Enigma 2.0 – Deciphering Adrià’s new concept

Barcelona: December 2022

Enigma is back and with big ambitions. Albert Adrià has put all his efforts into his only remaining endeavour in Spain with a project that highlights a produce-driven cuisine elevated by thoughtful technique. Our first experience with this new concept was very promising.

Table of contents
1. A profile of Albert Adrià2. After elBulli3. Adrià’s different dining concepts
4. Chronology5. Enigma’s cuisine6. An enigmatic architecture
7. The service and the wine8. The short-lived menu sorpresa9. Conclusions

Creating a legend – A profile of Albert Adrià

Born in 1969 in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Albert Adrià began his culinary career in 1985 by joining elBulli, motivated by dissatisfaction with formal education rather than a passion for cooking.  Yet, this decision would eventually revolutionise modern gastronomy.

In 1987, his brother Ferran became the head chef of elBulli following the departure of Christian Lutaud. Albert, having shown a talent for pastry, was appointed chef pâtissier. Eager to refine his skills during elBulli’s winter breaks, he trained at notable pastry institutions in Catalonia, such as Escribà, Torreblanca, and Turull. After completing his compulsory military service in 1988, Albert ventured to Paris for further training, this time under the tutelage of the then three-star chef, Guy Savoy.

Under the guidance of the Adrià brothers, in 1990 elBulli regained the two Michelin stars it had lost in 1985 following Jean-Paul Vinay’s departure. In 1994, the brothers initiated a technical and conceptual revolution, which paved the way for elBulli to earn its third star in 1997. Amidst these accolades, Albert Adrià’s relentless quest for innovation took him to lead elBullitaller, the restaurant’s R&D arm. 1998 saw the release of his first publication, ‘Los postres de el Bulli’. The turn of the millennium brought with it the co-invention of the spherification technique in 2003, a method that would soon become emblematic of avant-garde cuisine.

The following years saw elBulli repeatedly named as the best restaurant in the world, in 2002 and then consistently from 2006 to 2009, as per The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Alongside these achievements, Albert’s individual projects began to flourish. 2006 marked the opening of his first restaurant, Inopia, a tapas bar in Barcelona.

In 2008, Albert launched his second publication, Natura, reflecting a more nature-inspired aesthetic aligned with the prevalent trend of imitating Michel Bras’s work. At the same time, he decided to leave elBulli to focus on his growing list of projects. The intense pace and work environment of elBulli had left its mark on him.

After elBulli

While elBulli’s doors were closing, Albert’s ventures multiplied rapidly. By 2010, despite its success, Inopia was closed to pave the way for new restaurants, Tickets and 41º Experience, both of which opened in 2011 with financial backing from the Iglesias brothers. 2013 saw the birth of Bodega 1900 and Pakta, the latter of which, alongside Tickets and 41º Experience, garnered Michelin stars. In the ensuing years, Albert’s culinary portfolio expanded in breadth and depth. From collaborations like Niño Viejo and Hoja Santa with chef Paco Méndez in 2014 to international ventures like Cakes & Bubbles in London in 2018 and Mercado Little Spain in NYC in 2019, co-developed with José Andrés. However, the most ambitious project since elBulli was Enigma, unveiled in 2016 in Barcelona and graced with a Michelin star by 2018.

Sadly, in 2020, the profound effects of the Coronavirus pandemic forced the shutdown of all of Albert’s restaurants in Barcelona. Especially hard hit were those he co-owned with the Iglesias brothers, which even faced bankruptcy. The only survivor was Enigma, which he fully owned and decided to maintain. In the meantime, Adrià dedicated the confinement to writing in collaboration with David Gil. This partnership yielded Candy. Los postres de elBarri, a compendium of their best dessert masterpieces from the past decade, a must-read for dessert enthusiasts.

Rising from the pandemic’s ashes, Albert poured his heart, soul, and four million euros into Enigma’s resurrection. Before the pandemic he had envisioned himself retiring soon, but he was now back cooking eleven hours every day. During its first year in 2022, he experimented with the ‘fun dining’ model of Tickets at Enigma, earning back a Michelin star the very same year.

