Thursday, August 26, 2004

Café de Paris, Malaga

Having visited two of the regions other top restaurants, it seemed natural to give Café de Paris a try. With a michelin star, situated close to the port, it seemed a natural stop for lunch when in Malaga visiting the the Picasso muséum (check out this if you comprehend Norwegan).

A small and cosy restaurant, with decorative striped tapestry combined with strange angles, creates a near picassoesque interior in the dining area.

I decided to take the menu degustación and left it to the charming waitress to serve whatever they felt would be most suitable with each dish.

The appetizer was a tray filled with 4 test tubes with various soups, melon, watermelom, ajo blanco an gaspacho and a few unmemorable small snacks. Soups were ok, but did not really blow me away. Sceptical, I became.

The first dish, mousse of fois gras sandwiched between thin pastry, served with a sorbet de circuelas and apple purée was bland. Served with a glass of non-distinct sweet wine. I’d prefer real fois gras on a piece of grilled contry bread any day.

Next came Bonbón de sardinas marinadas con verduritas y consomé de melón, a marinated sardine in a melon soup with a brunoise of vegetables. This was perfect, a surprisingly good combination. Alas, it woul turn out to be the pinnacle of the meal.

A langoustine wrapped in cucumber, grilled lightly and served in a white buttery sauce would be next. Also good, kind of reminded me of a dish I had in Gianfranco Vissanis Umbrian restaurant 10 years ago where he paired lobster with cucumber and black pepper.

Ventresca de Atún 65° con lentejas y vinagreta templada, carefully cooked fatty tuna with lentils and a tapenade. This was a very good rustic dish cooked to perfection. Had a glass of drinkable Navarra with this.

The main course, was piegon, Pechuga de Pichión rosado con crema fina de patatas. A breast of pigeon on top of – potato glue. This is what happens when you use a blender to mix your pureé, it inevitably turns to glue. Can’t think what the chef thought about here. Potato purée should always be made with a ricer, or a moulinette (food mill). Kind of destroyed an otherwise good piece of meat. The leg, which had been cooked confit style, was also very good. Served with a glass of red wine from Malaga, a Syrah, which was ok.

First dessert, yet another chocolate fondent, which was good, but not as good as the one I had at El Lago the other day. The lemon ice cream that came with it was good. A sweet, almost burned Malaga sweet wine suited the dish well.

Next was Cremoso de cielo con yougurth gireco y coral, which was not to interesting.

Then it was time for an espresso, and yet another small soup and some petit fours.

All in all, an acceptable lunch, but not really a match when compared to El lago (which is cheaper) or with Tragabuches in Ronda (which is in a class of its own).

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

El lago

El Lago restaurant is situated in the midst of an appartment complex in Elvira, some 12 km east of Marbella. It offers modern innovative cusine in attractive surroundings. Next to it is an artificial lake which is the focal point of the Elivira Hills estate. Our flat is situated in this area, so I have visisted on a number of occasions, and it is usually very good. I like to think of it as the local version of Tragabuches in Ronda.

Being alone in a place this it is often difficult to find wine to match the food, as it is preferable to pair each course with a suitable wine. The selection of halfbottles and glass by the wine, I requested the sommelier to serve what he thought best, which usually works fine.

My table was in the remote corner of the outside terrace, and only one other table was occupied when I arrived at 20:30. I started off with a glass of Cava and a small tray filled with various fried vegetable crisps and a pastry stick adourned with a parmesan flower sticking up from a shot glass filled with various forms of rice arrived. Crisp and interesting flavours, and it kept me busy to.

Bread arrived, various rolls and very thin freshly made and still warm grissini like sticks.

Then arrived a tray filled with appetizers as well as a glass of Möet & Chandon Rosé champagne. A small shot glass with an orange and tangerine gaspacho, unusual but perfectly balanced. A spoon of gooselivermousse with caramelised wine, delicious. A spoon with avocado mousse, wasabi and marinated salmon, interesting combination. Fresh. A large mussle marinated in some flavoured vinegar, actually very tasty, which is not normally the case.

Next, Ajo Blanco (cold) with a piece of lukewarm qails breast sitting on top of a vegetable brunoise (carrot and leek) mixed with other parts of the quail. A revelation. Perfect.

A classic, which they allways seem to have in one form or the other, came next. “Alternate layers of chicken breast, fois gras and caramelized apple” was good but somewhat on the sweet side for my palate. The dish is very interesting though. A mini sandwich, two triangles, consisting of a top layer of crisp caramel, apple, liver, chicken, liver, chicken and raw apple with a purée of apples and specs of vanilla.

The fish was a grouper with snowpeas and beans and a foam of these vegetables. Very elegant, a small piece of fish cooked to perferction with a tasty reduction of its cooking juices. The star of the night. Served with a glass of Saviugnon Blanc from Castilla la Mancha which was a perfect match.

The meat, duck with fois gras, mango was allright, but not perfect. When enquiring about the menu I was sceptical about this. Next time I will follow my instinct. To go was a red wine which was way to warm, and which was duly sent back. Sad thing.

With the desserts I was offered a glass of sweet wine from Malaga, Pedro Ximinez, which was very good. Reminded me of Banyouls.

The first dessert was a cup filled with lemon tart stuffing, strawberries and cream. Perfect, if like me, you feel like the ordinary lemon tart is a bit heavy. Excellent.

A perfect chocholate fondant was next followed with an assortment of fruits. As near perfection as you can get (mind you, I’m normally not much of a dessert fellow). Here, the Ximinex wine excelled.

Ristretto, by this time the restaurant had filled up completely, mostly of Spaniards.

All in all, a very good meal, I wonder when Michelin comes knocking...