Archive for the ‘El Capote’ Category

The beginning of summer heralds tuna from the Atlantic to make their way to the warmer spawning grounds of the Mediterranean.  As they swim along the western coastline of Southern Spain to cross through the Straits of Gibraltar they become ensnared in a maze of nets – the subsequent slaughter; Almadraba is an age old tradition practised in fishing villages from Conil to Tarifa since Phoenician times.

This method of catching tuna preserves the integrity of the animal’s meat which makes it as soft as butter to eat – hence why it is such a delicacy.

And if slicing this tuna and eating it sashimi style was not delicious enough, Chef Lede at El Capote, showcased 9 exquisite dishes to celebrate this glorious fish.

Atún de la Almadraba

The ideology behind a lot of the food served at these evenings is to challenge your culinary practices – anyone can cook a tuna steak – but can you think outside the box and create something different and innovative that is still a flavoursome tuna dish?

Once again Chef Lede pushed boundaries and broke culinary norms.  There was still an element of Asian influence in some of Chef Lede’s approaches; for example tuna sashimi sprayed with a mist of soya vinaigrette served with an intense spicy tomato relish.  Simple, clean but beautiful.  Or the decadent tuna tataki served with ajo blanco, kimchi and sushi sauce which I have to say was absolutely divine; my favourite dish.

The evening’s entertainment started with Chef Lede going round each table and assembling the first dish of Chicharrones de Atún (Tuna Scratchings) directly onto the centre of the table.  The tuna scratchings were delicious; salty, crispy and puffed in every bite, served with puffed corn crisps on a bed of fried breadcrumbs spiced with pimentón and olive oil caviar.  The creativity in this dish got everyone talking and buzzing with excitement as to what might be coming next.

The next dish was a subtle but savoury macaroon filled with smoked tuna and Manchego cheese.  At first bite the sweetness of the macaroon came through and some people were put off by this – however I found that the sweetness was very subtle and balanced the seasoning well.  I enjoyed this idea but would have liked it served warmer; I thought it could be an excellent dinner party starter – even though as delicate as macaroons are, one would be enough.

I had tried the following ‘tomatillo’ at Calentita where Chef Lede cooked at the Live Kitchen but there were some changes to the execution of this for the better.  Tomatillos de salmorejo con mojama, falsa tierra de migas y polvo de aceitunas (Salmorejo ‘tomatoes’ with salt cured tuna, served on a bed of breadcrumbs and black olive powder).  At Calentita the salmorejo was frozen almost slush-like and very cold; this time round the salmorejo was at room temperature and seductively oozed out of the tomato-shell and mingled with the mojama and the savoury breadcrumb and black olive rubble.  A delicious mouthful.

Tunafest Tuna TartareTuna and green apple tartare served on avocado and lime puree with scorched kimchi sauce was met with mixed reviews.  I personally would have liked the tuna to be minced further and the apple itself being less dominant in the dish – a quick grating of green apple might have achieved this.  I tend to like tartare dishes to have an almost vinegary tang to them and this was achieved mainly from the kimchi sauce rather than the apples themselves – perhaps the apples were not acidic enough?  Maybe some diced cornichons (which are normally served with steak tartare) might have given a more acidic note to the dish.  This however is purely a matter of opinion as the dish was well executed and the theatre of Chef Lede blow torching his way around El Capote was an added bonus.

Michelin starred peasant food at its best!

Callos de Atún followed and this really stumped everyone.  The magic behind this dish was in the fish sausage that was present in slices throughout the dish.  Not just adding flavour that you would normally associate with callos but texture.  The pescetarians as our table were very confused as to whether they would eat it or not and even started picking out the pieces of tuna sausage; however, once reassured that there was no meat in any of the dishes they dived back in, scraping the bowl and wanting more!

 

Ventresa de atún (tuna belly) served with ‘onion rings’ was another piece of theatre as there were two stocks.  The first being the
solid rings of stock placed on the dish, the other served hot in shot glasses where each guest needed to pour over the stock over their dish, melting the ‘onion rings’ and warming the slightly cooked dish.

Tuna belly also known as fatty tuna is the most succulent and flavoursome part of the fish and is seen as a delicacy in Japan.

