El Bulli 2008

Posted on May 30, 2008 by Aun

My greedy but gorgeous wife S and I have wanted to try El Bulli for almost a decade. We first heard about this exciting Spanish restaurant in the late 90s/early naughties. In 2001, at Tasting Australia, we were lucky enough to attend an incredible two-hour long private demonstration during which Ferran Adria showed off some of his more innovative cooking techniques to a room full of journalists. Later that day, we were given a few minutes to interview this revolutionary artist-philosopher-cook.

While theoretically we’ve wanted to dine at El Bulli, I have to admit we never really did anything about it. We never tried making reservations or tried planning a trip. We just assumed that we’d get around to it one day. Of course, as the years passed by and booking a table went from hard-to-get to almost impossible, we started to wonder if maybe we’d been waiting too long. So, when a good friend — a restaurateur who is friends with Ferran — called me two months ago and said, “Hey, I’ve decided to swing by El Bulli on the way to the States in May. I have a table for 6 and am calling you first. Do you want to go? But…um… I need to know right now,” S and I jumped at it. And even though we had just decided to postpone a trip to Italy that we had been planning for September 08 to sometime in 2009 because we weren’t sure we could afford it, we said, “what the halibut” and have put ourselves into even greater credit card debt than we already are.

We totally lucked out. The day we visited El Bulli was gorgeous. It had been sunny and warm all day. Our friends, who had gotten the table for us, drove into Roses that morning. Six of us (we had been travelling in Catalonia with two other friends) had a wonderful, lazy seafood lunch at a local tapas restaurant in town and then spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out. Two more friends arrived in the afternoon. They had flown in from Geneva just for dinner. We were able to increase the table to 8 for them; our dinner date just happened to fall on their 13th wedding anniversary.

El Bulli is beautifully situated. It rests on at the end of a lonely road, across beautiful, green hills and right by the water. The building itself is rustic, charming and casual. Not the kind of place that you’d expect to find the world’s most innovative cuisine. After meeting Ferran Adria and Juli Soler, we sat in the restaurant’s courtyard for a while, enjoying Yuzu-sake-tonic cocktails chased with a bottle of Comtesse Marie de France 1998 by Paul Bara and some really exciting nibbles. We enjoyed cream filled nori snacks, shiso jellies, an edible “passion orchid”, tomato biscuits, pinenut and chocolate bon bons, and “Pekin crepes”.

We then moved to our table in the main dining room and had what can only be described as one of the most unique dining experiences of my life. We had 24 more courses, not counting a quartet of post-dessert items called “Morphings”. Below is the menu (as written by El Bulli) with some short comments on some of the dishes: Mint leaf with coconut – this came in two bites. Beetroot coral. Black sesame sponge cake with miso. Gorgonzola moshi — I assume they meant “mochi”; this was a version of Adria’s liquid ravioli.

Grilled strawberry. LYO-Cream — this was a combination of a cream puff served with a spoon of carbonara cream. Razor clam / Laurencia — this was a gorgeously cooked bamboo clam served with an “El Bulli clam” of ponzu jelly. Haricot bean with Joselito’s Iberian pork fat — this was my favourite course of the whole dinner; the super delicious and savoury bean explodes in your mouth.

Mandarine flower/pumpkin oil with mandarine seeds (my photo of this really stunk so I left it out). Almond jellies with cocktail of fresh almonds “Umeboshi”. Mushroom canape. Black garlic ravioli. Lychee — this was a light dashi broth with daikon carved to look like lychees. Water lily — this was a cold tea soup that S loved. Game meat canape. Peas 2008 — the peas on the right are real peas; the ones on the left are Adria’s liquid raviolis filled with pea soup. Asparagus with miso.

Gnocchi of polenta with coffee and safran yuba — these gnocchi also explode in your mouths; yum! “Negrito” 2008 — this was a lovely seared local fish covered with a sweet foam. Abalone. Hare juise with apple-jelly with black currant marinated — I have to admit, this dish was not my favourite.