Yet, by March 2023, as the business grew more stable, Albert circled back to a more traditional concept of fine dining or haute cuisine. Albert’s current aim? To set the stage for a return to the golden standards of yesteryears. This drive is evident in the carefully designed menu and his renewed commitment to showcasing quality produce. By June, Enigma had already achieved the 82nd spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

1969Albert Adrià is born in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.
1985Albert joins elBulli, as an apprentice.
His interest shifts to pastry. He becomes the chef pâtissier of elBulli. During the winters he stages in Escribà, Torreblanca and Turull.
Ferrán Adrià had become the head chef of elBulli.
1988Stage in Paris with Guy Savoy.
1990elBulli is awarded two Michelin stars.
elBulli is awarded its third Michelin star.
Albert starts working full time on R&D on what would become elBulli’s workshop, elBullitaller.
1998Albert publishes his book Los postres de el Bulli.
2001Albert co-invents the spherification technique.
2002elBulli becomes the best restaurant in the world according to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants (also awarded from 2006 to 2009).
2003-2006Publication of elBulli catalogues.
2006Albert opens his first restaurant, Inopia, a tapas bar in Barcelona.
He publishes his second book, Natura.
Albert decides to quit elBulli.
2010Inopia closes, to focus on new projects.
Tickets and 41º Experience open, projects financed by the Iglesias brothers.
elBulli closes
Opening of Bodega 1900 and Pakta.
Tickets and 41º Experience get a Michelin star.
Publication of Tapas. La cocina del Tickets.
Albert joins the elBullifoundation board.
He opens Niño Viejo and Hoja Santa (the following year) with Paco Méndez.
41º Experience closes.
Pakta is given a Michelin star.
2015Declared ‘best pastry chef’ by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
2016Enigma opens.
Enigma is awarded a Michelin star.
Opening of Cakes & Bubbles in London.
Publication of Tickets Evolution.
2019Albert opens Mercado Little Spain in New York City with José Andrés.
2020The Coronavirus pandemic forces him to close all of his restaurants in Barcelona permanently.
2021Publication of Vegetales a todo color and Candy. Los postres de elBarri.
2022Reopening of Enigma, earning back its Michelin star.
2023Enigma reenters The World’s 50 Best Restaurants at position 82.

Adrià’s exploration of dining concepts

Since 2006 Barcelona has borne witness to all the culinary facets of Albert Adrià. It began with Inopia, a simple tapas bar that reflected Spain’s beloved casual dining. However, the ever-restless Adrià soon ventured into a cocktail bar, the 41º Experience. Here, he introduced cocktails and snacks inspired by and created in his days at elBulli. The theatrics of modernist or avant-garde cuisine came alive at Tickets, where haute cuisine tapas was showcased with an exuberant twist that Albert fondly dubbed as ‘fun dining’. Beyond Spanish food, the chef also explored Peruvian gastronomy at Pakta and Mexican flavors at Hoja Santa.

Yet, of all these ventures, Enigma, unveiled in 2016, was the most ambitious. It signified a resounding return to haute cuisine after elBulli’s shut down and the anticipation surrounding it was unmistakable. True to its name, Enigma offered more than a meal, it attempted to provide an slightly enigmatic experience. Guests received a code mere hours before their reservation, unlocking their secret culinary journey. To maintain the intrigue, diners were discouraged from posting about their visit online. The interiors, designed by RCR Architects — known for their work on Les Cols and Café Bras — would set the stage. The extensive 40-course menu was conceived as a journey through different spaces within the restaurant (La Cava, La Barra, La Planxa, Dinner and 41º), each complementing the respective servings with a more complex narrative.

During the unexpected challenges posed by the pandemic, Adrià’s collaboration with the Iglesias brothers was tested to the limit (see above). As a result, Adrià took on the role of Enigma’s sole patron. In a display of adaptability, in 2022 Albert blended Enigma’s fine dining philosophy with the playful model of Tickets.

While this approach worked, this concept seemed best suited for larger venues bustling with patrons and a larger team like Tickets. By March 2023, Enigma returned to its roots, offering a single tasting menu of 35 elaborations1 at 220 euros.