Galete de atún guisado como un rabo de toro Andaluza surprised me with its rich and intense flavours.  I am assuming that the flesh at the tail end of the tuna was used for this dish and not necessarily that the dish was cooked as you would prepare oxtail; either pressure cooking or slow cooking for many hours.

The 9 tuna dishes presented to us were of a very high standard and each one delicious in its own right.  I felt that this year Chef Lede and Ian managed the serving of courses much better than they did at their previous tuna event and it is very impressive to think that in little old El Capote 320 plates were served over the course of the evening to an appreciative crowd.

Dessert will remain unmentioned as there was no tuna in it!

If there is anyone who would have liked to have attended a tuna inspired evening as above, let myself or El Capote know as there are only a few more weeks available of Atún de la Almadraba.

Tuna that cuts like butter!

 

 

 

mayday18I normally arrive at these evenings a good half hour before kick-off and almost form part of the welcoming committee at the door.  However, this time around, I was probably one of the last to arrive.  As I turned the corner into Market Lane it was exciting to see the natural evolution that El Capote’s Food and Wine Evenings have taken.  A team of waitresses and Ian himself were circulating round the crowds serving glasses of beer to everyone with the occasional top up for those of thirsty disposition.  Enjoying the Spring evening we greeted eachother but it was interesting to note that out of a regular clientele of 30 people on these special evenings, only approximately 6 of us were part of the original crowd.  Speaking to Ian about this later he mentioned that all his allocated covers had been snapped up within the hour on sending out the invitation email; hence many regulars had been left out!

Good food, good wine, good company

Once we were all present, Ian invited us into El Capote where we took our places around bar tables; there was to be no seating tonight.  And we were quickly thrust into the tantalising delights the evening would have us experience.

Paper cones of beetroot crisps, potato crisps and spiced cashew nuts were handed out to everyone whilst the first course was prepared.

Tantalising delights the evening would have us experience

Glasses of a silky, kimchi broth were handed out to everyone with slices of red grape as well as sea urchin roe – huevas de erizo – hidden at the bottom.  If the sea urchin wasn’t surprise enough there were also bits of popping candy, crackling away.  This glass was a delicate breath of the sea.  I was however unsure as to the temperature of the dish.  The idea of a broth would indicate that it would be a warm dish but it was served lukewarm.  Was this to prevent the sea urchin from cooking in the residual heat?  Was it due to the time it took to plate up the dish?  Either way – around our bar table we came to the consensus that perhaps chilled it would have also been delicious.  We happily sipped away diving for the sumptuous sea urchin flesh so as not to waste a single morsel.

Next came a palate-cleansing cocktail made with elderflower cordial, Prosecco and a mint leaf.  Bright, fresh, bubbly and dangerously quaffable!  Whilst we sipped upon these we were asked to play a game to determine a winner from each table.  Some of us are still trying to get to grips as to how to play the game!

The winners from each table won a golden nugget of pure decadence – milhojas de foie y queso de cabra covered in gold leaf.  The rest of us were presented with the wooden spoon version of these milhojas (mille feuille).  Ours was not covered in gold leaf but delicious nonetheless.  The golden winners were treated to sheer indulgence.  With both versions there was accompanying jam/membrillo and hazelnut rubble adding sweetness and a texture to the finished dish.  Absolutely divine.

Golden nuggets of pure decadence

Our next dish was a carabinero prawn with its rich, red flesh and crunchy legs; served on a bed of braised chard (acelgas) and un ajo negro.  Simple, delicious but complex in flavour.  Carabinero prawns have a more distinct and robust flavour compared to a shrimp or prawn which can generally be very bland.  Accompanying the carabinero with the almost creamy chard was a beautiful concept.  It did however need another dimension in flavour brought by the ajo negro.  Black garlic, originally used in Asian Cuisine is a type of caramelised garlic that has been cooked for several hours at a low heat and this cooking brings out sweet, syrupy tones with bitter hints of balsamic vinegar and even tamarind.  Another texture made this dish sing; crispy carabinero prawn legs.  This dish was clean in flavours as well as delicious – I kept trying to cut the carabinero into tiny pieces so that I could make it last longer!

