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Cinc Sentits

1/2 I share a cubicle wall with an executive assistant who's been having all sorts of trauma in the past few days trying to organize an off site something or another (I totally don't understand these overblown cushy corporate events masquerading as business) in New Orleans. The trauma stems over a choice of restaurant. The powers that be keep leaning towards contemporary New York style venues, which haven't been very accommodating while the assistant thinks that it would be more fitting to patronize a classic, old school, white tablecloth Creole restaurant since those don't exist here. She asked my opinion and in this situation, I was like go with the classics (really, I would recommend not limiting choices to the French Quarter, but that's another matter).

Cinc Sentits might prompt a similar dilemma. Compared to many of the inventive, playful restaurants in northern Spain, Barcelona's Cinc Sentits is colder and more minimalist. The clean lines and neutrals punctuated with splashes of crimson feels, well, more New York. The family who runs the restaurant are fluent English speakers and smoking isn't allowed. I like Spanish and cigarettes, but this didn't lessen the European dining experience. The ingredients and wines were resolutely Spanish–you wouldn't find these combinations in Manhattan.

I’m going to try and keep this from getting too wordy. I went to town blabbing about Can Roca only because I have trouble being succinct. This time I’ll just jump into the photos immediately and talk later. And no, my memory isn’t that good. I only recall every detail and wine pairing because I had them email me a PDF menu (after all those glasses of wine, it slipped my mind to ask at the end of the meal). I do like how this practice seems to be de rigueur in higher end Spanish restaurants (we received a pretty print out from Can Roca, as well). It would never occur to me to ask for document of what I ate in NYC.

We did the Gran Àpat (chef’s tasting menu) with wine pairings because I don’t trust my own judgment when it comes to the vino.

shot of warm maple syrup, cream, cava sabayon and rock salt
They made a point of saying it was Canadian maple syrup, which James thought was funny for some reason, like that's a mark of quality worth emphasizing. If I'm correct, the chef, Jordi Artal, was raised in Canada so I didn't think it was that weird. It would've been stranger if they'd said Spanish maple syrup.

foie gras with violet marmalade
A different tapa was described in the menu I received so I don't know the finer details.  I do have an aversion to eating flower petals, but I can deal with essences like rose, lavender and violet.

peach gazpacho, extra virgin arbequina olive oil, Forum vinegar glaze
I'm still not sure what Forum vinegar is, but it appears to be a Spanish wine vinegar. I was relieved we didn’t receive a melon soup that I’d read about, which I actually would’ve tried because I hate closed minded diners even more than I hate melon.

foie gras "coca"
forum vinegar-glazed leeks, crisp sugar shell, chives
wine: schmitges riesling spätlese (v.q.a. mosel, germany)

So, I never got the red pepper coca I tried for twice at La Vinya del Senyor. This was as close as I’d get, which I’m guessing isn’t that close at all considering the use of quotes.

galician diver scallop
sweet onion escalivada, sunchoke puré, iberian ham chip
wine: pazo piñeiro albariño (d.o. rías baixas, spain)

Traditionally, escalivada is Catalan grilled vegetable combo. I only learned that this very second.

wild mediterannean sea bass
false shellfish risotto, parsley oil
wine: can feixes chardonnay (d.o. penedès, spain)

I think they mean that the risotto isn't a true risotto. The shellfish aren't false, they're langoustines (I asked). I'm not crazy about parsley (or dill, but that's beside the point) but I love anything so vividly green.

iberian suckling pig
priorat and honey glaze, apples deglazed with ratafía
wine: closa batllet (d.o.q. priorat, spain)

This is one of those sous vide masterpieces. They specifically mentioned that it was cooked at 70 degrees, and I wasn’t sure if they were just telling that to Americans because we have issues with bacteria and this slow boil-in-a-bag cooking method. Inspectors were confiscating sous vide equipment here not too long ago. And people question why there’s so little avant garde cooking in NYC.

This was probably my favorite dish, but I love anything that includes crispy pork skin and is both sweet and savory. Ratafia is a liqueur that is either made with bitter almonds or peach pits, I’m not sure which.

artisanal spanish cheeses
forcam : picota cherry and lemon-thyme salad, cascarral : soft almond cube, valdeón : red wine-poached pear
wine: bàrbara forés dolç (d.o. terra alta, spain)

We were instructed to eat the cheeses and accompaniments left to right, mild to strong. I’m kind of a sucker for rules, so I did just that. The middle one might’ve been my top choice. I do love blue cheese, but it can be mouth-zinging even with a sweet pear slice and glass of caramelly wine to balance the flavors.

textures of lemon
ice cream, cake, curd, and espuma with vodka granizado
wine: chivite vendimia tardía moscatel (d.o. navarra, spain)

I noticed that another couple at the restaurant (as well as people who've blogged their meal) had this dessert paired with Grey Goose vodka. I'm not sure why we got the moscatel and if that's a better or worse choice.  I also noticed that a guy at a different neighboring table had eaten all the goo and left the cake behind. What kind of freak doesn't like cake?

valrhona chocolate "crocant"
home-made nocilla praliné, roasted hazelnut ice cream
wine: noe pedro ximenez (d.o. xérès-sherry-jerez, spain)

I could’ve sworn there was banana in this dessert, though there’s no evidence of that from the description. And all I have is the description to rely on since I ate the whole damn thing before realizing that I’d never taken a photo. I always wonder if others finish every dish when they do tasting menus or if we’re just gluttons. The portions weren't enormous here so I didn't feel bad. (At Blue Hill at Stone Barns, though, we almost died from the massive food intake and probably should've left more bites behind.) I’d been so good about capturing every course up until the very end, too. I blame the wine.

I'm scared that I'm becoming jaded (like last night I had some supermarket prosciutto because I was dying for cured ham and it just tasted salty and dull like those thin Land O' Frost lunchmeats I loved as a kid). When I came back from vacation my supervisor (whose personality is like 85% of the reason why I had to get out of there) who's all trendy restaurant obsessed, asked, "Oh, did they serve things in shot glasses?" "I love it when they use spoons like that. I want to do that at a dinner party" Ugh.

I would declare shot glasses and spoons as totally over (because, you know, I'm very influential in these matters) but I don't honestly think they're ubiquitous country-wide. Oh shit, I just remembered that they were totally mentioned in yesterday's NY Times article, "Tiny Come-Ons, Plain and Fancy " (barf) . It's not until you see a trend adapted at Cheesecake Factory that you know it's five years past its prime. Now the contrarian in me never wants to eat an amuse-bouche presented in either of those forms ever again.

Cinc Sentits * 58 Carrer Aribau, Barcelona, Spain

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  1. I was in New Orleans for ALA in June and wanted to recommend my favorite – Herbsaint. The food was wonderful and so was the ambience.

    September 2, 2006
  2. bryan #

    I am from glasgow- scotland but I eat at cincsentits about 6 times a year.
    They continually improve everytime I go back and will easily pick up a michelin star if not 2 soon.
    If you are back that way you should also try the wonderful Alkimia.
    False rissotto is a old style italian dish using spagetti and cuttlefish ink to get the black vibrant colour

    December 19, 2006
  3. I don’t get to Spain much, but Alkimia would definitely be on my list for next time.

    December 19, 2006

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