Enigma’s cuisine

In reopening the restaurant, Albert looked back to his past projects like elBulli to inspire the new menu and give it a head start. These tributes to his past will likely continue to be central until the research and development team becomes fully functional and funded, not an easy task in gastronomy. Nevertheless, in 2023 we can confidently say that Enigma 2.0 already has a well-defined identity.

There will be people that know me more, others less. Forget it all, today you will see the Albert Adrià of 2023.

Albert Adrià, Omnivore 2023

Today’s Enigma is a culmination of Adrià’s life experience into a concept that champions the global push for fresh and seasonal produce in fine dining. The chef brings attention to the painstaking care in handpicking these ingredients. Simply capturing the transition from the vibrant summer fruits to the hearty produce of autumn alone is a logistical feat. Creative gastronomic restaurants must adapt by frequently updating their suppliers and recalibrating recipes to the season. Achieving this, even with a team of 50, is a gargantuan task.

Yet, the genius of Enigma 2.0 lies in blending advanced techniques seamlessly with this produce-centric approach. While the dishes appear straightforward at first glance, they hide the complexity of the techniques employed. This philosophy aligns with other restaurants like Reale or Nerua in Bilbao, both known for their deceptive simplicity of dishes rich in technique.

This type of cuisine seems to find a balance or a synthesis of the Brassian movement’s admiration for nature and the innovative spirit of Spanish avant-garde. Perhaps the best description of Enigma comes from a conversation with the newspaper La Vanguardia: ‘I would like to have the rigour with the product of Etxebarri, the creativity of Mugaritz and the magic of elBulli. But so far I only have the magic of elBulli.’ Any diner at Enigma would attest that he has indeed married the best of these worlds.

In aesthetic terms, always opting for stark white plates, the attention is squarely on the food, unmarred by other designs. There is a natural beauty reminiscent of his Natura series in his dishes, but also a minimalist elegance that has echoes of Mugaritz. It’s not just about the visual appeal; careful thought goes into the positioning of each element on the plate, ensuring an optimal dining experience. Adrià often categorizes his dishes as either ‘finger food’ or ‘spoon dishes’. While in many Spanish contexts ‘spoon dishes’ might suggest soups or stews, for Adrià, it means any dish best enjoyed using a spoon.

The mysterious architecture of RCR

The restaurant, spread across 700m2, provides seating for 40 guests, with a strong backing of 50 staff members. Its design intentionally challenges conventional fine dining. Conceived originally as a multi-staged journey — comprising La Cava, La Barra, La Planxa, Dinner, and 41º —  it invited guests to advance through the different areas of the restaurant during the meal. However, by 2023, the primary focus shifted to the ‘Dinner’ section, leaving other areas out of the experience. Yet, the allure of the original design still resonates in its eclectic and captivating architecture.

RCR Architects’ design for Enigma brings the restaurant’s name to life with a sprawling, labyrinth-inspired plan. This layout artfully merges the distinctions between solid materials and open spaces, resulting in a fluid, organic rhythm. The play of shadows, transparencies, and a water-like haziness imbues the space with a mysterious allure.

The sintered stone flooring, adorned with enlarged watercolour imprints, seamlessly flows throughout, harmonising with the glass partitions reminiscent of frozen waterfalls. This ethereal feel is accentuated by custom-made resin furniture that exudes an otherworldly luminescence, all set beneath a celestial ceiling of woven stainless steel mesh, backlit to capture the ever-evolving mood of Adrià’s experimental courses. 

We wonder how this aesthetic will age with time? Is it timeless? Is it futuristic? It’s hard to define. For now, we are only sure it’s unique. Our small observation/complaint for RCR, while tables are comfortably spaced, as the dining room fills up it becomes noisy.

The service and the wine

Despite the closure of the restaurant, Albert has managed to hold onto his more experienced staff, with notable members like chef Oliver Peña, Rubén Zubiri, Albert Manso or sommelier and maître de salle Cristina Losada.

While Enigma no longer requires an entry code, a staff member at the door ensures a consistent experience for every guest. All guests are asked to wait outside until the previous party is seated. The entrance journey unfolds through a long sinuous corridor, leading to an open kitchen where the entire culinary brigade eagerly awaits to greet them. Following this hearty welcome, guests are ushered into the restaurant’s large central dining room, Dinner. Consistent with modern Spanish service, the attention is friendly and warm, never too formal. The restaurant relies heavily on demonstrations, with chefs often presenting the elaborations beside the diners to create a more seamless narrative during the meal.