Papas con Choco a La Chef Lede was perhaps the most homely of the dishes.  When I was asked by Chef Lede which my favourite dish was I mentioned another dish but this one was sumptuous and comforting and thinking about it retrospectively was perhaps my actual favourite.

Papas con Choco is a typical dish of the region of Andalucía – in its simplest terms, a cuttlefish and potato stew with peas.  However, Chef Lede took this traditional dish and created it in his inimitable manner using gastronomic deconstructive ideology.

Imagine a baked potato that had been partially scooped out and filled with the cooked cuttlefish, turned upside down and sitting in a rich, flavoursome, fish stock (probably made using the heads of the carabineros in the previous dish!) and served with a salty, fishy foam on the side.  Beautiful.

The following dish – Thai meatball with green apple and prawn – was probably the most true to El Capote.  What do I mean by this?  Well, El Capote is a tapas bar and this skewer of meatball, prawn and green apple, could easily form part of their regular menu.  I believe so much in the success of this combination that I would highly encourage Ian to add it to their menu – even if just a tapa of thai meatballs without the prawn and apple – as it was the thai flavourings (lemongrass/lime/chilli) that really came through.

There were elements of the following dishes that I liked, disliked or did not understand.

Chocobon con crema de maiz y maiz frito – a small chocolate, rice and apple ball – almost as if intended to be a sweet Italian arancini (rice ball) served with a custard and toasted corn.  This dish did not appeal to me as much as others did due to the fact that I found the texture of the actual chocolate ball somewhat grainy and the overall flavour was that of toasted corn.  I enjoy churruca (toasted corn) as much as anyone else but it was too dominant a flavour.

I can only but apologise to Lede

mayday12Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and UMAMI (the fifth taste literally translated from Japanese as ‘pleasant savoury taste’ I think Brits would refer to it as being moreish) was heralded as a 5 taste sensation.  Sadly for me I was lost in translation with this dish – which I got the impression from Ian and Chef Lede – was meant to be El Capote’s flagship dish of the evening.  I can only but apologise to Chef Lede; I ate the whole lot and it was not pleasant.  Vinegar was the main taste I picked up from the dish.  It wasn’t until we spoke to Lede later on that he explained to us that we should have picked flavour combinations within the dish to eat and NOT the whole thing – DOH!

If food comes with instructions, follow them, they are there for a reason!

 

Two sumptuous deserts followed – one seasonal and fruity, the other a sharp clean taste.

A summery, strawberry gazpacho made with a strawberry confit (slow cooked strawberries) and fresh strawberries.  Followed by a deconstructed mojito.  A little almond cookie sitting in lemon juice and topped with soda water; finished with a refreshing mint granita.  Clean, sharp but beautiful.

No vulgarity, no excess

When I think back over the years to these El Capote evenings, the bar of fine dining has really been raised.  It started off with Ian plying everyone with loads of wine and mountains of food; gradually this changed to the event of today.  The mountains of food have been replaced by delicacies designed to tease your taste buds.  Chef Lede’s skills in the kitchen have transported us from humble El Capote, Gibraltar, to gastronomic heights parallel to restaurants such as Calima (Danny García) DiverXO (David Muñoz) and The Fat Duck (Heston Blumenthal).

Ian, through Lede, is educating us about good food.  Good food that has been prepared with the best ingredients, skill and finesse.  There is no vulgarity.  There is no excess.  There are no chips on the side.  If there would be chips they would be gold plated Maris Pipers sat in potato air!

Good food, good wine, good company!

There is always a buzz of excitement and anticipation at El Capote’s food and wine evenings.  The regulars know the format of the evening, but it is always great to hear Ian remind us all (as if we need validation) that it is an evening of, “Great food, great wine and great company!”

Chef Lede, a very talented chef who uses techniques in molecular gastronomy made famous by chefs such as Ferran Adrià at elBulli and Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck, creates tantalising and imaginative dishes that play with your mind and leave you wanting more.  Each dish a work of gastronomic art – 30 identical looking covers per course is no mean feat when catering for a group of people let alone when presenting a 13 course menú degustación!

13 courses X 30 covers = 390 dishes

But for me it’s not just about the taste; it’s the theatrical performance that Lede with his assistants execute for us as they plate up; it is delicious to watch!

