Montjai – Salt Air, Patron Silver, Lime, Merlet, Agave Mix
Agua Fresca – Raspberry, Lime, Rosemary
Pastor Margarita – Pork Jowl Wash, Patron Silver, Pineapple, Lime, Jalapeno, Coriander Air
Red Pepper Buñuelo, Radish, Avocado
Hibiscus, Orange, Tequila / Pickled Baby Vegetables
Cornbread, Chia, Coffee Caviar
Plantain Dough Empanada, Beans, Hoja Santa Veracruz
Lamb Cheek Barbacoa, Corn Jicara
Ugly Tomato from Tudela, Pico de Gallo Foam, Raspberry
Eat an Egg
King Oyster Mushroom Noodles, Three Chili Sauce
Suckling Pig Black Recado Infladita
Mole-de-Olla Taco, Brisket
Encacahuatado Mole, Matured Squab
Suckling Lamb Barbecue Queretaro
“Taco Trump” Suckling Pig, Pickled Onions, Cracklings, Green Salsa
Semi Sphere of Lychee, Mango, Coriander, Lemon Thyme Oil, Maracuya
Smoked Corn Ice Cream, Cajeta, Praline of Roasted Corn and Coffee, Chocolate Truffles
Cacao Ecosystem, Sweet Mole, Chocolate Sorbet, Fermented Plum, Dry Corn, Cocoa Meringue
Cocoa Cookies / Fermented Plum Juice / Beet Meringue / Cocoa, Peanut Sponge
Opened by Albert Adria at the end of 2014, a Michelin Star soon to follow and continuously held through the 2017 Guide, Hoja Santa was built out of the Chef’s love of Mexico and the diversity of its cuisine, a trip to Oaxaca and the capitol shortly after the closing of El Bulli reconnecting him with Paco Méndez who helped open the space and remains Chef de Cuisine at both Hoja Santa and the more casual Niño Viejo today.
Booked several weeks in advance, the day after Tickets and one before Enigma Concept creating a back-to-back-to-back Adria trifecta closing out seven days in Barcelona, it was with one other that a bit of time was spent browsing nearby shops before making good on a reservation moments after doors unlocked at 18h30, a concert at Razzmatazz at 21h00 making the tasting menu a tight fit and thus necessitating an fifteen plate and three drink order served in a somewhat expedited fashion a la carte.
In many ways a ‘theme restaurant,’ Albert’s comments from several years prior about a “Gastronomic Disneyland” ringing true in Epcot-fashion as the lengthy Restaurant features everything from lizards in Luchador masks to bathrooms decorated in Loteria cards, it was with a seat directly in front of the Pass that guests were seated quickly on entry, a young man fluent in English understanding the time constraints and doing an excellent job to keep the pace moving throughout the night.
Playing traditional Mexican Music overhead as the restaurant quickly filled to near-capacity, guests of all ages and ethnicities seen with smiles on their faces as plates no larger than those at Tickets were presented with a high-degree of showmanship combined with complex layers of taste and texture, it was in a complimentary Red Pepper Buñuelo made with the same mold as a Dessert at Tickets that the meal got underway, the combination of Guacamole and thinly sliced Radishes helping to quell the heat just a small bowl of Hibiscus and Orange-infused Tequila did for a plate of spicy Pickled Vegetables quick to follow.
At this point served a first round of drinks, the made-to-order Agua Fresca of Raspberry with a twist of Lime and sprig of Rosemary well-composed and refreshing while the Montjai Margherita was a lighter take on tradition with the ‘salt air’ replacing a garnished rim, it was here again that a form from Tickets was replicated by way of Spongecake “Cornbread” topped in Chia and Espresso Pearls, the flavor reminiscent of sweet Mole while the follow-up was a fairly simple fried snack of Beans, Greens and Plantains.
Next offering up Lamb Cheek Barbacoa in a Corn crisp intended to represent a traditional Mexican service vessel, everything about the smoky and supple Meat on par with what can be found in Mexico, it was onward to a dish simply called “Ugly Tomato” that dinner marched on, the thin slices of an Heirloom varietal floating on a cloud of Pico de Gallo Foam and topped with frozen spheres of Raspberry truly brilliant in terms of taste, texture and temperature.
Invited next to “Eat an Egg,” the purpose of this dish difficult to understand as it simply presented separated Yolk and White converted into a pair or bland powders, it was with another Margarita in hand that two crispy Black Dumplings stuffed with Pulled Pork were presented, this another great dish thanks to the roasted Protein’s quality and all the better when enjoyed next to the Cocktail with up-front sweetness and a savory finish thanks to the inclusion of smoked Pork Fat and Jalapeno.
Riffing next on ‘noodles’ with thin strips of braised King Oyster Mushrooms in Egg Yolk and Spicy Chili Sauce, the texture very much like al dente Fettuccine but the woodsy flavor of Mushroom quite evident even amidst the heat, it was here that the first of two Tacos were presented with a generous slice of aged Beef Brisket and baby Vegetables on a housemade Corn Tortilla, the other served later from a tableside cart titled “Taco Trump” and featuring Suckling Pig with plenty of crackling Skin and Pickled Onions.
Continuing with tableside preparations, the €45.20 Squab and €33.90 Baby Lamb cooked in Clay both far more expensive when ordered a la carte than when averaged out as part of the tasting, suffice it to say that Chef Méndez and his team keep up the fine work with proteins for both courses with the former rich and funky atop Mole that would make Enrique Olvera proud while the later is meal in itself with enough Citrus-tinged Meat and Pickles to make approximately four Tacos.
Requesting an order of mixed Fruit Ceviche as a palate cleanser, bright acidity and a touch of Basil Oil helping to mellow the Melon while still allowing spheres of mixed Berries to come across sour and strong, it was with an igloo of Lychee-Ice covering sliced mango, Coriander and Passion Fruit that Dessert got started, most of this dish left for the other person at the table as the Maracuya predictably overwhelmed all but edges.
Happier with both the Smoked Corn Ice Cream with Caramel and Chocolate as well as the “Cacao Ecosystem” featuring the aromatics of Mole alongside Milk Chocolate Sorbet and a flavor not unlike Meade, it was with the €267.20 bill in hand that four more treats were presented, the tiny Cocoa Cookies and Fermented Plum Juice almost a continuation of the Ecosystem while both the Beet Meringue and Adria-signature microwave “Sponge” were light in mass but mighty in flavor.