The wine list showcased a variety of selections from emerging Spanish regions. This included Cava varieties like Colet Navazos, Rafael Palacios’ Godello, and more obvious offerings from Priorat, Rioja, and Ribera. With such an eclectic menu and the wine pairing feeling like it could be too much alcohol to keep our minds focused on the food, we chose a well aged and autolytic Sekt.

Koehler Ruprecht – Sekt Brut Riesling 2010
Nose:Very aromatic nose. Dominated by yellow pears, the nose also reveals its age through Thai basil notes. As it warms up, the yeasty profile becomes more apparent as biscuits and then brioche.
Palate:The attack is driven by those same pear notes, now combined with lemon. Racy wine, but well balanced in the dosage. The midpalate shows a lot of chalkiness that lingers all the way through the finish. The minerality is joined there with those biscuits aromas from the 10-year-old ageing in the lees. Very pretty. And what a price!
Structure:Very high acid, fine mousse, dry, mild astringency, medium alcohol, medium body.

The tasting menu in December

Despite Enigma was still maintaining its hybrid concept of fun dining and fine dining, our visit in December 2022 was showing signs that the tides were changing. Apart from the à la carte offering that Albert had been pushing, there was now a carte blanche option. Keen to experience the best of both worlds, we chose the so-called surprise menu and complemented it with a few à la carte choices.

The meal starts with a sphere of Earl Grey and a frozen lemon pill prepared right before our eyes. Achieving a thin alginate layer is indeed challenging; while a few spheres didn’t withstand the process, those served to us were impeccable. Inside each sphere was a frozen lemon pill, offering a burst of tea coupled with the cool sensation of lemon granita.

Attracted by elBulli’s legacy of cocktails we ordered a Kumquat Sour and a Margarita Lulada. Sadly, the latter of which, we found it to be very unbalanced.

We continued with a set of snacks that Adrià refers to as ‘ephimerals’. They can indeed be eaten in one or two bites. The Gelatina de mandarina verde y wasabi del Montseny immediately intrigued with its unusual pairing. The bright, citric notes of green mandarin jelly pleasantly meshed with the subtle kick of freshly grated wasabi. Designed to be eaten in one bite, the combination was both refreshing and harmonious.

Served alongside it, the Waffle de albahaca con crema de pistacho verde y sudachi presented a light-as-air basil waffle paired with a smooth pistachio cream and finished with a hint of sudachi zest. While the nutty richness of the pistachio is first to greet the palate, it’s the basil that subtly comes through as an aftertaste, providing a fresh, herbaceous touch. The sudachi zest lifted the ephimeral with brightness.

Described simply as a cocktail in solid state, the Nube nitro de sake y yuzu is a clever twist on traditional boundaries of food and drink that comes from ideas that started in elBulli. Using sake and yuzu, this dish has a texture reminiscent of frozen air. Albert Adrià explained the process behind this creation: starting as a cocktail in a syphon, it’s laid out on maltodextrin and then flipped to produce a thin film. To finish, it is briefly immersed in liquid nitrogen right in front of the diner. This results in a crisp outside and a soft inside, allowing guests to pick it up with their fingers for a single, refreshing bite.

The first non-ephimeral serving was the Ensalada de tomate de árbol y burrata de leche de soja, which showcased a new take on the Caprese salad that perfectly represents the new philosophy in Enigma: technique elevating produce. Their in-house soy milk burrata is a game-changer: it’s so creamy and flavourful that you’d be hard-pressed to realize it’s vegan. It bears a striking resemblance to the texture and taste of standard mozzarella, right down to the curdled pieces within. One can’t help but wonder about the techniques behind this soy-based wonder. Apparently this vegan burrata comes from Albert Adrià’s partnership with Julienne Bruno.

