Fresh Pine Nut
Ginger & Flowers
Shiso Leafs with Grapefruit
Frozen Caviar with Yogurt Whey
Jonquil & Avocado
Blini Cannelloni with Smoked Cream and Fish Roe
Squid with Soya
Espardenya with Kalix
Abalone in Sherry Sauce
Tucupi with Pequi Oil and Pumpkin Gnocchi
Acid Razor Clam
Lemon and Seaweed
Anchovies and Earl Grey
Wild Pigeon with Peach and Black Currant
Terrine in Escabeche Sauce
Pigeon Skin and Olive
Eel, Aubergine and Black Sauce
Mirror of Daikon
Rabbit Brain and Walnut
Chocolate, Hazelnut and Passion Fruit
Cherry, Elderflower, Black Sesame
Potato Millefeuille, White Coffee Ice Cream and Vanilla
Strawberry, Miso and Yuzu
The Pearl / The Watermelon
Dried Peach / Panloton
Mato Yogurt / Popcorn Bon Bon
To say the food world got a little bit excited when Albert Adria finally opened Enigma Concept earlier this year would be an understatement, he and brother Ferran’s most ambitious project since El Bulli long shrouded in secrets and made all the more mysterious by an early no-photos policy and a reservation system that seemed fairly arbitrary…at least until two seats at 14h15 on a Saturday appeared while randomly browsing the website at lunch some 13 weeks prior.
Divided into a series of five “Enigmas” and accessible only via gate-code provided via E-mail after booking, the sprawling space built from the ground up as a crystalline catacomb with opaque resin dividing one room from next, it was minutes after the assigned time that entry was granted after passing by the largely unmarked entrance more than once on foot in the rain, the meal’s other guest found waiting in a sort of foyer with staff quick to escort both patrons to the second Enigma after a wet umbrella and jacket were checked, plus a few welcoming snacks.
Seating just 24-diners at a time, the majority spaced from other tables by at least four-meters in the primary Enigma while others are intermittently escorted to two additional chambers featuring a standing Cocktail Bar called La Barra and a sit-down grill and flattop station dubbed La Plantxa, it was after settling into comfortable custom-made chairs that beverage selections were confirmed and with one opting for pairings while the other stuck with water the meal resumed, a crisp Shiso Leaf topped in frozen and fresh Grapefruit cells continuing a theme started in the lounge with the concentrated flavors of Fruit, Herbs and Flowers.
Tallying 49 individual plates or glasses over the course of four hours, many less than a mouthful but all of it adding up to quite a bit of Food and Beverage served in an “eat first, discover the ingredients later” manner, it was quickly after the Leaf that an icy Wafer of Coconut was presented prior to sliced Kumquat dried between sheets of Kombu, La Barra now ready for more guests and beginning with a single drop of Vermouth concentrated 1/1000 intended to be licked off the hand and followed by three drink and bite pairings including a boozy Pink Slush made with Sake that worked particularly well with the accompanying Parmesan Sphere.
Passing through the kitchen en route back to the table, a team of at least twelve working the multi-stationed area where most of the meal is prepared, it was again shortly after seating that a bowl of “Frozen Caviar” not unlike Dippin’ Dots arrived, the Cube from Tickets next served as a sheet of Nori topped in Golden Fish Eggs with the palate soon brought back to neutral by un-roasted Pistachios and a slightly bitter cloud of Avocado and Daffodils served next to a cold Soup perfumed with herbal Oils.
Again playing off a Tickets dish with Summer “Stew,” the peeled late-season Tomatoes here given a lot more intensity by way of Mushroom Powder and vibrant Gazpacho that tasted like Fresh Peas and Basil, it was again that the flow was changed as guests were invited to La Plantxa, an area said to be a highlight for many immediately proving to be just that with the presentation of a Buckwheat Sponge piped with smoked Cream and topped by nearly two-dozen Salmon Eggs.
Watching each dish created from beginning to end at the Grill, a nearly thirty-minute experience featuring mostly Shellfish including a particularly stunning sustainable young Abalone in Sherry and the Animal’s Liquor, it was with Cheese cooked on the griddle and wrapped around Brioche that guests were returned once again to Enigma #2, the soup of Brazilian Roots and Nuts with tender Pumpkin Dumplings unlike anything tasted prior with up-front sweetness and a funky Cheese-like finish that was unexpected as opposed to unpleasant.
Serving several dishes on wire mesh similar to the luminescent ceiling, though most are offered on crisp white China to focus both diners and cameras on the eye-popping colors and textures, item 28 was served in a monochromatic fashion with tender Razor Clams beneath white Cream, Olive and Orange Peel, the follow-up titled “Lemon and Seaweed” featuring both flavors prominently with a Wood Ant also contributing its formic acid and a bit of texture.
Working in arcs of flavor, the frequent shifts from savory to sweet and salty to sour likely familiar to those who had the opportunity to visit El Bulli or fans of Grant Achatz’s work at Alinea, it was picking up on the residual Umami of the Seaweed that a Foam and Cream construct of Anchovies and Earl Grey Tea surprisingly worked, the deep-fried Sea Anemone to follow every bit as gooey and briny as those prior but a good lead in to a three-part Pigeon presentation starting with the Breast and progressing to an Offal Meatball in aromatic Sauce before finishing with a small morsel of crispy Skin.
Continuously impressing with Sauces, the Black Currant, Peach and Pan Jus served atop Pigeon Breast encouraged to be sopped up with a slice of Housemade Sourdough, it was beneath a velvety veil of Fermented Beans that Eel and Eggplant were served before cleansing the palate with a semi-solid Radish, the bitterness mellowed by Wasabi and a touch of salt but still a nice bridge to the savory Walnut Sauce served with creamy Rabbit Brain.
Failing slightly in the transition to sweets, those ordering the pairing expectedly given a new Wine but those not doing so left to make the jump from Offal to Chocolate all on their own, it was avoiding the Passion Fruit Gel that Dessert one tasted largely like Nutella before moving onto a more logical palate cleanser of Icy Columbian Fruit followed by Cherries in Black Sesame Meringue, a curvy Potato Mille-feuille finishing things strongly before guests were invited next door to finish in the transported 41° Cocktail Lounge Enigma.
At this point just-over 210-minutes in, the transition from elegant dining room to a dimly-lit Bar at almost 18h00 somewhat disjointed but apparently enjoyable to many as more than half of the afternoon’s diners sat around chatting and enjoying addition Cocktails, it was with yet another pastry Chef creating dishes in an open work-area that eight more bites were offered, the Peach Marshmallow, Popcorn Truffle and Panko-fried Nougat “Dragon Egg” all quite good but at the same time also perhaps better incorporated into the actual dining-room experience.
No doubt a future Michelin Star and “World’s Best” list member, the ambition already admirable and execution only likely to improve with time, Albert Adria has suggested in the past that Enigma would “reinvent the way we go to restaurants” and although it is still too early to know whether he will be successful in that quest there is no doubt that the Restaurant is already a reservation worth the effort.