LE CHAVIREMENT À DÉNIA, AU SUD DE L’ESPAGNE
Those who have experienced “Quique Dacosta Restaurante” know how strenuous it is to recount the tale, the emotional and human adventure that underlies each composition, each allusion or the anecdote or the memory carried out by each plate.
We could start by the end, or the middle, the difficulty would remain the same. Quique Dacosta’s cuisine is like the piece of music that transports you, pierces through you, troubles you, a long sequence-shot that escapes you. Certain fulgurances have to be told.
The water browned with a wood consommé that escorts the oak bark. At first, you almost believe it. In reality, it’s actually fried Jerusalem artichoke skin and a Barolo rhum jus with an incredible depth in flavors.
We quickl understood that penetrating Quique Dacosta’s world is also about listening to his tales. And Didier Fertilati, the dining room director, is a magnificent storyteller. Every new course of the menu in five acts incessantly makes you smile, and puzzles you. At times, it simply an herb. The rameau du Pasteur herb, discovered here for the first time, is an herb that grows in the Dénia mountains and crackles like salicornia to liberate an incredibly vibrant syrup, or the sea-goose berries, which seem to suddenly blossom in the perfectly balanced dashi.
The smoked cheese sticks with an unrivaled consitency and the small steamed buns (banh bao) covered in marinated pancetta are simply sensuous.
We were sitting in the small living room that looked like the garden of a ryad in Marocco. The outside world almost instantly disappeared. The restaurant’s interior is a beautiful marriage of traditional and contemporary, a nod to both the present and the future. Just like Quique Dacosta’s two menus that live together in perfect harmony. The older creations nourish and shed light on the new ones, and memory makes the link between the two.
The table is bare, virgin, immaculate. No silverware, no accessories to hinder the process of discovery, curiosity, revelation. Mystery at its peak. The diner is more than a guest for a night, he becomes an integral part of the experience. A kind of almost necessary conditioning to the process. As Didier Fertilati repeatedly underlines, “you have to “engrave the experience at all cost”. Jose Antonio and Giovanni are also charged with this mission.
We were quickly swept up off our feet. The tomato shooter, like a blody mary candy explodes, literally. The thin particle of cocoa butter breaks to reveal hints of spice, tickling the taste buds and an almost childish texture. A slap in the face. The other more caramelized tomato, candied with Mediterranean aromas represents the identity of an entire region in one bite, sending more chills down the spine.
At imes, we don’t even know where we are any more. What can we possibly say about the blood red strip, slightly sweet and spicy speckled with mustard seeds, or that cococha ham mousse and pil pil, which are supposedly traditional dishes? Surprise.
We let go, begin to loose sight of our point of reference, or better yet, we don’t even want to see them anymore. As Andrea Petrini perfectly describes it in l’Optimum: “An ode to illusionism, to the offbeat, between mimicry of appearances and the palates gullibility.”
Like an artist about to paint his masterpiece, the blank page if filled time and again with compositions, at times too raw for the palate, “coco peanuts, kefir, lime” or “the horcheta”, extrememly potent flavors and textures that, although they can be quite confusing, make you react.
Our senses will never escape this procession of dishes. Certain dishes seem to act as the chorus, while others are like bombs, of flavors, emotions, connotations, of everything.
The meaty marinated mackerel wrapped in a “Rompe Piedra” leaf is slightly spicy, green and juicy. The contrast is perfect, and the fatty-acidic alchemy, the finesse, so persistent, is beautiful!
The avocado dashi (turtle nail) is one of those. Visually, it’s a small and vibrant green particle, bursting and smooth. Inside, notes of coriander, pit skin, ginger, smoked with salt shavings – a light but complex dashi with incredible depth. It’s both an immediate and sensuous sensation, and enthralling in its mystery. You have to know how to taste it…
Know how to perceive the beauty of the ingredient, like the gambas from Dénia, served three ways. The gambas is fresh out of the water, in a broth, or hidden in a little red transparent pouch to rpeserve its essence. We also devoured the slightly fried head, its juices, licked our fingers, there is no more etiquette, just an absolute forme of recognition, the Cubrique-esque vision of a great chef in front of one of the gems of the ocean in his region.
A fog often invades the dining room. The evanescent fog of morning…
We loved loosing ourselves in it and observing the seasoning of the squid. From its descent into the flames, alive, as it battles to resist the heat, to its arrival on the plate, immaculate and white, of an incredible etenderness, simply sprinkled with incredibly fruit olive oil.No frills, just the essentials. And then we gave in…To the the fried milk, reminiscent of our childhood Tropézienne cake, a dish specifically created for this particular dish.
His insporation is everywhere. Junafra, his creative chef, whom you will discover soon, plays a tighrope walker’s game with his desires…
Quiqie Dacosta is constantly thinking, in the moment and at the same time elsewhere, further ahead, towards the horizon.
He rattles the diner, troubles him at times, but never forgets the essentials, he distinct and powerful flavor that doesn’t cheat, and doesn’t crumble. Truth as an anchor…