Accompanying the burrata is the tamarillo, often referred to as ‘tomatillo de árbol’. Traditionally consumed as juice due to its astringent skin, here it is skinned and diced. The fruit brings to the plate a mix of tomatillo tartness with aromas of tomato, along with a hint of cucumber-like freshness. A tomato sauce serves as the base, cleverly masking the distinction between tamarillo and regular tomato — a smart way to serve these flavours in December, off-season for tomatoes.

The Sopa gelatinizada de pollo y coco thai con erizo de mar (Thai chicken and coconut gelatinized soup with sea urchin) blends the old with the new, using elBulli’s love for serving food in cocktail glasses. Its texture is reminiscent of chawanmushi, but gets a creamy lift from the coconut milk base, striking a savoury balance that pairs wonderfully with the sea urchin roe on top. The addition of Thai herbs, especially a hint of Kaffir lime or lemongrass, adds a Southeast Asian touch to the experience. As Adrià mentions, the dish is an exploration of sea urchin’s flexibility in various recipes, seamlessly weaving together flavours of green curry chicken soup, coconut cream, and sea urchin roe. The result? A blend of intense yet well-balanced notes, ranging from spicy to sweet, all harmoniously working in tandem. One the best dishes of the meal.

Next came a Canapé con huevo frito de codorniz, crème fraiche ahumada y caviar, a nod to traditional dim sum, bringing to mind the familiar siu mai. Its crispy base provided a satisfying crunch, leading to the subtly smoky filling inside, enriched by the creamy quail egg yolk. Instead of the usual dim sum dough, this wrap has a firmer texture, more like bread, possibly due to a higher protein flour. The canapé, as advised, is best devoured in one bite.

The “Corazón” de níscalo curado en kombu con su licuado a la brasa y queso Galmesano is a showcase of both technique and the potential of its ingredients. The níscalo mushrooms, after a 24-hour marinade in kombu to add glutamic acid, are grilled to bring out their earthy essence. When served, the scent of the charred kombu is immediately noticeable, even if its taste remains a subtle background note. As we watched, a chef finishes the dish with Galician Galmesano cheese, Iberian jowl, and a rich mushroom sauce. By bringing the chefs to the dining room, the work and research done in the kitchen is easier to transmit.

Despite the common perception of rovellons (aka níscalo or saffron milk cap mushrooms) being more about texture than taste, this dish tells a different story. The concentrated sauce brings out the earthiness of the mushroom, proving that they can be flavour-packed. Accompanied with a serving of classic lean French bread, the dish offers a balanced, hearty experience.

Sobrasada de ventresca y lomo de atún sobre pan a la brasa con higos is intriguing, but did not convince us. Billed as a tuna tartar marinated in sobrasada fat, you’d expect a hint of pimentón, the signature note of sobrasada. Yet, that’s missing. Instead, the dish offers a strong and straightforward tuna flavour. While this showcases the quality of the tuna, it somewhat sidesteps the potential richness of its other components. The grilled bread has a hint of smokiness, though it’s slightly over-toasted, giving it a mild bitter edge. The addition of fig slices nods to Mallorca’s traditional sobrasada figada, but it doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the dish.

Albert shares that the dish draws from three main inspirations: the classic grilled tuna and sobrasada pairing, the fig-infused sobrasada from Mallorca, and the sea charcuteries by Ángel León.

The following elaboration, Concha fina con salsa de lulo brings another concept developed at elBulli, eating with tweezers. This would later spark their idea of using tweezers to plate dishes in the kitchen, now commonplace everywhere. The concha fina, or lluenta in Catalonia, is carefully prepared by briefly immersing it in boiling water within a sous vide bag, keeping all its juices. It’s then paired with a straightforward sauce crafted from lulo – a subtropical fruit in season in December that Adrià loves – highlighted by the fresh hints of cilantro and a touch of ají amarillo. Olive oil drops rounded out the dish, providing a subtle richness against the bright, citrusy backdrop. When all combined, it was a dish that reminded one of a clam ceviche (although this clam is cooked), cool and invigorating.

The Adrià brothers have always had a special leaning towards Italian cuisine, and Espaguetis helados de albahaca con consomé de tomate y lyomozarella seemed to continue this exploration. From the outset, a strong basil aroma signaled that this wasn’t your average spinach pasta, which often falls flat on flavour. The basil-infused noodles reminded one of certain springy Asian noodles, but with a distinct basil punch that stood out.

