I visited the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum in July and had lunch in the restaurant. It is a restaurant much acclaimed and I was quite curious to see, smell, and taste the food.
The Chef is Josean Martínez Alija, a disciple of Martín Berasategui’s.
Before lunch, I had the opportunity to visit the brilliant exhibition of works by the Spanish Artist Juan Munoz.
Back in the restaurant, I opted for the gastronomic menu with the rather overwhelming title “Creation, Freedom and Tendencies”.
Having in mind that this is a title more suitable for a Ph.D. in Philosophy, I waited for the amuse bouche.
It turned out to be “tempura” peppers, which I liked very much. They were sweet, tender and very fresh.
The first dish of the menu was “Stewed tapioca pearls”. I was told that this is a simulation of a traditional Basque dish which has humbler ingredients. The dish was perfect, the pearls had absorbed the flavours of the stew and I had the sense of the pearls exploding in my mouth, releasing their flavours. Imaginative and pleasing.
The “Roasted red endives” followed. This was a “minimal” dish and I have mixed feelings about it. I like endives, but at the end of the day an endive by itself is not the most pleasing dish. Although it was full of flavour, this was not enough to constitue a dish in a gastronomic menu.
Another roasted vegetable was next: “Roasted aubergine flavoured with “makil goxo”. I have the same comments as in the endives dish. Yes, the aubergine was very tender and juicy, but there was no complexity of flavours, no synthesis worth mentioning.
The next dish was also roasted: “Roasted fish of the day”. The “minimalism” of the previous dishes continued with the hake. A good piece of fresh fish is not a gastronomic dish.
The last dish was the “Iberian pork stew”, and it was a very good stew. But only a stew.
All in all, I was rather diappointed. In my view gastronomy requires synthesis of ingredients, tastes (and traditions in some cases), an abstract concept is not enough.