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COURSE #13 MIMETIC ALMOND
August 14, 2009 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Dinner at El Bulli: The Best Restaurant in the World. a comic book style guide with videos.
posted by boo_radley (45 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Is it Spanish food?"

"No, it's Martian food."

Fascinating.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:44 AM on August 14, 2009


From Wkipedia:

"As of April 2008 the restaurant employed 42 chefs."

Tens of thousands of years of cuisine, and the culmination is '42 chefs?' What was the question again?
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:49 AM on August 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


man, I wish I weren't such a picky eater sometimes. I bet everything they ate there was incredible, but 70% of that menu makes me nauseous just looking at it.
posted by shmegegge at 9:51 AM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Awesome. I am definitely not a gourmet, but I can appreciate it. I once enjoyed what I considered to be a ultra fancy shmancy dinner at French Laundry, but that doesn't compare. That looked like normal food compared to this stuff.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:54 AM on August 14, 2009


Bourdain on Bulli. (I thought this was 40 minute special but I can't find the whole thing on YouTube.)
posted by smackfu at 9:57 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. that is something. I wonder what wines they paired with all of that.

Me and various co-workers keep debating the value of such avant-gard food. They think it's a lot of execution and very little "soul." I think this is food and high art (or more like high fashion) intermixed. The techniques will slowly trickle down to more standard kitchens. Sous-vide is already becoming common in traditional kitchens. The "soul" of the food, well, that's in the eyes of the beholder...
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:58 AM on August 14, 2009


This is my idea of heaven. Food that makes you laugh and experience something new. The writer's quite funny too and has the exact tone I would have if I was sitting in his seat: amused wonderment and delight.
posted by slimepuppy at 10:06 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


shmegegge: "man, I wish I weren't such a picky eater sometimes. I bet everything they ate there was incredible, but 70% of that menu makes me nauseous just looking at it."

Be quite and eat your rabbit's ear. I think that the waitress asked them their preferences, and the meal was adjusted accordingly.
posted by boo_radley at 10:12 AM on August 14, 2009


I'm a big fan of food, and of cooking shows. I can tell you more about celebrity chefs than Hollywood celebrities, and I'd really like to be able to eat at El Bulli just to see what the fuss is about. And the cynic in me is inclined to dismiss people like Adria because dammit, it just seems like he's trying too hard. But I give him a pass because his food receives universal raves. It's not just interesting, from the reports -- it's delicious.

But all that said, I really hate hate hate what Adria has done (and others before him too, but right now he's the most famous), which is turn a restaurant experience into an amusement park experience that's really no different from that trip to Disneyland your parents saved up for when you were 11. "Don't forget to take along extra camera batteries! Hey, look, there's Ferran! Let's have our picture taken with him! Ooh, the spherical olive! I've heard so much about it!" could just as easily be "Don't forget to take along extra camera batteries! Oh, look, there's Mickey! Let's have our picture taken with him! Ooh, Pirates of the Carribean! I've heard so much about it!"

As independent and mavericky as Adria is made out to be, he's commodifying an experience. He's ruining things. There are scads of people now who approach a famous, potentially great meal not with the intent to enjoy it, but with the intent to blog about it. This is a tarnish that will take a long time to polish away.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:18 AM on August 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


Between this and the post below, I'm kind of wishing Apple never created the Comic Life application.
posted by piratebowling at 10:29 AM on August 14, 2009


Yes mudpuppie, god forbid people both enjoy and then write about their experiences.
posted by jon_kill at 10:29 AM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I seriously doubt that anyone tries to get reservations for a restaurant for FIVE YEARS solely with the intent to blog about it. More likely, they realize that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that they should document the experience as fully as possible for themselves. That they are sharing it with us, also, is joyous.

I'm not a very adventurous eater, so there were a few courses which I would personally find unappetizing. But the entire experience of being there, the completely stunning presentation of the food, it all looks like a marvelous adventure. I'm really pleased to have read this. Thanks so much!
posted by hippybear at 10:33 AM on August 14, 2009


That blogger is a member here, by the way. I'll let him know about this post and maybe he'll drop by.
posted by katie at 10:33 AM on August 14, 2009


The problem is that "the best restaurant in the world" doesn't scale. There are probably several millions, even tens of millions of people who would really, really like to have a chance to eat at "the best restaurant in the world", and who could afford to do so, at least once. It's not that expensive to get to Spain, nor would a thousand euro dinner bill deter many "foodies" from a once-in-a-lifetime experence. But El Bulli or Babbo or Per Se at 50 seats/night can't serve ten million customers, so a lot of people will never get the chance.