When you dipped these noodles into the accompanying cherry tomato consommé using the tweezers, the dish suddenly felt more like another take on a Caprese salad. It was a smart twist, a deconstruction with a touch of playfulness that made it memorable. These experiences can be as much about pleasure and discovery as they are about sophisticated technique. Despite its simplicity, the consommé was rich and flavour-packed. Just a quick dip of the pasta captured its essence, rendering each bite both refreshing and savoury.

We continued with the Emparedado de salmón ahumado elaborado en Enigma con su piel crujiente y crème fraîche de raifort, which immediately draws you in with its unmistakable aroma that took us to Scandinavia for a second. As the waiter detailed, this canapé featured a house-marinated salmon, cradled between its crisped-up skin, and paired with a crème fraîche of horseradish, and dill. The mild smokiness of the salmon stood out. The combination of crème fraîche and fresh dill grounded the dish in familiar tastes, but there was a pleasant surprise: a herb that brought a citrusy hint, adding a refreshing note.

The Sashimi de pescado del dia curado, salsa de pollo a la brasa y sus escamas crujientes is another elaboration meant to highlight a single ingredient. Thinly sliced red mullet (salmonete in Spanish) sashimi came garnished with bright touches of lemon and ginger, akin to the familiar Japanese gari. The unexpected addition of a gelatinous chicken broth added depth, melding with the citrus hints to strike a well-balanced mix of sweetness, citrus, and umami. The inclusion of crispy scales introduced a welcomed contrast to the sashimi‘s softness. Following the waiter’s suggestion to roll the sashimi with the tweezers and enjoy it in one bite provided the best experience.

The Guisantes del Maresme con filamentos de espardeñas y su piel crujiente con jugo de presa ibérica was a surf and turf. Swimming in a savoury broth, the lágrima peas, popped with a refreshing crunch – nature’s vegetal version of caviar. They were joined by the sea cucumbers, espardeñas, which brought a firm bite and a subtle sweetness that’s reminiscent of shrimp. Grilled in the robata, their texture was slightly crunchier than cod tripe. A highlight of the dish was the inclusion of the espardeñas skin—served like a pork crackling, turning what’s often wasted into a crunchy treat that carried with intensity the flavour of the sea.

The broth itself, with a whisper of cinnamon and perhaps five spice, enveloped the peas in warmth and depth. A hint of chilli on top added a gentle kick. All in all, the dish was a genuine nod to the Mediterranean, echoing the culinary ethos found in elBulli’s ‘El Sabor del Mediterráneo’.

An for anyone thinking the Adrià’s cuisine is all flair and technique, here comes another produce-driven elaboration – Presa ibérica madurada 5 días con anchoa del Cantábrico, pan con tomate y pimiento del padrón. The inviting aroma of pan con tomate set the stage, a true staple of Spanish fare. At the heart of the dish was the matured Iberian pork, cooked just right to a medium finish. On top rested a SanFilippo anchovy from Santoña, cured solely in salt. The anchovy, with its strong saltiness, brought out the best in the pork, another surf and turf combo. It’s worth noting, though, that the anchovy’s bold taste could dominate if one did not measure how much of it went into every bite. The side of grilled pimiento del padrón added a nice touch of smokiness. The pan con tomate, while flavourful, felt a bit dry, suggesting it might have sat out a tad too long before being served.

Transitioning from savoury to sweet courses, Pizza de Pâte a Choux como un Gougère con mousse de Gruyère, limón confitado y almendras was fun dining twist to what we would imagine would be a cheese course in a traditional French restaurant. Its base, inspired by the light pâte à choux, mirrored the texture of the French gougère. With a fragrant hint of Moroccan lemon zest, this pizza showcases a gentle Gruyère mousse and is topped with a sprinkle of almond powder and a touch of black pepper. Each element comes through distinctly, offering a bite that is both flavourful and balanced.

Beside it, the quince, cooked in an OCOO, offers a soft and intriguing texture, verging on ethereal. The resulting sauce from the quince juices in the OCOO is remarkable in its depth, reminiscent of a Pedro Jiménez reduction in its concentration and acidity. Impressive.