“Great Food, Great Wine, Great Company”

The 13 course taster menu comprised three sections all involving seasonal produce with most of the key ingredients sourced from the Campo Area.

The Menu

  • Ajoblanco de Naranja
  • Naranja-Bacon
  • Esferas de payoyo con tostas de hierbas y polvo de ibérico
  • Bollo de huevo con jamón ibérico de bellota

Snack marino

  • Flash cooking de gamba blanca de huelva con yuzu y sesamo
  • Carabinero con especias en su fondo marino con huevas de su americana
  • Papas con choco: Raviolis de Wonton rellenos de guiso de choco, crema de patata, caviar de guisantes y aire de mar

Snack terrestre

  • Falso tomate de Foie, garrapiñados y reducción de Pedro Ximenez
  • Steak tartare de solomillo de ternera con anguilas ahumadas y nieve de Foie
  • Homenaje al cerdo ibérico (3 dishes): Carrilleras con panceta de cerdo, caldo texturizado de jamón, migas y chicharrones aéreos
  • Sopa fria de chocolate blanco, frutos rojas y granizado de mora

Where I would normally go through the menu and describe each dish, there were far to many to describe in detail – however, I have been informed by Ian that Chef Lede is going to be repeating the menu with one major change: At the Christmas Special we were treated to different Sherrys to match the food.  Not everyone’s favourite tipple!  This meant that we couldn’t quaff throughout the meals but more especially the intermissions.  So wines will be available for those of you interested in going.

My favourites were: the Bollo de huevo con jamón ibérico de bellota, Carabinero con especias en su fondo marino con huevas de su americana and el Homenaje al cerdo ibérico (3 dishes): Carrilleras con panceta de cerdo, caldo texturizado de jamón, migas y chicharrones aéreos.

In future – if I were to have the Homenaje al cerdo ibérico – I think it would be more effective to have the three constituent parts on the same plate to truly appreciate the deconstructive nature of molecular gastronomy. However I am aware of of kitchen constraints and why this was executed as so.

If anyone is tempted by any of these dishes, or if the thought of having a test tube shot appeals to you, then I recommend you get yourself down to El Capote when they next advertise as they tend to fill up places fast!

This time round El Capote surprised us by holding its food and wine event on a Saturday! Children were sent to their grandparents’ houses and the old faithfuls treated their partners to a fantastic night at El Capote.

Not being allowed in before 9pm opening time, we congregated on Market Lane wondering what delicacies were to be sampled forthwith.

Everyone waited in anticipation…

good food, good wine, good company

We started off the evening with a beautiful Cappuccino de Foie. Having previously tasted this on a previous occasion I was very appreciative to see it on the menu again as it was one of my favourite dishes served on these evenings. So much so that I firmly believe that this dish could make its way onto their regular menu.

20131019-115059.jpgOur next treat was a lamb and grape meatball which was delicious but it was the presentation that did it for me. Like something out of a science Lab we were instructed to squeeze the soy sauce pipette into the lamb meatball. And without cutlery there was nothing to be done but pick up the meatball on the pipette and drop it into your mouth as you squeezed. The sweet succulent lamb and sweet juicy grape doused in salty soy sauce was delicious. I could have feasted on a bowl of these!!

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Following this was a delicious light gazpacho which we felt was more like a salmorejo as it was so smooth and silky. Poured over the sea scented meat of some juicy muscles, gently sprinkled by some micro herbs for a crunchy, floral back note to the gazpacho. A delicate dish. The only thing that annoyed me was that the square bowls it was served in made it difficult to scoop any dregs of gazpacho left behind!

20131019-123318.jpgAnother gorgeous dish was the fillet of bass (ròbalo) served on a salad of soya beans, cubes of mojama, seasoned with yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit used to season dishes) and dressed with an infusion of baby prawns (camarones). The mojama adding intense saltiness to the otherwise bland fish broth created by the camarones. Each mouthful bursting with citrus notes cutting through the fish. Every mouthful was exquisite.

What would have complimented this dish well would have been some tortillitas de camarones – as served in El Faro, Cadiz.

