Can’t Get in at Best Restaurant? Try Adria’s Tapas Bar
“Where to eat in Barcelona?” I ask Ferran Adria, whose Tickets tapas bar is besieged with diners.
“Try my brother’s new place, Pakta,” the former El Bulli chef says as we finish a dinner at Das Stue hotel in Berlin.
Pakta means together, or union, in the Quechua language of indigenous Peruvians, according to the website. Albert Adria has brought together two head chefs: Kyoko Li from Japan and Jorge Munoz from Peru. This is the first place I’ve been where the names and nationalities of all the chefs and waiters are listed on the menu.
The decor is simple, with looms of thread adorning the walls and ceilings. The clean lines are Japanese, the colors Latin. It’s like a sushi bar that’s taken a holiday in Latin America. Staff members, by contrast, are dressed in Khmer Rouge-chic black.
Getting in can be tricky if you don’t have a connection. The website suggests Sept. 3 for a booking for two at 7:30 p.m.
The choice is between two menus, the Fujiyama (90 euros) and the longer Machu-Picchu, which is 120 euros for about 20 courses, depending on which snacks you classify as a course. Matching sakes add another 48 euros, taking my bill to $224.
The food comes in waves. First is a platter of five dishes: soy-milk yuba (curd) with caviar and dashi-shoyu (soy sauce); tiger’s eye pickles with salmon and sumiso (miso) sauce; avocado tofu with salmon roe and wasabi; charcoal-grilled aubergine with kimizu (sour) sauce; and ocopa of potato with olluco (a root vegetable) and mentaiko (pollock roe.)
Many diners have had a light taste of Peruvian-Japanese (Nikkei) cuisine at Nobu, where some of chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s dishes are born out of years he spent in Lima. At Pakta, the menus provide a range of ingredients -- many of them unfamiliar -- and a balance of flavors. The presentation is Japanese.
Langoustine nigiri comes with grilled head and soy foam, the shellfish there on your plate contemplating the sushi.
Highlights include sea bass ceviche with kumquats, leche de tigre. This is a colorful dish of yellow, red, orange and green, with Peruvian corn and micro herbs. The citrus flavors are sharp and yet harmonic. There’s a meaty suckling pig gyoza with the acidity of physalis “golden berry” tempura with yuzu salt.
Other standout dishes include red prawn in pine smoke, the flavors deep and alluring; grilled black cod marinated with black garlic; and stir-fried tenderloin.
The restaurant only seats 32, which helps explain the difficulty in getting a table. The quality of the cooking and the inventiveness of the dishes keep diners coming back, and the Adria name does no harm. Anywhere Ferran and Albert open is likely to draw Spanish and international guests alike.
My meeting with Adria is at a daylong event (sponsored by Castillo Perelada wines) on July 15 bringing together German culinary masters with Spanish chefs, such as Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca and Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz.
Germany is home to 10 restaurants with three Michelin stars, a total that is second only to France in Europe. Yet it’s Spain’s establishments that hog the international limelight.
The Germans say their guests tend to be conservative in their tastes and price-sensitive, which makes it risky to be avant garde. Chefs are just happy to fill their restaurants.
My meals at Pakta and El Celler de Can Roca, the world’s current best restaurant winner, show just how high the bar is set for any chef wanting to match Spain for creative gastronomy. I don’t see those lines for tables going away, or migrating to Germany.
The Bloomberg Questions
Cost? My bill, including drinks, was 170.50 euros.
Sound level? Music plays softly, about 70 decibels.
Inside tip? Try for a seat at the counter.
Special feature? Nikkei cuisine.
Will I be back? Yes.
Date place? A great place for a date.
Pakta, Calla Lleida 5, Barcelona, 08004. Information: http://en.pakta.es/ or +34 936 24 01 77.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience. *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor.
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels): 65-70: Office noise. 70-75: Starbucks. 75-80: London street. 80-85: Alarm clock at closest range. 85-90: Passing bus. 85-95: Tube train.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars, Rich Jaroslovsky on tech, James Clash on adventure and Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater.