The creator of now legendary Asian-fusion restaurant Dos Palillos (one Michelin star) and former Chef de Cuisine at the mythical elBulli, Chef Albert Raurich, jumped at the chance to take over the space of the old Bar Raval, a true neighbourhood institution. Last autumn his newest restaurant, Dos Pebrots, finally opened, and Executive Chef Raurich has used this blank slate to bring a long-held vision to life—a restaurant concept that tells the history of gastronomy. Raurich and his Chef de Cuisine Borja García Ordoño poured over old culinary and history books to create a menu that follows a timeline of ingredients and techniques dating all the way back to the Phoenicians and Ancient Egypt, with stopovers in Ancient Persia, Medieval Catalunya, Twenties San Sebastián, and Spain’s ‘Golden Era’ of Don Quijote.
The menu format is quite unique, with the following columns: Final Dish, Main Ingredient, Main Cooking Method, Historical Origin of the Preparation Technique, Suggested Eating Utensil, and Price. We put ourselves at the mercy of the chef and the highly trained waiting staff, who ferried one eccentric dish to the table after another. In the centre of the table was a caddy filled to the brim with every imaginable type of utensil, from chopsticks and knives, to tweezers and wooden spoons.
We sat at a long table within arm’s reach of the kitchen pass and settled into an epic meal that lasted nearly three hours. The first dish to arrive at the table was the Xarab, a platter of ice, topped with various pieces of fresh fruit infused with distinct liqueurs via vacuum-bag-osmosis. The dish was very refreshing, though I thought that the majority of the fruits were overpowered by the alcohol and a touch bitter. Origin: Al-Andalus. Utensil: chopsticks or bamboo skewer.
Next came a small dish of roasted leeks swimming in a marinade of beer, vinegar, herbs and honey. The flavour of this dish (with Ancient Egyptian origins) was quite subtle. Served at room temperature, the texture of the leeks was excellent and the taste delicate, though again it had a hint of bitterness that didn’t sit right with me.
The third dish of the tasting was an excellent and entirely simplistic preparation of vinegar-cured anchovies (boquerones en vinagre) with apple vinegar and fennel feed. The fish tasted extremely fresh and the texture was firm without being at all tough.
After the boquerones, small bowls of cold veal tripe in vinegar (a salpicón) arrived, served with leaves of bibb lettuce to make little wraps. The texture of the tripe was really great, but I felt like it was missing salt and some sort of sauce. Half of my dining companions barely touched this one.
The next dish was perhaps the most simple of the entire meal, yet delicious. Each of us got our own roasted potato with classic allioli (garlic and oil paste), a dish with roots in the year 1560, when the potato allegedly first arrived in Catalunya from the New World.
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As we moved through the meal, the presentations became more unconventional. The One Sided Pine Nut Omelet was cooked tableside by our waiter, who poured beaten eggs into a smoking-hot cast iron skillet fresh off the fire. He moved quickly as the egg set on one side, sprinkling the shimmering surface with toasted pine nuts, chervil, mint oil and garum (a 40-day-aged, house-made fermented fish sauce from the era of Ancient Rome). This recipe is drawn from a first-century cookbook De re coquinaria, and is considered one of the oldest recipes in existence.
Perhaps the most bizarre dish of all was the Confit Pig Udders, essentially several gelatinous pig nipples slow-cooked in pork fat then grilled. These nipples were placed, with a dark sense of humour no doubt, on the belly of an upturned pig statue that served as a platter. Despite the unsettling appearance, the udder was an utter delight (cringy pun intended).
A pretty ceramic dish of rabbit kidneys in sherry wine was up next. In concept, I should have thoroughly enjoyed this one, but it turned out to be the blandest plate of the entire meal. However, winning me back after this disappointing course came a steaming cast iron cassola of slow-cooked lamb neck kebabs, which totally blew me away with incredible fatty deliciousness. Served alongside the fall-off-the-bone lamb was fresh pita bread, yoghurt sauce and a spicy melange of marinated tomatoes and guindilla peppers. I loved this dish (eaten with your hands) and so did everyone else. Every bit of meat was coaxed out of the hot iron vessel with picks, forks and fingers. Not a scrap was left and I can now say that lamb neck kebab, if not my new favourite food, is certainly a dish for the history books.