The last of the savoury dishes was an oxtail and shiitake empanadilla served on a wave of creamed ras-el-hanout potatoes. The aromatic spices in the potatoes working beautifully with richness of the oxtail and shiitake mushrooms. The empanadillas had been steamed which is traditional when using this type of pastry for dim-sum, however, as the potatoes were creamed I felt the textures here were too similar; the dish needed an extra texture and perhaps either deep frying them or even cooking them as Japanese gyoza (first fried in a pan until the bottoms are golden and then steaming them) would have provided this something extra.

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I say all this having thoroughly enjoyed the dish and fully aware that having to fry something would have been time consuming and an extra task to have to be done in an already extremely busy kitchen and considering the amount of other jobs that had to be done to create this evening’s menu.

My favourite dish of the evening followed. And even though I’m not one to have to end a meal (or 6 course dinner!) with a sweet this one did it for me. Rice pudding, enticingly referred to as Risotto de Arroz con leche with a twist, was a seductively sublime dish. As it arrived at the table my immediate thoughts were that it was very pretty with its pink decorations and fruit – absolutely beautiful.

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Freeze dried raspberries crushed over to add colour, texture and flavour. And topped with a cloud of raspberry flavoured candy floss!  Each spoonful was a voluptuous sweet dream, everyone at my table was silent as we feasted; frequent sounds of instant gratification coming from all over the room…

…Mmmm…que bueno…ooooh….delicious…mmmmm…

I can imagine that had people been eating this in the comfort of their own homes they would have been licking the bowl with greedy abandon.  It was absolutely delicious.

Nothing more to add other than what a beautiful dish to end what was another great evening of good food, good wine and good company.

After the first full moon of May as the Spring turns to Summer the Spanish coastal towns from Tarifa to Conil watch in the splendour of Blue-fin tuna making their way from the cold Atlantic waters to warmer Mediterranean spawning grounds.

Their streamlined bodies having packed on blubber during the winter months make these massive Blue-fin tuna a mighty catch. Most are frozen and shipped to Japan at a hefty price but some are destined for the restaurants that line the south west coast of Andalusia and even make their way as far south as El Capote (Gibraltar)!

With plenty of newcomers to El Capote’s food and wine matching evenings, Ian and Chef Lede set out a fantastic menu to herald this fantastic fish. And may I say, what a treat was in store for us!

9 different fresh tuna courses. Tostas, Mojama, Brocheta, Sashimi, Tartar, Tataki, Galete, Lomo, Albondiga!

A modo de Tapas

  • Tostas de Atún en manteca colorá de citricos y polvo de ibérico

Fresh tuna sitting on a toasted tortilla spread with lard that had been mixed with the zest and juice of an orange to cut through the fatty fish. Served with tiny pieces of cured Spanish ham which added a necessary salty intensity to the tuna. Beautiful.

  • Salmorejo cordobés con Mojama de Atún y huevos de codorniz

This dish was delicious – sweet salmorejo that had cured meat and boiled egg served with. However, instead of cured jamón; mojama (cured tuna). The mojama cube adding salty seasoning to the intensely sweet salmorejo topped with a boiled quail’s egg. Simple and wonderful in one bite!  And then finish the bowl of sweet, silky salmorejo.  We had a competition on our table to see who could get their bowl the cleanest – if my memory (after all that wine) serves me correctly the winner was Owen – as I cheated and used my finger!  Finger-licking-good!!

  • Brocheta de Atún con espuma de soja

Tuna, wrapped in nori (maki roll) with pearled rice and fried.  Served with a little wasabi sauce and soya cream.  Originally meant to be a tempura dish, however some of the diners expressed the need for some dishes to be gluten-free.  Therefore Ian with Chef Lede redesigned the finish to this dish so that it would still have the same structure with crispy pieces to provide contrast in texture.  Just as tasty and gluten-free.

A modo de Japo-Andaluz

  • Tartar de Atún, condimentos y mezclum de hierbas con nieve de manzana

A very light and delicate balance of flavours in this dish. The tuna tartar was sublime – accompanied by a tangle of zesty-green, fresh leaves. I was watching Chef Lede’s assistant add the green apple ‘snow’ to the dish; a workman should never blame his tools but the ‘snow’ was snowballing onto the plate as opposed to his anticipated light flutter. He did try to clear some of the snow-flurry off but his fingers literally ploughed through the delicate tartar! Perhaps creating an apple sorbet or freeze-drying the apple shavings previously would have created the desired effect. However, I loved this dish, I thought it would make a great light lunch or even a starter at a dinner party – fantastic.

