The Washington Post has an article today on the world-renowned elBulli restaurant, located two hours north of Barcelona. The chef is amazing gastronomically, but the way the food lands on the plate is equally amazing.
The artworks to be found there one evening this summer included a pair of fried rabbit ears, a plate of embryonic pine nuts and a Styrofoam box filled with “Parmesan air,” a frozen foam so light you could barely feel it on your tongue. In a more rococo mode, there were also translucent Parmesan pouches filled with squirmy, briny sea anemones, which sat alongside cubes of oyster, which lay beside a fresh, very bitter kumquat, which was set between several tiny rabbit brains, more like custard than meat.
Two years ago, organizers of the ultra-prestigious Documenta art festival in Kassel, Germany, declared one two-person table at elBulli to be an off-site exhibition venue, with Ferran Adria’s food as its art and free trips there for a lucky handful of art lovers.
Museums are recognizing his brilliance. And we all know that restaurants in America are on the bandwagon as well. One of Adria’s former employees has opened a restaurant in DC which touts the “Philly cheesesteak” and a radical “guacamole” — avocado wrapped around a tomato-cilantro sorbet — which are more like pop art than real street foods. “We don’t want to feed people,” explains Adria, “we only want to have a conversation.”
A conversation. Yes, art is conversation. And emotion:
Adria says he likes it when raw, creative gestures pile up and even clash in his cuisine, so that each one provokes an instant, very different “animal reaction.”
Isn’t this exactly the gutteral element that Damien Hirsch is looking for?