Pistachio honey — this was beautiful. “Trufitas” — amazing chocolate truffles. Bubble — in the middle of the mound of bubbles was a chocolate ganache. There were four different petit fours, or “Morphings”. With dinner, we had three great white wines: Weingut A Christmann VDP Riesling Konigsbacher Idig 2002; Rafael Palacios As Sortes 2005; and Chateau Smith Haut-Lafite 2001.

This dinner was definitely one of the most amazing I have ever enjoyed. It was less “out of the box” than I expected and much more Japanese-influenced than I had imagined. The food, while amazingly innovative was also witty and I think that more than anything else made the meal great fun, for me and for all of my dining companions. I am sure some of you want to ask if I think El Bulli deserves to be called the world’s number one restaurant. I am actually not going to answer that. I will say that I think Ferran Adria is a genius and I think there is no other restaurant in the world that offers the kind of experience that El Bulli provides. Some dishes you will love. Some will puzzle you. And some you won’t like. But the space is great – homey and brilliant at the same time. And the service is perfect. This is certainly one meal I will not forget anytime soon.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. My Sweet & Saucy May 31, 2008 at 12:52 am

    What amazing photo and photos! Thanks so much for sharing the experience with us!

  2. Kathy May 31, 2008 at 1:07 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us! I heard Adria is thinking about closing El Bulli soon and regret that I will most likely never have a chance to eat there.

  3. L from asianhomestyle May 31, 2008 at 3:10 am

    It sounds like you had an amazing experience at El Bulli. Thank you for taking such lovely pictures! I have been following reviews of El Bulli for a few years now, and you’re right that it looks like the menu has changed to be much more Japanese influenced. I’m glad you provided descriptions for some of the dishes. I could never have figured out what they really were otherwise!

  4. Pete May 31, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Looks like El Bulli’s really gone “Japanese”. When I dined there in the last-90s, I liked his avant-garde take on Spanish cuisine, e.g. deconstructed Spanish omelette; chocolate cake on tomato soup, etc. It was so unique then.

  5. Suzie May 31, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Wow. I must say I honestly are overwhelmed by how they serve their dish, is sooooo unique and stylist, it looks more like a piece of art than food. No wonder why you would say it gives you an extraordinary experience, by looking at your pictures, i have the same feeling~~!!

  6. Fred Lin May 31, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    I’m blown away speechless. These photos look like they came right out of a modern art gallery, rather than a restaurant. Gotta see the dishes in person to believe.

  7. Oyster Culture May 31, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Thank you so much for photos and descriptions, the food looks incredible. What an experience that must have been, with anticipation at least half of it.

    I was curious if you had tried any other restaurants around there. I just read about one that is now added to my list of must trys: Etxebarri.

  8. Vanessa June 3, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    oh my…that is an amazing meal! thanks for the detailed post and photos!

    I shall dream abt the meal tonight :)

  9. lotsofcravings June 3, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    i think its probably any food lover’s wet dream to try El bulli. What an incredible piece of luck that you got the invite, i probably do the same too and rake up credit card debts for that meal.

  10. Susan in HK June 6, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Aun, I’ve been waiting for this post; I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I absolutely loved it the first time I went – it was the best, most exciting meal of my life. The second time (last year) was good but not as exciting – I think because we didn’t like all the Asian elements; it was too familiar (in a strange way) for all of us who were visiting from Hong Kong. But I’d like to go again (although I turned down a seat this year!) because I am so fascinated by what they’re doing.

