April 10, 2012
Lasarte is named after the Basque town where Martín Berasategui is the owner and chef of a restaurant which has had three Michelin stars since 2001. Berasategui has managed Lasarte for the Hotel Condes de Barcelona, where it is housed, since it opened in 2006; it has had two Michelin stars since 2009.
Linda and I went for dinner on February 9, 2012. We had already enjoyed a glass of cava in our room at the excellent El Palace Hotel, compliments of the management, and so skipped one here.
Naturally we chose the Menú Degustación. The wine lists were in four leather booklets in a holder, but the sommelier also offered a small list of recommendations of the week. We said we would like a bottle of good Spanish white wine and to my surprise he suggested an inexpensive Catalan wine, 2008 Eixemenis. Made of white grenache, it was assertive, flavorful and went very well with the cuisine. To go with our pigeon course the sommelier brought us a glass of Vi Negre, or black wine in Catalan. It was inky and good, but I wouldn’t want more than a glass of it.
The first amuse-gueule was
Sopa de jamón ibérico, papada crujiente, calabacines rellenos y galleta de parmesano
A soup of good Spanish ham was served with a crispy bacon chunk, a stuffed zucchini slice and a Parmesan cheese cracker. The flavor of the ham was elegant, just meaty and salty enough.
The second was
Milhojas caramelizado de manzana verde, foie gras y anguila ahumada
A slice of smoked eel was sandwiched between two slices of foie gras. They were topped with a caramel of green apple and warmed. The concept here is that one cannot smoke foie gras without it coming apart, but by melding it with something with a good smokey flavor, one gets the effect. I am not sure who invented this concept; we have had at before at Le Bristol in Paris. This was excellent.
The first menu course was
Anchoas, emulsión de trufa negra, frutas y mostaza
Fresh anchovies were garnished with black truffle slices and cherries. There were dabs of mustard sauce. The combination was creative and effective.
Tartare de atún rojo con cuajada de pepino
Red tuna tartare was served on a cucumber gel and topped with salmon roe. The seaweed wafers added needed crunch and cut the saltiness. Nice.
Ostra ahumada a la parrilla, espinacas guisadas al sésamo y tubérculos crujientes
A grilled oyster was served in a covered bowl filled with aromatic smoke. As the server lifted the cover, he wafted the smoke toward the diner. The garnish was steamed spinach with sesame and crisps of an unidentified tuber. Very good.
Linda does not eat oysters now and asked for a substitution; she was served
Vieiras, ensalada cruda y cremosa de apio-nabo, alcachofas
The fresh scallop was partnered well with chopped artichoke and celery and creamy celery. Excellent.
Ensalada de verduras, hierbas, brotes y pétalos con crema de lechuga, jugo yodado y bogavante
This pretty salad of vegetables, herbs, sprouts and petals was served with a lettuce cream and a chunk of lobster. It was all in a chilled clear tomato water gel which covered the plate. Refreshing and good.
Gamba roja templada, flan cremoso de erizos de mar, caviar de leche de oveja y almendras
A warm red prawn was garnished with green sea urchin cream, ewe’s milk caviar and almonds. It was on a seaweed salad bed. The prawn was especially delicious and was enhanced by the sea urchin. The sheep’s milk had little flavor, but the spherification and presentation was nice.
Huevo de caserío con remolacha a la ensalada líquida de hierbas, carpaccio de cocido vasco y queso ahumado
A poached egg was served on a liquid herb purée and topped with a thin slice of a pork and bean terrine. The small “egg” is smoked cheese. There are red chunks of beetroot. The dish was better than it looks.
Rape asado a baja temperatura sobre tocineta y queso parmesano, percebes y cous cous de coliflor
A piece of monkfish had been cooked at low temperature; it was served on a bed of bacon and parmesan cream; alongside were goose barnacles and cauliflower couscous. Excellent.
Pichón asado y reposado sobre un estofado cremoso de trigo duro, toques de patata trufada y salsa especiada
A flavorful and perfectly roasted breast of pigeon rested on a creamy stew of durum wheat; alongside was truffled potato purée. The portion was just right. Superb.
Sopa de apio y manzana verde, helado de yogur, pequeña minestrone de piña y crema cuajada de limón
A scoop of yoghurt ice cream rested in a bowl of celery and green apple soup. On the right is lemon cream with pineapple topped with sprouts. A refreshing first dessert.
Torrijas con crema helada de café con leche y ciruelas compotadas
A piece of the Spanish version of “French Toast” was made with a special brioche whch gave it a fresh, light texture. It was served with frozen coffee cream, a coffee foam and plum compote.
Strawberry macarons, a lemon cream, a chocolate and almond milk: all good.
We have not been yet to Martín Berasategui’s flagship restaurant outside San Sebastián, but I understand that it concentrates on ingredients from that region and uses many of the modern Spanish techniques, such as gels, spherification etc. There is some of that at Lasarte. The chef is Antonio Sáez who worked under Berasategui before moving to Barcelona. The cuisine seems not specifically Basque or Catalan, but Spanish, without emphasizing any region.
Our meal was excellent, among the best we have enjoyed over the last year. The service was always good. The pace started a little slow and then became just right. We highly recommend Lasarte.