One of my most memorable meals during my recent trip to Spain was at Albert Adrià's Pakta, so that's the one that I really have to write about. My husband and I were so lucky that we scored reservations during the few days in May that we were in Barcelona, but I think that was partly due to the fact that the restaurant only opened in April so the buzz hadn't gotten out of control yet. When we went for dinner (at 7:30, which is an absurdly early time for most Spaniards), our waitress Sussie told us that the restaurant was in its seventh week. Therefore, we got to be some lucky guinea pigs for some of the menu items that Adrià wanted to try out.
Pakta is Nikkei cuisine, which refers to a mixture of Peruvian and Japanese fusion, as a result of many Japanese immigrating to Peru in the 1800s. I grant you that it seems a little odd that we wanted to eat Peruvian/Japanese food while in Spain but we just weren't about to pass up the chance to try out one of the Adrià brothers' new restaurants while there, no matter the cuisine. In case you are thinking these are Spanish chefs doing Peruvian/Japanese, the two chefs that are in the kitchen and responsible for creating the menu items are Kioko Li from Japan and Jorge Muñoz from Peru.
We also ate at Tickets, the famous "tapas with a twist" spot that consists of some famous El Bulli dishes, as well as 41 Degrees (the tiny Adrià a spot that serves 41 little courses in addition to cocktail pairings). Both of those experiences were also fantastic but honestly, 41 dishes is just a little daunting for me to call to mind no matter how tasty they were, so I don't feel like I can do it justice in a review, and Tickets is probably the most frequented of all the Barcelona Adrià restaurants. I just felt a sense of such delight at some of the food I was served at Pakta that I have to write about it. Barcelona was the last leg our Spain trip and this was even after dining at some of the three-star Michelin spots in San Sebástian.
We selected the Machu Picchu tasting menu at 90 euro per person (there is also a Fukiyama option for slightly less; the Machu Picchu menu is now listed as 120 euro on the website). This included 17 courses for the savory portion and five dessert courses. We also opted to split one sake pairing for an additional 44 euro.
I have included photos of some of the highlights for me, though honestly, I did not have a bad bite throughout the entire meal. At no time did either my husband or I taste a dish and find it over or under seasoned or unappetizing. To me, that is quite the feat for 22 different dishes. I really enjoyed the "kaiseki" course, pictured here. Kaiseki refers to a traditional Japanese meal style that often includes select food items all served on a tray to one individual. In Pakta's case, the kaiseki included an edamame salad with kimchi sauce, potato with olluco (a South American root vegetable) and mentaiko (roe of Pollock), soy milk yuba (tofu skin) with caviar and dashi, tiger's eye pickles with salmon, and avocado tofu with salmon roe and wasabi. I have never had anything like that avocado tofu and that is probably one thing I have eaten that I will remember for a long time. I already love tofu but adding the wasabi, roe, and avocado gave it the perfect texture of smoothness and the sensation of salty sweetness.
|Iberian pork anticucho|
The tomato ceviche with iced leche de tigre, blood orange, and beetroot also stood out for me. I was afraid it was going to taste like a pickled plum tomato such as I have had at sushi restaurants, but instead, it was fresh, chilled, and juicy.
One really fun dish in terms of its presentation was the red prawn smoked with pine. This was one of the items that Pakta was testing out for its menu and though it's not listed on the menu the restaurant gave us at the end of the meal (complete with staff signatures!), I see that it is now indeed on the menu according to Pakta's website. The servers brought it to us wrapped in pine needles and still slightly smoking. We then unwrapped it and beheld what was waiting for us - a beautiful prawn. And yes, it was tasty as well as well as aesthetically pleasing but this was perhaps one dish where the appearance overshadowed the actual taste.
|Red prawn smoked with pine|
|Sea bass ceviche|
I admit that perhaps I found the meal so enjoyable simply because I had never had the pleasure to experience Nikkei cuisine before. Sure I have had my share of "Asian fusion" but in my mind, this was the kind of food that a restaurant such as benu in San Francisco should aspire to.
Not only was the food great but also the service was warm and precise. Though Pakta is obviously a fine dining establishment, it had the impeccable service, food, and wine without the stuffy and formal environment. We even ate with wooden disposable chopsticks, which seemed a little incongruous to the fine cuisine we were eating, but it was just one of several touches of whimsy. The menu had a funny cartoon-ish figure on it and we saw that figure again on the white chocolate piece we received at the end of the meal. There was a second character on the chocolate and we then realized the cartoons were depictions of the two different chefs. We developed a nice rapport with our waitress, Sussie, who is originally from Denmark. We also met Sebastian Mazzola, the creative force behind much of the menus at Pakta and 41 Degrees and Albert Adrià's right hand man. The staff could not have been more friendly and when Chef Mazzola heard that we were not only dining at Pakta during our trip but also 41 Degrees and yet were unable to secure a table at Tickets, he personally called the manager at Tickets and procured a table for us the next day.
Carrer Lleida, 5
08004 Barcelona, Spain
Tuesday to Friday - 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Saturday - 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM and 7:30 PM to 11:00 PM
Takes reservations online}?>