  • Sashimi de ventresca de Atún con helado de Wasabi y vinagreta de Yuzu

Tuna belly sashimi. Wasabi ice-cream. Yuzu vinaigrette. Sounds simple – but this dish got me very excited! The wasabi ice-cream sitting on top of the sashimi was such a clever touch to what was already a gorgeous dish. Tuna belly is a prized ingredient in sushi and sashimi – sometimes referred to as the ‘king of ingredients’ due to its rich, fatty flavour. The yuzu, a kind of japanese citrus fruit, with its aromatic, almost floral flavour provided a an acidic backnote to cut through the fatty tuna – absolutely delicious.

  • Tataki de lomo negro de Atún con su ajoblanco – ajonegro

Tuna tenderloin of dark meat sitting on ajoblanco (aka white gazpacho: almonds, garlic, bread, water, oil and vinegar). The tenderloin was meaty and served in slices showing us the quality of the meat. Seared on the outside and quiveringly rare in the centre. The ajoblanco with its caviar and balsamic notes providing necessary tang and to what was otherwise a sublime dish.

beautiful, tasty, fantastic, absolutely delicious, sublime

I didn’t eat the ajonegro as the idea of bitter burnt garlic didn’t appeal to me – but then again was I meant to? And this is what I absolutely love about eating at El Capote on these evenings – it’s not just fuel consumption but a multisensory experience where diner must look, touch, smell, taste, think before taking the culinary plunge.

A modo de guisos de toda la vida pero a mi manera

  • Lomo blanco de Atún en tomate con su pellejito

Tenderloin of white meat in a tomato sauce. Again another winner. We’ve all had tuna in tomato before. I used to have tuna in tomato with pasta as a student but never as good at this! It goes to show how the quality of the product is what Mediterranean cooking is all about – simple dishes where the product sets the standard for excellence.

  • Patata de feria, Galete de Atún con papas en su papel de plata

“I’m sorry everyone but the next dish went a bit wrong. The foil paper that the potato is cooked in has stuck to the jacket skin – you’re going to have to peel it off but the inside is delicious!”

Was the voice of Ian as he served us up the next dish. With regulars heckling the man demanding a discount and newcomers trying to explain to their fellow diners that everything had been fantastic so far so they had no problem with this, the Patatas arrived at the table. A hush descended on the room…

…very clever. The foil was edible silver leaf! Cutting through the potato revealed flaked tuna (reminiscent of El Huerto De Lede). The potato sat in a light broth adding seasoning and flavour to the whole dish.

  • Albóndiga de Atún encebollado

By now most of us couldn’t have thought of how else tuna was going to be served and then suddenly we were given a massive tuna meatball each! However, a delicious tuna meatball. An absolute shame that as we cut into the tuna meatball none of the eggs were runny as this would have been impressive on the eye but the flavour was still there. Delicious.

The entire evening’s menu degustacion of tuna dish upon tuna dish was deliriously excellent.  However, if I have to pick the dish that was my favourite of the night it has to be the Tuna Tataki con su ajoblanco/ajonegro.

dessert

As a little bonus, we were given a dessert that wasn’t on the menu: pinenuts, vanilla ice-cream and basil sauce served with a parmesan melt.  Fresh and zingy – an excellent way to liven the palate after the rich dishes we had just been given the pleasure to share with eachother.

What’s next?  It’s surely got to be El Capote’s Greatest Hits.  I know which ones would make my top 5 – which are yours?

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I can’t wait for Ian to either email me or send me a text message letting me know about the next food and wine matching event at El Capote.

Talking to Ian about the direction the events are now going in, he admitted that they are no longer food and wine matching evenings where the wine flows from beginning to end and the amount of food leaves you feeling stuffed.

El Capote is performing food theatre; Chef Lede assisted by Ian prep all the dishes infront of their diners.  Subsequently, quality and the way the food is being presented calls for greater finesse in the diner; dishes where quality not quantity is key.  Simply, the food is the focus of the evening.  The wine is there just to accompany the food.  And once again, Chef Lede created some amazing dishes to tantalise our taste-buds and minds.