Drawing from the extensive archives of elBulli 1997, Crema de mango con granizado de chocolate blanco y caramelo de oliva negra arrived to our table with an touch of nostalgia. The dessert centred around a mango purée, likely Alfonso mango, which paired surprisingly well with the savoury twist of a salted Marchenica black olive caramel. The white chocolate, the texture of a light granita, added a refreshing touch. The magic truly unfolded when all elements – the salt, vibrant mango, the cold white chocolate, and robust umami of the black olive – merged in a single bite. One of the best uses of white chocolate that we have seen. Another example that elBulli was not solely about pioneering techniques. We would have loved to have been there in the summer of 1997.

In his pursuit of lighter desserts, Albert crafted the Tarta de mandarina verde, toffee de cardamomo verde y helado de avellana, reminiscent of the classic lemon tart with meringue. This tart boasts three harmonious layers: a fragile hazelnut praline feuillentine base, a rich green mandarin cream, and a light green mandarin foam. Albert’s secret to a lighter dessert was opting for inulin over sugar and reducing butter. The base of the tart was exceptionally thin and crispy. It fell apart alike pâte sablée. Atop, the mandarin curd was very flavourful and aromatic, while while the mandarin meringue was more on an acidic note. Its ultra light, jiggly texture was achieved by stabilizing the foam with gelatin.

Served alongside was a quenelle of hazelnut ice cream complemented by a cardamom caramel. The texture of the ice cream was very good, but not as remarkable as in Trivet. However, the ice cream and the caramel, with its sweet and spicy notes, played a substantial role in the dessert. The melange of flavours was unexpected and highly addictive. 

Another example of their experiments with the OCOO machine was Plátano envejecido, helado de piel de limón y praliné de cacahuete. The banana was cooked in the OCOO yielding a soft, slightly dehydrated texture of the fruit. While the banana lost its flavour, the liquid, which accumulated in OCOO, was rich and molasses-like. Accompanying this, they presented a lemon peel sorbet with impeccable texture and refreshing zest. Completing the ensemble, the peanut praline melded gracefully, harking back to the beloved banana and peanut butter combination.

As our experience neared its end, we were served Tarta de chocolate con lima y crocante de cacao. Albert Adrià boasted of it as the thinnest tart one can eat by hand, and we wholeheartedly concur. Our past favourite in the quest for the lightest chocolate was the tarte Ambrosie, a dish we even replicated. However, Adrià’s creation surpassed it. The base, easily mistaken for simple tempered chocolate, was an astonishingly thin and crisp chocolate croquant. Atop this lay a rich, fruity dark chocolate foam with pronounced stone fruit undertones. A dash of fresh lime zest added a refreshing citrus aroma to each bite. 

Bombón abierto al romero elegantly rounded out the meal as a petit four with an evocative nod to elBulli. It mirrored a chocolate bonbon from the 1997 season. At its core was a rosemary-infused truffle, enveloped by a gossamer layer of chocolate à la Pierre Gagnaire. The pairing of rosemary and this premium chocolate was excellent. In its centre, the elegantly placed strand of saffron was a clever idea. Completing the experience was a photograph of Albert and Ferrán Adrià from their iconic elBulli days, adding a personal touch and connecting diners to a nostalgic moment for Albert.


Even though the ‘surprise’ menu was still in a transitional period in the restaurant’s return towards fine dining, many dishes were already showcasing this Enigma 2.0 take on produce-driven cuisine. The sea urchin, the mushrooms, the peas, or the pork vividly exemplified this new direction. We were very impressed by the thought, creativity and precision we found in the desserts. David Gil and Albert Adrià make a remarkable duo in the pastry department.

The service is thoughtful, offering a good breakdown of the intricacies of the dishes without being overbearing. By bringing the chefs to the table to finish the plating, they can tune the level of detail in these explanations based on the customers’ interest .

This is a restaurant to which to come back and see the progress as they ramp up the quality. Knowing how creative Adrià is we cannot wait to see what he and his team will come up with.

  1. ‘Elaboration’ is a bullinian term that signifies the outcome of the cooking process. This can be an intermediate result, like a tomato sauce later used on pizza, or a final product meant for tasting, in this example – the pizza.

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