- Rating: 17.5/20
- Address: Avinguda del Paral-lel, 164, 08015 Barcelona
- Phone:+34 696 592 571
- Price per pax: ~€200 ($270 at 1 EUR = 1.35 USD)
- Value: 2.5/5
- Dining time: 190 minutes
- Chef: Oliver Peña
- Style: Cosmopolitan
- Michelin Stars: 1
* 41 Degrees has closed, the concept is to be reworked. Therefore the following review of 41 Degrees circa June 2014 will primarily be of historical interest.
We have had many conversations where he discussed upcoming projects and plans for the future but things are fluid as he constantly tweaks and changes his plans. Pakta, his Peruvian- Japanese restaurant, and Tickets and 41° were not enough and then came Bodega 1900 and he closed 41° in August to announce Enigma to open in 2015. [Source: http://chefgeeta.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/albert-adria-fears-dreams/]
I liked my dinner at 41 Degrees very much. The food is technically well-executed, the service was impeccable, and it was a truly memorable experience overall to sit in that vaguely cosmic looking cocktail bar (with marvellous lighting for food photos) and be transported around Vietnam, Peru, Japan, Scandinavia, and back to Catalonia, in the course of 41 little bites. Praise due where praise is due. I think the key to understanding 41 Degrees is that the Experience is over and beyond any one dish. The Experience is a globe-trotting affair, that can drop you anywhere in the world with the next dish, from Thailand to France.
Today, I would like to address myself to a question of pure form: how much did I, as a consumer, enjoy the 40 or so dishes (independently of the Experience), in the extreme long-form, the reductio of the tasting-menu? The answer: Quite a bit, but not as much as shorter 5-20 course menus.
Micro-dishes. You dine on small dishes, one or two-bite wonders, at 41 Degrees. With such small dishes, one cannot know whether one likes it or not. The first bite reveals the 2-3 principal ingredients and textures, and if you are lucky enough to have a second, you pick up more nuance. But once it is gone, another comes to take its place. The advantage is clear: one can sample a broad array of the kitchen’s dishes and ability in a single meal.
But with it comes two problems with this style of serving:
(A) The Diner’s Memory. Before reading the menu again, 4 months on, I remembered less than a quarter of the 40 or so courses that were served, and textures and tastes bled into each other. I only remembered feeling ‘genial’ towards most of the food.
(B) 41 Great Dishes?. A second problem is the ability of the kitchen to come up with 41 great dishes. Of the 41 dishes, how many of them are mind-blowing, and how many of them were just good? I would say that almost all the dishes were just good (nothing really blowing me away – the airbaguette coming the closest). The good dishes seemed to be permutations of good ingredients, and good technique, with an unnecessary presentation gimmick. For example, take the 13th dish “Fideos with Enoki”. It had good taste, particularly in having a strongly flavored pork rib broth, spherified. One might praise the chef on capturing the strong taste of pork ribs in the cone. But is that mimesis of the real thing enough? Does it significantly better a pork rib? No, it is just a repermutation of the same idea. I rated it a 4/5, because it was enjoyable – by technical standards it was well executed, as an idea, vaguely interesting but not something that would stick in the memory.
(C) The Food serves the Experience And yet I would say while these two problems (subjective memory, and objective merit) are encouraged by the form of a 40-50 course tasting menu, part of the problem is the specific Experience of 41 Degrees that brings you around the world. Evoking so many different regions (Peru’s ceviches and pisco sours, Scandinavian carrots, French steak frites, Vietnamese banh mi, Chinese Peking duck) generally means that the food serves the experience – a global journey hitting multiple regional memories. The food was not the end in itself, but the entire experience was. To this amateur quizzer, being able to recognise after a moment or two – dishes I have encountered on my travels (e.g. ceviche, steak frites, fusion nigiri, Catalan prawns) was a meeting of two forms of pleasure – gustatory and quizzical.
The search for avant garde regional food at 41 Degrees makes me think of the term “Minimum Viable Product”, very popular in Silicon Valley after the publication of Eric Ries’s book the Lean Startup in 2011 (but now probably on the wane, the flavor of the year being Peter Thiel and “definite optimism”). Many people (mis)understand “Minimum” to mean “throw shit on a wall and see what sticks”, but in the book, “Minimum” is left to the discretion of the market it is addressing. 41 Degrees addresses itself to a foodie crowd aware of its el Bulli heritage, and the “Minimum” standard of food is some well-executed avant-garde stuff. The restaurant itself focuses on a globetrotting Experience, and so in the quest for 41 interesting avant-garde regional dishes, many of the dishes are not mindblowing – but permutations of what exist.