No Szechuan button to cleanse palates this time nor copious amounts of Prosecco to make everyone incredibly happy to be there!

3 Maki Sushi El Capote

IMG_2525Armed with breadsticks and chopsticks we were presented to the first dish of the evening. 3 maki sushi rolls in the style of El Capote.

Ian explained to us that they needed to be eaten in a specific order:

1) Hurta a la roteña wrapped in nori, 2) Apple confit with foie wrapped in jamón de bellotas to be eaten with salty breadsticks, 3) Sobrasada de caballa served with honey.  Everyone had their favourite but the one that I enjoyed the most was the third one.  The spicy nature of the sobrasada drizzled with sweet honey, that was almost augmented by the saltiness of the breadsticks of the previous maki roll, was very well put together.  Wrapped in pastry for crunch and topped with pine nuts.  Leaving a slightly warm and spicy sensation in the mouth.

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Minestrone de verduras, chicharrones y una bombón de queso payoyo

A very light, clear broth with cubed vegetables.  The addition of the chicharrones ‘pork scratchings’ added a necessary saltiness to the dish as well as providing another dimension of texture and flavour.  However, it was the Payoyo cheese flavour bomb that made this dish so beautiful.  Looking like a mini buffalo mozzarella floating in the middle of the minestrone, the artisan queso payoyo was rich and flavoursome as it exploded in my mouth.  Some diners broke the cheese into their broth whereas I ate it whole!  The dish was beautifully presented with micro-flowers decorating the cheese and the dish.

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Salmonetes hasta las espinas!

Now this dish had me intrigued from the minute that Ian sent me the menu.  This was literally a deconstructed red mullet served on a beautiful herb and lime risotto.  The magic of this dish for me was in the execution.  Whilst we were dining on the Minestrone soup, Chef Lede proceeded to cook the herb and lime risotto.

Like something that Top Cat might consider fine dining, the mullet was served in three ways.  Salmonete tempura which was crispy on the outside and soft and flaky in the middle served with a pear mayo.  A cured fillet of red mullet which had been marinated in soy, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar was served with its roe.  The salty, fishy roe cutting through the marinade.  Finally, the deep fried fish bones which whilst initially frightening disintegrated in the mouth with every bite.  I found it funny that whilst we were all willing to eat the entire spine no-one wanted to eat the tail!  This hurdle was quickly overcome.  The herb and lime risotto was creamy yet nutty.  Its lime tang helping to cut through the richness of the dish.  Flavours and textures balanced and complimentary.

Top Cat would have been impressed – I know I was!

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Rib-eye steak, marinated in miso and honey, served on a white chickpea puree with olives of goat’s cheese and Perdro Ximenez sherry

Chef Lede plated up each houmous swirl looking identical to the next.  He then delicately lay 3 slices of marinated, rare rib eye steak on top of the puree.  There was an earthy sweetness to the dish so far..  This was off set by the olives of goat’s cheese.  The ‘olives’ marinated in perdro ximenez sherry added a tang to the dish.  The miso in the marinade seasoned the steak.  The steak cut with a single slice and disintegrated with every bite – beautiful.

IMG_2557Avocado and Lime Mousse

What a simple but amazing combination.  The avocado providing a great base to carry this dessert.  The lime, as well as keeping the avocado vivid green, providing a citrus tang that could not have been achieved with any other citrus fruit.  Served over pineapple, but actually this could have been served over other fruits too.  One diner at the table mentioned that they felt the addition of fennel added a subtle aniseed flavour that they could taste coming through, whilst another made the comment that they did not normally like avocado but the combination of the avocado and lime over pineapple was delicious.

There are times when you want to eat loads, down an OK bottle of wine and waddle to your car and feel that you’d had a great meal.  The reality is that when dining out we should be thinking about quality not necessarily quantity.  As far as Gibraltar is concerned, only El Capote is raising the bar and thinking about food in this way .

I urge you to book yourself in for the next one.

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IMG_2474If I were to tell you that I ate delicate flowers, thai basil and soy air at El Capote you’d probably mistake me (and El Capote) for eco-hemp-hippies.  And I too thought that I’d left my best tie-dyed muslin t-shirt at home when I read things like ‘aire de soya‘ on the menu!