  11. Michael June 7, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Absolutely love your blog! Seriously one of the best food blogs out there. Just want you to consider having people fly in from all over the world for a single dinner. We are facing a massive crisis in transportation fuels (oil) and over the next 5 years food (and our entire lifestyle) will be changed like never before. Just something to consider. Cheers, Michael

  12. A Food Lover June 9, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Thanks for the wonderfully taken pix!! U and yr wifey r the most lucky pple on earth to snag tt invite… Oooooh, im so in love with the Lily dish…. too pretty for words. thanks for sharing once again :)

  13. Vivian June 10, 2008 at 12:17 am

    I am so jealous! I wish I’ll get a chance to visit El Bulli one day. Thanks for the delicious post =)

  14. Denise W June 10, 2008 at 5:47 am

    I have wanted to go to this restaurant for at least a decade and probably never will get the chance — as I also heard that El Bulli would be closing. Thanks for taking the time to document your experience, it might very well be the closest I’ll ever get to it! :)

  15. Celine June 10, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Aun, i was looking forward to your post on El Bulli. it’s one of the restaurants that is very high up on my ‘must try’ list and i’m glad that you’re sharing your experience. before i make my way to spain, i guess i will just satisfy the food lust with the gorgeous pictures you posted.

  16. Helen Yuet Ling Pang June 11, 2008 at 3:49 am

    What an experience you had! I love your stunning photos. Thank you for a great review, and I look forward to visiting one day. Off to Dal Pescatore in Runate this Saturday for a nice lunch!

  17. Y June 11, 2008 at 9:23 am

    What gorgeous photos! Thank you for sharing your experience. I too hope to be lucky enough to eat there one day :)

  18. McAuliflower June 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    wow! I am so glad you got to go and share with us at this level. stunning

  19. Melissa June 12, 2008 at 12:31 am

    Wow, incredible post! Stunning photos, great writeup – I’m *so* jealous… :)

    Hugs to you both!

  20. Joanne June 12, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I never knew such beautiful food existed. I am adding this to my wish list. Merci mille fois.

  21. Andrew Lie June 25, 2008 at 3:13 am

    Thank you for sharing! Lovely pictures.

  22. Pille June 30, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    How exciting – and what a great review. I (and my dear K) ate there back in April – and it was definitely delicious and most importantly, fun. (I need to write up soon!!)

  23. laura @ cucina testa rossa July 1, 2008 at 11:00 am

    one word…… WOW!

  24. Peter Belisi July 1, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    Very cool serving dishes!

  25. Michael Buitron July 17, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Wonderful pictures! I made a link to your picture of the Abalone so people could see what I was writing about!
    http://imoralist.blogspot.com/2008/07/dinner-at-el-bulli-experience-part-2-of.html

  26. Walt & Lou November 7, 2008 at 7:17 am

    I took my wife there this summer for her 50th, something we have long wanted to do. Thanks for the photos, because a lot of the dishes are what we had, and I think it will be a couple of years yet before he brings out the relevant book. One thing worth mentioning to your ‘readers’. While like you we tested the credit cards flexibility, the meal itself I thought was amazingly reasonable given the number of courses and the one to one ratio of staff. It’s the air-fares and hotels that cost, not El Bulli.

  27. Lennard December 7, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    I have a privilege of getting a reservation at el bulli for 2009 and I am very interested in taking some photos. Am I right in saying that these photos were shot with an diffused external flash? Im trying to figure out if El bulli has enough ambient light to get decent photos

  28. Chubby Hubby December 8, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Lennard, I never use a flash in restaurants because I find it disturbs the meals of other patrons. I used only whatever natural light was available.

    Congrats on scoring a reservation.

  29. Bob Riley July 17, 2009 at 7:51 am

    can you get steak there medium with potatoes without all that strange stuff with it?

  30. Reena July 28, 2009 at 4:59 am

    I’m going next month and I am unbelievably excited, although I don’t think my photos will be as magnificent as yours. Can’t wait to see what Senor Adria has on the menu that night!

  31. Diona August 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I’m really envious that you managed to have a dining experience at El Bulli without even making a reservations. You are obviously ridiculously lucky. Thank you for sharing your experience. It was enlightening. Time to buy the book. Ciao!

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