Delicate, minimalist fare from Spanish chef with a botanist’s eye
When El Bulli closed its doors in 2011, fans of Spanish techno-emotional cuisine may well have mourned the passing of a great, but there was a ready-made replacement waiting in the wings in the form of Quique Dacosta. Tweezers in hand, the Extremaduran chef behind this eponymous restaurant has been changing perceptions of the Costa Blanca, one minimalist plate at a time, ever since taking over a family restaurant called El Poblet in the quiet seaside town of Dénia in 1999.
Certainly the rarified fare served up in his slick eatery – often only amounting to two or three meticulously prepared ingredients – is far removed from the all-day breakfasts found along the coast. Instead, Dacosta paints an all-together different portrait of the region, employing a botanist’s eye for local flora that he incorporates into a selection of tasting menus, stretching to some 30 dishes and beyond.
Tobacco leaf and toro, for example, sees sashimi-style slices of tuna belly served on a bed of smoked, caramelized kelp – micro herbs and onions rings offsetting the fattiness of the fish.
At times he’s playful – Mary is a delightfully deconstructed Bloody Mary meringue with a liquid centre – at others wilfully minimal, but the one constant is a commitment to a multi-sensory experience where style and substance are balanced in unison.
Images: Susana Martinez, Pelut i Pelat