The meal that requires more than one blog post. I wrote about our surreal dining experience at El Celler De Can Roca. But, I wanted to dive more into the menu items, for the true food lovers out there. Here is a recap of the over 30 different courses and bites we had during our 4 hour Can Roca menu.
We chose the Feast Menu, with about 15 named courses. The other alternative is a tasting of their classic menu. The tasting menu is about 7 courses, where you have a choice for two of the courses. Of course, we went all in.
And, I did the best I could with photos considering the lighting, and I did not want to disturb diners nearby. Bear with me.
The Can Roca Menu: Snacks
We started with The World, a paper lantern, ceremoniously untied at the table, and opened to reveal 5 bites reminiscent of flavors from all over the globe. In this case, our world included:
From Thailand, Thai chicken, with coriander, coconut, curry, and lime
From Japan, miso cream with nyinyonyaki, the Can Roca version of a fried, breaded snack
From Turkey, focaccia with lamb, yogurt, cucumber, onions, and mint
From Peru, a Causa limeña, or a potato based bite with avocado
From Korea, a panko fried bread, with bacon, soy sauce, kimchi, and sesame oil
The next snack was a Can Roca-themed diorama, with black of white photos of each Roca brother when they were young. This presentation is called “Memories of a bar in the suburbs of Girona, a reference perhaps to the family’s traditional restaurant, just around the corner from El Celler de Can Roca. The three dimensional diorama held another 5 little snack bites, including:
Breaded squid, which was topped with a crunchiness, reminiscent of a squid served a la Romana, or fried similar to a calamari
Pork kidneys with Sherry, in a packaging that could have been a peanut. The kidneys had a nutty, earthy flavor
Campari bonbon, which I could have eaten a dozen of, was a cool explosion of Campari liquor, which we were warned to eat in one bite
Montse’s meat cannelloni, with Parmigiano Reggiano, named after the matriarch of the Roca family
Pigeon parfait, with an intense cream liquor
The ocean came next, with a brightly colored starfish, served on a plank, alongside a large silver coral shaped serving apparatus, seemingly growing up from the table. The starfish was unlike anything I’d eaten before and can only be described as tasting of the sea.
The glittering silver coral included two different tapas. First, a mussel served escabeche style, which is a common fish presentation along the Mediterranean. Escabeche is normally fish prepared in vinegar, and often colored with peppers or saffron. In this case, it was slightly less acidic, and prepared in an Albarinho wine from Galicia. But, it reminded me of boquerones, also served in tangy vinegar.
Alongside the mussel was an octopus from nearby Maresme, cooked with peas. This is a very traditional Catalan dish as well.
These last two tapas, again, are very traditional dishes in Catalunya. One of the best things to eat alongside a cold vermouth is a vinegary, almost pickled mussel. Octopus and peas is often served with pork, or black sausage. I continued to enjoy the use of local ingredients to make a very traditional dish, but in an entirely new way.
After our tour of the sea, we enjoyed the famous Can Roca olive tree. On the menu, it reads “green olive ice cream.” But, they were hard frozen ice cream, flavored and shaped like olives, and then hung delicately on a olive tree. Each olive came on a tiny silver spike, engraved with the Roca brothers signature “R” with three feet, one for each brother. Each olive offered an explosion (a word I kept using while dining at Can Roca) of cool olive flavor. In this case, it was the sorbet palate cleanser of the Can Roca snack menu.
Our final two snacks in included a truffled brioche, and a St. George’s mushroom bonbon. In this case, the tiny bonbon was hidden under a green moss. The bonbon was shaped like a mushroom and tasted like a mushroom, but was not exactly a mushroom. Instead, it had the consistency of chocolate.
Truffled brioche, made with summer truffle, and prepared in an Asian dumpling steamer. Again, I could have eaten a dozen of the truffled brioche. They were light and creamy. It tasted like warm comfort . . . with truffle.
The Can Roca Menu: Fish
Being a menu born out of the Costa Brava, there were a lot of fish courses on the menu.
We started with white asparagus with ice cream, elderflower foam, and dried apricot, although not as beautiful as many of the other courses, being a white on white dish. The asparagus was tasty, and in season.
The opposite to the white asparagus dis, the flower of onion (from nearby Figures) was visually stunning. It was served with comte cheese, with walnuts, walnut bread, and curry-caramelized walnuts. I really do not like onions, but I devoured every bit of onion before me.
This was a contemporary version of a French onion soup, with onions served in a strong cheese soup. This dish paired with a Manzanilla wine, a strong, unfiltered wine to offset the cheese and onion.
Next came oyster with fennel sauce, black garlic, apple, seaweed, truffles, and lemon. In this case, a single oyster was sliced into 5 parts, each served differently. The oyster itself was tender, and tasted like the sea.
Langoustine with sagebrush, vanilla oil, and rose butter. The butter was so creamy, it tasted like a butter cookie. I practically licked the bowl clean.