It's not so much commodification as it is a mass-media fantasy of exclusivity. It's hard to blame chefs for wanting to be famous, and thus run a sucessful business, but restaurants can only give that experience one customer at a time. It's an unfortunate collision between the human need for celebrity, on a world-scale, colliding with the realities of artisnal production.

So, I propose we sack the Food Network headquarters on general principles.
posted by bonehead at 10:35 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've also been trying to get reservations for five years but I haven't been as lucky as this guy. And every year my chances become more infintesimal.
posted by Falconetti at 10:35 AM on August 14, 2009


More likely, they realize that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that they should document the experience as fully as possible for themselves

Plus these are food bloggers, who would take a camera to Denny's just to document the experience. I don't see how El Bulli is distinct in any way.
posted by smackfu at 10:36 AM on August 14, 2009


I was annoyed by the comic presentation at first, I admit, but then I just kept reading, and it actually works quite well I think. Really captures the writer's excitement, which makes it a fun read.
posted by ericost at 10:36 AM on August 14, 2009


Falconetti: "I've also been trying to get reservations for five years but I haven't been as lucky as this guy. And every year my chances become more infintesimal."

I don't understand. Why can't you just make a reservation 5 years in advance? (I mean, yes, that sounds insane, but to my mind so does not being able to make one at all ever.) Are they simply refusing people out of hand? Or do they only do the reservations in blocks of one year and then they shut the books?
posted by shmegegge at 10:40 AM on August 14, 2009


Wow. There's foodies, and then there's foodies.
posted by yhbc at 10:46 AM on August 14, 2009


As independent and mavericky as Adria is made out to be, he's commodifying an experience.

Isn't that exactly what restaurants do?
posted by donovan at 10:47 AM on August 14, 2009


I think that the waitress asked them their preferences, and the meal was adjusted accordingly.

In describing the rabbit ear course, Adam mentions that they were asked if they were okay with eating offal.

The best thing about this read is that it's just so wonderfully unpretentious, unlike many writeups of El Bulli that I've seen. While getting a reservation El Bulli does confer upon you some very well-deserved bragging rights, Adam and Craig weren't the jaded type of foodie whose writing sounds like they're going to places such as French Laundry or El Bulli just to tick them off on their List Of Places I've Been And You Haven't. They went to have fun and they did, and they shared their fun and delight with us, and that's what I loved most about this whole thing.
posted by Spatch at 10:49 AM on August 14, 2009 [12 favorites]


shmegegge, Here's the issue, basically:
The restaurant has a limited season from April to October (December for at least 2009); bookings for the next year are taken on a single day after the closing of the current season. It accommodates only 8,000 diners a season, and gets more than two million requests.
They are closed a lot even during that limited season, 8 or 9 days a month. They could take reservations 5 years out, but that wouldn't really help things, since you probably couldn't get one of those reservations either. (Even though I'm a bit dubious about that two million requests.)
posted by smackfu at 10:50 AM on August 14, 2009


From mefi's own adrober!
posted by interrobang at 10:50 AM on August 14, 2009


Or do they only do the reservations in blocks of one year and then they shut the books?

That's probably it - that's what the French Laundry basically does, anyway.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:54 AM on August 14, 2009


I've eaten at Moto. We experienced a similar sense of wonderment at our many inventive courses. No passport or five year waiting period required.
posted by pinky at 10:58 AM on August 14, 2009


I think if I'd waited five years and traveled to Spain to eat the finest meal of life I'd be a little miffed sitting next to someone photographing, filming and recording their opinion on every dish.

But since that is not the case, I'm glad they did as it was great to read.
posted by theCroft at 11:10 AM on August 14, 2009


> The best thing about this read is that it's just so wonderfully unpretentious, unlike many writeups of El Bulli that I've seen. While getting a reservation El Bulli does confer upon you some very well-deserved bragging rights, Adam and Craig weren't the jaded type of foodie whose writing sounds like they're going to places such as French Laundry or El Bulli just to tick them off on their List Of Places I've Been And You Haven't. They went to have fun and they did, and they shared their fun and delight with us, and that's what I loved most about this whole thing.

Yes, that's how I felt too. I like a good restaurant myself, but I know I wouldn't get the thrill out of this place that these guys did (not to mention that no food experience would get me to go to that much trouble), and I'm satisfied getting it secondhand from this delightful post. Thanks!
posted by languagehat at 11:12 AM on August 14, 2009


Wow. This was crazy fun. I think I love these guys.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:30 AM on August 14, 2009


Thanks everyone for the link and the love! It was an honor to be linked on Metafilter.
posted by adrober at 11:35 AM on August 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ah, the Amateur Gourmet. I'm a bit of an amateur foodie, and used to read his blog daily, noting down tips for my occasional (but sadly now non-existent) trips to New York. Adam's very enthusiastic, and perhaps a bit too prolific for me, as I unsubscribed from his feed.