The Experience however is something that I have not felt at any other restaurant, something very unique – a greatest hits compilation of culinary experiences that will appeal to the cosmopolitan foodie who is equally at home in Tokyo or in New York. Despite seeming critical here, I really enjoyed my overall meal there. I had planned on returning when in Barcelona again, but with its shuttering, I will visit some of the other Adria places next time instead.
Cocktails, Fruits, and Flowers
- 1 Spring Cocktail (4/5)
- “Spring elixir” – caramelized pine bus, gin berry paste, rose marmalade syrup, French white vermouth, Lilet Blanc
- 41 Degrees started out as a cocktail bar. so it was fitting our meal started out with cocktail.
- 2 Lime Leaf and Sage Flower (3.5/5)
- kaffir lime
- 3 Infused Pine Flower (3.25/5)
- Blood orange gel
- 4 Licorice Cocoon and Strawberry Rose (3.75/5)
- Rose strawberry amaretto
- 5 Humming Bird (4/5)
- Milk /carrot/ orange/ gin/ shiso
- 6 Black Sesame Pearl (4/5)
- 7 Infused Watermelon
- Infused beetroot licorice, yuzu flavors. Watermelon sweetness enhanced by beetroot’s, and yuzu gave a nice scent
- 8 Buhto
- Another cocktail in guise of a tea ceremony (though I can find no Google references to Buhto)
- Sake/Sochu/cardamom/lemonquat. Shisha scent underneath those cups
- 9 Spicy Corn Tentacles (4.75/5)
- Rice kimchi quinoa/ no octopus involved. Ingredient mimickry. Highly tasty
- 10 Tuna Millefeuille (4.75/5)
- Nori, sushi rice, avocado, wasabi, tuna, millefeuille effect from puffed rice and crisp nori
- This East Asian sequence was highly enjoyable. (5/5)
- 11 Oyster with Tiger Nut Milk (4.5/5)
- Lemonquat (hybrid between lemon and kumquat)/ poached tigernut milk/ oyster seagrapes.
- Lemon scent/pleasant globules of walled salinity/milky background
- 12 Aubergine with Caviar (4.5/5)
- Osetra caviar, eggplant chip, hazelnut cream, spicy sesame olive oil.
- I especially liked the eggplant chip, thin enough to be crisp. thick enough to have secondary texture.
- 13 Fideos with Enoki (4/5)
- Little cone, spherification pork rib jus/ enoki julienned/ wild garlic flower
- Good pork rib taste.
- 14 Parmesan and Porcini Forest Floor Pistachio and Berries
- In multiple parts: ravellos -coconut ferrero rochers with parmesan cheese were all right (3.25/5)
- Berries caramelized with wasabi (palate cleanser – 4/5)
- Porcini mushroom leaves (3.75/5)
- Pistachio, honey of pistachio – there was no nut, just a pistachio-shaped sculpted ganache (4.25/5)
- Red currant with lemon orange powder (3.75/5)
- 15 Lily Flower with Romescu (3/5)
- Romesco sauce (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romesco) is a nut and red pepper Catalonian sauce. Served with grilled lily blossom
- Tasted of very little
- 16 “Rubia Gallega” Airbaguette (4.5/5)
- The only el Bulli era dish that made an appearance (from the 2003 season), bread, with Rubia Gallega cow “ham” – unctuouous and full-bodied, the satisfying taste of great ham
- The “baguette” was all crust, and enjoined the best of bread with one of the best hams.
- 17 Horse Mackerel and Cherry (3.75/5)
- Smoked horse mackerel, shiso, Stracchiatella cheese (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stracciatella_di_bufala), homemade umeboshi
- Strong fishy ham, left-shoe taste of horsemackerel.
- Red mullet roe (as slices of bottarga)
- 18 Miso Asparagus (3/5)
- Braised white asparagus, black garlic, white miso + sesame oil
- The sauce was like drinking the sesame oil used for stir frying bok choy. Intense
- 19 White Asparagus Bone (3.5/5)
- Bone marrow with pork rib jus, boiled w asparagus, suckling pork rib sauce.
