There is nothing wrong with modern cuisine, or whatever you want to call it, just so long as the gastronomic elements do not became too subordinated to the artistic ones. When the presentation of the food becomes more important than the food itself then it is time to cry Stop!
Chefs are of course very much up against it these days. The competition to produce more and more inventive dishes is overwhelming and not good for the diner in the long run. There is not space here to go into the whethers, or whether better nots of the cooking currently produced by the likes of Spain’s great chefs like Arzak, Adriá and Dani García. However, one thing is certain, every Spanish chef wants to be considered comparable with these monsters of the ‘art’, and will do practically anything to get there.
The latest initiative I have come across is the new menu at the El Anden Restaraunt in the Hotel Barceló, at Malaga’s AVE train station. The idea, perfectly comprehensible, is to produce a menu with dishes inspired by some of the paintings in Málaga’s Carmen Thyssen Museum. The artistic creator is Chef David Sanmartin.
Of course it would help if you could see the works of art that the dishes are mean to denote, otherwise it is difficult to understand how a (very tasty) typical malagueña ajoblanco cold soup made from ground almonds, garlic and grapes, relates to Guillermo Gómez’s picture, La Fuente de Reding (‘The Reding Fountain’). Or how the mini-burger of oxtail is supposed to relate to Mario Fortuny’s Picador Herido (‘’Wounded Picador’). And if this were a competition, I am sure no-one would guess how a cold potato salad with salt cod ‘petals’ is supposed to correspond to Juan Gris’s Mujer Sentada (‘Seated Woman’). But maybe I am just not getting into the swing of things.
The venison steak was delicious, but perhaps it was too much to expect anyone to associate it with Monet’s Casa entre Rosas (‘House among Roses’), just because there were a couple of rose petals on the plate. We got into even more difficult terrain, almost literally, with the dessert, which consisted of a chocolate brownie (well, sort of) with pistachios and lemon mousse, apparently based on Matisse’s ‘Conversation Under an Olive Tree’.
Full marks though for not having messed around with the wines, which were unashamedly recognisable as their real persona, ergo Srta Manzanilla Solear from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Sr Enate, an outstanding red from Somontano, and Sra Cava 1551 from Catalonia.
Price is 35 euros with wine included.