But I could not have been more wrong.

Delicate, subtle dishes – executed with finesse but packed with flavour and exciting on the eye.

When writing about El Capote I tend to write about both the food and wine.  On this occasion, however, I am only going to focus on the food as this was the point of the evening.  And with seven dishes that we were treated to, I am only going to write about those that created the biggest impression at my table.

As Ian stood in the threshold to El Capote we were made to wait outside; each of us eagerly anticipating promised wonders.  Peeking around him we could see the converted interior with its black and white table cloths, wine and sherry glasses on tables.  Classy.

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Heeding previous comments, upon arrival we were given a glass of Prossecco and asked to take our seats where there were banana crisps and cashew nuts for us to nibble on whilst we waited.

If they had not been advertised as banana crisps I would have assumed they were ordinary potato crisps.  They were sliced thin and very crispy and salty.  The cashew nuts coated in a spicy Japanese seasoning called Shichimi Togarashi which were incredibly moreish.

Whilst we ploughed our way through these snacks Ian explained to us the vision he was trying to create at El Capote with the help from Chef Lede.

Inspired by Chef Ferran Adrià, Head Chef at El Bulli, they created a ‘nouvelle cuisine’ menu where ingredients were transformed and textures, temperatures or forms were modified.  This approach to cooking being one where deconstructed, a dish would preserve its essence but its appearance would be radically different from the original.  Nothing is what it seems.

“You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland”

IMG_2427Our first step into this culinary experience was to cleanse our palates.  And in the style of the evening – a lemon sorbet would have been too mundane – we were handed a green bud to chew.  Nothing unusual about a bud, I hear you say, but this was no ordinary bud.  It was a Szechuan button.

Like something out of The Matrix, we were coaxed into putting this green, inoffensive bud into our mouths.  At first,  a very grassy taste which is then followed by a tingling and numbing sensation which I can only describe as having a 9V battery on your tongue.  Then salivation, and, finally a fresh, clean finish.  The bubbles of Prossecco felt like mini explosions on my tongue.

Cappuccino of Foie with Port and Parmesan Foam

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With tingling mouths no one knew what to expect next as the espresso cups were set down infront of each each of us.

Guided by Ian to take a bold scoop we plunged our spoons into the billowy parmesan foam making sure to scrape from the bottom and were rewarded by a delicate and dreamy foie mousse.  The parmesan foam, another of Adrià’s culinary innovations where the main ingredient is mixed in a syphon bottle with N2O cartridges and compressed, was subtle and complemented the foie deliciously.  But scraping the bottom ensured that we got a nuance of sweet port, reminiscent of caramelised onions, that finished the dish off beautifully.  Absolutely sublime and my favourite dish if the evening.

El Huerto de Lede

huertoA picture on a plate.

A solitary potato growing in soil with asparagus and flowers growing out of the soil.  The only thing this dish needed was Spring’s blue sky and sunshine!

Let me deconstruct this dish so that you can fully appreciate the talent and artistry of Chef Lede.

Beneath the soil is a potato puree.  The soil is actually created from a mushroom rubble.  At first I thought that this was freeze dried however I am not sure about this.

The young asparagus and flowers can be seen growing around the potato.

But the surprise was that as you cut into the potato it was stuffed with ox tail in its own jous!  At our table we all agreed that we felt that this dish could have done with either a sprinkling of salt over the top of the potato or greater seasoning in the puree as it was quite bland, especially after the strong flavours and excitement of previous dishes.

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Merluza wrapped in Aonori, served with red curry, almejas de Carril, olive oil caviar and topped with aire de soya

This was another visual treat as well as a beautifully flavoured dish.  The hake, meaty in texture was well supported by the red curry.  Its flavour was just there and even the wimpiest of spice eaters could have managed this very delicate balance of flavours.  The soya air and the olive oil caviar which having researched this was another of Chef Adrià’s innovations, giving the dish texture.

Both Ian and Chef Lede should be congratulated on what was a truly special night.  We were not just fed but each dish was so precise in its execution and the high standard remained consistent throughout.  It was an experience not just dinner.

Chef Ferran Adrià would be very proud of what has been achieved at El Capote, Gibraltar.

I am already excited about the next one.