Sunday, November 20, 2011

Girona - Massana

So, this is my last post in the Spain/France series.  Well, for the time being, until I make it to that culinary haven again, sooner rather than later.  And since Girona is the cradle of this era's creative chefs, we had to at least chalk up one star in this lovely city.  Being such poor planners, we took whatever was offered to us.  So the solitary Michelin star we managed to bag was at Massana, conveniently located in the Eixample Nord district, not far from the city centre and our hotel.

Named after the guy who has run it since 1986, the restaurant has a bright pine setting in comfy but by no means plush surrounds, nor does it attempt to be trendy.  Just simple and understated, and could pass off as a dining room in someone's home.  Service by our female server was very professional and knowledgeable, friendly with a touch of humor, but without being intrusive.  In some cases, we thought she stole the show over the food.  Shame I've forgotten her name now..

Glass of Cava and we were ready to commence The Gastronomic Menu, which starts with 6 tapas to whet the appetite.

Foccacia with prime quality cured ham (foreground)
Cream of tomato, melon and crunchy duck ham
Cod, virgin olive oil and frozen tomato
Tinned beetroot with watermelon
Blini with leek, king prawn and bacon
Creamy mushroom fritter
All starters were innovative while respecting the original excellent quality of the local produce used.  Suffice to say, we were wowed!

Marinated sardines, served on flat bread with tomato and basil tartare and balsamic ice cream
This was easily the best dish of the night for me, and I still dream of how fresh the sardines were and that oh so complementary balsamic ice cream on the top.  A wondrous combination of the freshest ingredients which matches some of the best sashimi places I've been lucky to eat at.

Razor clam from the Galician Rias, citrus fruits and cauliflower
This was a novel way to eat razor clams, which are similar to the bamboo clams we get an abundance of in Hong Kong.  Very fresh and the citricity was a nice balance to the mayo like sauce.

Rabbit shoulders in warm pickle and mushrooms
A tasty product from what was likely a stew done for hours with tender meat.  Pickles were a nice touch against the salinity but from this dish on, the rest of the dishes unfortunately failed to sustain the wow factor, and while very competent, one major complaint was the unusually high salt factor which seemed to increase with every dish.  

Creamy rice with "escorpora" and sea cucumber
I didn't know what an "esccorpora" is but I found out later that the fish is reddish with many spikes and which some translate to be a scorpion fish.  Not something we catch off the South China Sea I suppose.  Bouncy flesh akin to fugu.  But alas everything was overpowered by salt, as was the next dish.

Loin of cod with wild mushroom sauce
Aside from the salt, a little overcooked by Asian standards.

Pork neck, tender and crunchy textures, black sausage and citric fruit salad
A lot more well balanced than the preceding courses but by then we were reaching our limits.  Pity.  Crackling was awesome though.

Choco-passion fruit and "marialluisa"
Any European restaurant worth its salt (pun intended!) will redeem itself with dessert.  And this one did not disappoint.  The use of "marialluisa", Spanish for lemon verbena, provided the tangy freshness which paired well with the usually cloying passion fruit and chocolate combo.  

Rum savarin, apricot ice cream and purple fruit tea crumble
But if the sardines were my favorite savory dish of the evening, this was my favorite sweet one.  A well soaked cake but not overpowered by alcohol, it was lovely and moist and matched by the apricot ice cream, even if I didn't care too much for the crumble.  A nice end to a meal of hits and misses.

I wished we hadn't encountered the salt problem.  Part of the rationale could have been that we didn't drink as much, opting not to go with the wine pairing.  But still, I could feel a heart attack waiting to happen by the end of the night.  If sodium levels weren't so high, it would have been one of the best meals.  

Bonastruc de Porta, 10
17001 Girona
Tel: +34 972 21 38 20

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