- Neither white asparagus dish was very good.
- 20 Chicken and Crayfish (3.75/5)
- “Surf and turf” fried chicken skin and crayfish, crayfish consomme jelly.
- Crayfish was of unexciting quality.
- 21 Suquet (4.75/5)
- Any dish graced with Catalonian prawns can simply go on cruise control – because these prawns are simply the best in the world. Here in a shell, there was a suquet soup, with prawns from Maresme (2/3 of the way between Barcelona and Sant Pau restuarant in Sant Pol de Mar).
- The prawn was softer than the Palamos prawns at Etxebarri – but was succulently sweet. Bewitching quality.
- 22 Nordic Toast
- Baby carrot, beetroot gel, horseradish, sour cream, (3.5/5)
- beef carpaccio, vegetables, sour cream, vinegar powder (4/5)
- Inappropriate comparison: The vinegar, sour cream tasted like a deconstruction of the Big Mac special sauce, and the beef carpaccio lended it a further Big Mac-ish quality.
- 23 Nitro Bloody and Agave Amber
- Bloody Mary Sorbet: tomato, pineapple coffee.(4.25/5)
- Bloody , mezcal. (chipito and white coffee) (4.75/5)
- 24 Prawns “Aguachile” (4/5)
- Ceviche/chilli, peppercorn. Lemon/lime/chilli, avocado
- The “tiger’s milk” of ceviche, dominated, strong sour tastes. I don’t really like that sharp kick. My favorite ceviche dishes (see my write-up of Maido in Lima) temper this sharp kick (e.g., by liquid nitrogen)
- 25 Nigiri Nikkei (4/5)
- Smoked red mullet, tapioca, fried corn, dried lemon with stuffed kumquat
- Woody smokiness
- 26 Ceviche Norteño/ Atahualpa 3.0
- White seabass, yellow aguachile/ crispy yucca chip/sweet potato mash/ choclo corn (4.25/5)
- Pisco sour, pineapple juice, apple liqueur, purple corn (4.75/5)
- 27 Duck Bagel (3.75/5)
- Brioche Bagel w sesame seeds, peking duck, pickled gennel, cucumber
- 28 French Bite (4.25/5)
- Meat and potatoes, souffle potato with bearnaise inside, iberian pork belly, macerated black trumpets, charcoal oil, sweet wine reduction
- A ha! What was puzzling before reveals itself as Steak Frites! A clever dish, the reference of a French Bite only made sense when I crunched into the potato souffle, releasing the bearnaise.
- 29 Vietnamese Roll of Squid (3.75/5)
- Pepper, shiso, rice, squid with sauteed garlic chilli/peanut/ugly grapefruit
- Dip: lime juice, thai chilli, fish soup
- 30 Vietnamese Tea (4.25/5)
- Shitake tea – salty
- 31 Banh Mi Cookie
- 32 Redcurrant Meringue and Sweet Potato (3.75/5)
- Mustard cream (reminiscent of the signature beetroot meringue with horseradish cream starter at the Fat Duck ***)
- Sweet potato cooked in quicklime to give it a skin, mashy inside, Kumquat jelly and chilli oil outside
- 33 Thaiquiri/Coconut Mató (4.5/5)
- Texture of coconut cream
- Honey: Rum daiquiri, lemongrass, pineapple, honey
- 34 Soy-Temaki (4/5)
- Sweet temako, black quinoa, soy sauce ice cream, lime zest
- 35 Mango Dried Peach (4/5)
- A large amount of liquid mango with an impressively robust skin
- 36 Fresisuisse (4.25/5)
- Yoghurt biscuit, pleasant strawberry flavor
- 37 Dragon egg/ Chai Lassi
- Baby dragon eggs – orange zest/cold/meringue (4.5/5)
- Lassi- chai mango, curry, almonds, yoghurt powder, curry powder (4.25/5),
- 38 Classic Lemon Pie Cup Cake (4.25/5)
- 39 Quico Rocher (4.25/5)
- 40. 41 Grados Tronch (4/5)
- Gingerbread brownie/chocolate /matcha green tea soil