I did have a little Fat Duck fund that I unfortunately had to raid recently. Heston Blumenthal's cooking is deeply influenced by Adria, and it would be amazing if one day I could make the pilgrimage myself.

More power to you Adam! You're living the dream. PS take me with you next time!
posted by Magnakai at 11:43 AM on August 14, 2009


Hooray, Amateur Gourmet! I love Adam's blog and read it religiously -- especially for the picture-heavy restaurant reviews. Because let's face it, I am never going to make it to 99% of those places.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 12:55 PM on August 14, 2009


man, I wish I weren't such a picky eater sometimes.

Yeah, fish and I disagree, which kind of puts whole rafts of cooking off-limits.

The problem is that "the best restaurant in the world" doesn't scale.

In some ways that's a feature, not a bug. It means there's a huge number of artisans out there doing interesting stuff with food, and always opportunities for more to join them. Sure, it sucks if you want to visit a particular restaurant, but on the other hand, consider (say) the music industry, where you end up with a handful of people making big money churning out a narrow segment of the musical spectrum, and a bunch of people making nothing and getting ignored for their troubles.
posted by rodgerd at 12:55 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I blogged, but didn't photograph, my experience at DC's Minibar--3 chefs, 1 server, 6 diners, and 30-some courses. They take reservations one month in advance, but you'd better be on the phone the moment the reservation line opens.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:56 PM on August 14, 2009


OMG that was an amazing experience! Thanks so much boo for sharing it with us - the videos made me feel like I was almost there too. A once in a lifetime experience ~ WOW!
posted by garnetgirl at 1:54 PM on August 14, 2009


so much fun - thanks for the link!
posted by kanewai at 2:23 PM on August 14, 2009


I've read about El Bulli. Sounds like an outstanding dining experience. The primary question left in my mind (besides "when will I manage to get reservations?" since I have been unsuccessful to date) is whether El Bulli is almost as good as a double-double with grilled onions or only not as good but as good as food which is not a double-double with grilled onions can get.
posted by Justinian at 2:35 PM on August 14, 2009


Maybe I missed it, but does he mention how much this cost? I realize that cost isn't really an issue here but I'm curious.
posted by tommasz at 3:10 PM on August 14, 2009


Maybe I missed it, but does he mention how much this cost?

Michelin says 230€.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:29 PM on August 14, 2009


I believe it's up to about 250 euros now, which is something like $370 a person.
posted by Justinian at 3:39 PM on August 14, 2009


(note that the restaurant claims this price means they operate at a loss)
posted by Justinian at 3:39 PM on August 14, 2009


I believe it's up to about 250 euros now, which is something like $370 a person.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but that doesn't sound all that unreasonable, considering.
posted by tommasz at 4:12 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I misread the FPP. I was expecting a style guide for comic books, rather than a guide in a comic book style. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the ta-DAA! title was a real place, rather than a Daniel Clowes-esque parody of the very thing it is.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:58 PM on August 14, 2009


El Bulli is the only restaurant where I totally get why people throw in the towel and sigh at foodies and all the pretension of it, like I absolutely 100 percent see where they're coming from, but it makes no difference for once to me personally. As it stands lately it's the one Big Fat Famous Cultural Thing I'd give my eyeteeth to experience. And as languagehat and others mentioned above, this is the perfect write up of it, because it has a great lack of pretension or jadedness, just wonderment and down-to-earth enjoyment.

The evening I sat at the bookstore paging through the elBulli book, I confess I wound up with tears in my eyes. I hate how stupid and generically empty this sounds but it really is a kind of eye-opening art. Comprehending it stretches my brain and my notion of what can be done in life. Ferran Adria's sense of purpose and completely out-there, horizon-broadening beauty culled from the world's materials puts a lump in my naive little throat, I guess.
posted by ifjuly at 10:06 PM on August 14, 2009


What tommasz said. 400 bucks for a unique experience like that? 800 for the best date of your life?

I'm jealous. Partly because Spain is such a wonderful place, even if you can't get into Bulli.
posted by bardic at 2:07 AM on August 15, 2009


course #15 is meant to look like a smushed frog, right?
posted by BaxterG4 at 3:22 PM on August 15, 2009


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