Mackerel with tempeh of “ganxet” beans, fermented beans from nearby Garrotxa. Each bean is fermented a different length of time, from 1 to 4 weeks. The darker the bean on the plate, the longer it was fermented. The goal is to eat the beans from light to dark. The mackerel itself looked like a beautiful shimmering snake skin. The mackerel combined with the white beans is a very Catalan inspired dish. Although, the fermented bean also gave it an Asian-inspired flavor, similar to a miso.
Palamos red prawn marinated with rice vinegar, in prawn’s head sauce, with crispy prawn legs, seaweed volute, and phytoplankton brioche. The Palamos prawn is a DOP, or a registered product from Costa Brava. Again, the flavors of this dish were very “of the sea.”
Cuttlefish with sake lees, black rice sauce, and fermented rice. The cuttlefish was essentially stuffed with the lees, or the residual yeast resulting from the fermentation process. The lees came from a sake actually made in Catalunya, in Lleida, from rice that has been polished in Japan. Although, the dish was served with a Japanese sake.
Turbot with vegetables fermented in brine. This was the only disappointing dish of the entire 30 courses. The fish was prepared well, as were the vegetables. It was disappointing only in its, well, “normalness.” It just seemed out of place with the creativity of all of the other courses.
The Can Roca Menu: Meat
The meat courses started with a slow-cooked Iberian suckling pig, with a salad of green papaya, Thai grapefruit, apple, coriander, chili pepper, lime, and cashew. Essentially Iberian pork, with a Thai twist. The dish exuded flavors of Spain, Thailand, and even Hong Kong.
Next, lamb four ways. Charcoal grilled lamb consommé, with lamb’s tongue, vinaigrette and lamb scratching with lamb brain and tripe. Essentially different parts, and different preparations, all of lamb, and each entirely earthy. The brains? Smoky and creamy, and downright delicious.
The final meat course. Pigeon civet and its parfait, stewed in wine and spices, along with a slow-cooked pigeon breast, and pigeon foie gras. Beautifully prepared, like artwork on the plate, as if the pigeons themselves were flying through the air.
The Can Roca Menu: Desserts
Rainy forrest, distillate water, carob cookie, fir tree dust, ice cream of anise, wormwood, fennel, and fir tree and fir tree granita. Yes, it looked, and in some ways, tasted like the forrest. When the distillate water was poured in, it created a crystal which stood up straight in air.
Orange colorology, made only with orange colored products, even including beetroot and carrot. One of the more beautiful desserts, served on a decadent golden hued plate.
We needed to break open the orb, to reveal the little bits of orange inside.
The final dessert from the tasting menu was the Cuban cigar box, including chocolate with milk, whisky, vanilla, dried plum, tobacco leaf, and cocoa. This course was paired not only with a sweet wine, but also with a Panamanian coffee.
Then, the dessert cart wheeled by, reminding me of a circus carnival. We choose a couple different bites, and when we wanted a few more, even after 30 courses, our server happily complied.
The El Celler de Can Roca Wine Pairing Menu
During our snacks, essentially the 16 starter courses before heading into the main menu, we enjoyed the a few glasses of cava from nearby Penedes. The remaining 15 or so courses were each served with a wine selected by Josep Roca, and served by our sommelier for the evening, Robert. For the winophiles out there, here are the wines we tasted as part of the wine pairing menu.
James Vernillon 2015 A.O.C. Condrieu
Manzanilla en Rama Barbiana D.O. Sanlucar de Barrameda
Contraaparede 2012 D.O. Rias Baixas
Regnard Grand Premier Cru Montee de Tonnerre 2000 A.O.C. Chablis
Cosmic Valentia 2016 Agullana, Emporda
Heymann-Lowenstein Uhlen L 2012 Magnum VDP Mosel
Sake Katsyama Den
Domaine Valette Tradition 2012 AO.C. Pouilly Fuisse
El Reventon 2013 VT Castilla y Leon
La Rioja Alta 904 Gran reserva 1997 D.O.Ca Rioja
Corullon 2000 D.O. Bierzo
Maximin Grunhauser Abtsberg Spatlese 2010 VDP Mosel
Matias y Torres 2012 Malvasia D.O. La Palma
El Boquete variedad Geisha
What I enjoyed most about the Can Roca wine pairing menu was the inclusion of many Spanish wines, as well as sneaking in an Emporda bottle too! For me, it was worth the price to try so many wines I never would have tried before. How often do we sit down to drink a 20 year old Rioja, or a 17 year old French Chablis. And, they stuck a unique sake in there as well!
The Details on Can Roca
The Feast Menu at Can Roca is €205. The wine pairing menu is €90. That means a full Can Roca experience is about €300 per person. The classic tasting menu is €180, and €55 for the wine pairing. The price difference between the two menus is not extreme. My advice: go for the Can Roca Feast Menu!
El Celler de Can Roca is located on Can Sunyer, 48, just outside of the city center of Girona, about 90 minutes outside of Barcelona. Reservations required, months and months in advanced!
For more on Ferran Adria and his legacy in Catalunya and around the world, read Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food, available on Amazon.
For more on Joan Roca and his contemporary Catalan cuisine, read El Celler De Can Roca, available on Amazon.