, lychees and balsamic vinegar macarons – this dessert is so much fun. It is served on a “plate” specially designed for it because it moves and seems to be alive much like the natural yeast dough is alive. A tremendously fun dessert.
Adaptation of Guerlain’s perfume, Shalimar- Jordi Roca loves to experiment and give everything that extra twist. He has come up with several adaptations of perfumes. Dissecting the essence of the perfumes into a dessert so you feel as if you are actually eating it.
Violets – very Madrid
After the desserts comes the spectacular petit fours cart which would make Willy Wonka proud.
The wine cellar is definitely worth a visit. Divided into five sections: Champagne, Burgundy, Riesling, Priorat and Jerez (sherry), each area conveying the feel of the wine and land through music and the sense of touch. Small metal balls represent Champagne’s bubbles. There is no doubt that it is a unique experience.
We paired our dinner with Pierre Peters Champagne, Le Taillepieds O4 (A.O.C. Volnay), Joh. Jos. Prüm Kabinet 09 (V.D.P. Mosel-Saar-Ruwer), La bota Navazos 44 “FlorPower” (Sanlucar) Kastanienbusch Rebholz 06 (V.D.P. Pflaz), Heymann Löwenstein Rottgen 06 (V.D.P. Mosel), and Moscatel Toneles Valdespino (a 100 years old muscatel from D.O. Jerez).
El Celler de Can Roca has enchanted us from the beginning, back when it was a two-star Michelin restaurant. It has slowly evolved into a three-star Michelin restaurant and is considered to be the number one restaurant in the world. There is no doubt that Joan, Pitu and Jordi are doing things right. Somehow they make you feel right at home with their welcoming nature and generosity; always taking the time to ask if you have enjoyed your meal, to show you around or to just simply sit and chat. For my husband and I, every time we go we are always thankful to them for bestowing us with such a gastronomic experience. It is pure pleasure! And as always, we look forward to visiting them again soon.
El Celler de Can Roca
Can Sunyer, 48, Girona