The fact of opening this utterly luxurious restaurant just before the beginning of the world crisis has been synonymous with vicissitudes, fragile moments and huge readjustments. Designed as a real palace regarding concept, structure and target market, this model will have few heroic survivors in the current global economic context. Barcelona will host one, two or three of them, at the most. Abac will probably make it. It is fighting for it.
Its owner, Josep María González, a visionary of the hotel industry, winner of the Business man of the year Award by Lo Mejor de la Gastronomía guide, promoter of a string of important restaurants, has been able to get through this very complex project –maybe because he had no choice– and has proved again he had an innate nose of truffle dog. Amazingly enough, in 2010, the culinary line of the house changed radically. The doctoral and virtuous style of famous chef Xavier Pellicer was replaced by the revolutionary practice of a promising and daring young chef who has risked it all on avant-gardism. This approach seems to pay off, mainly because he has been able to keep on alone –or almost alone– on the top, combining the bourgeois model of the facilities, the forms and the business with definitely creative and nonconformist flavours. We are before an elitist restaurant, I mean elitist regarding presentation and sapid profiles, worthy of the requirements of a very skilled and minority social demand.
Let us insist: after selecting the candidate from a long list of dazzling names and other chefs known for their forms rather than for their contents, Josep Maria González made the right decision when he bet on the youth, ideality and ambition of a hard-working and promising chef who had already won important awards such as the International Championship for Recipes using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, “Jaén, Paraíso Interior”, but who had not been able to assure the success of any project yet, mainly because of the location of the business and the lack of entrepreneurial experience.
Nowadays, after a logical period of uncertainty, Jordi Cruz, aged 33, has become one of the best Spanish cooks, together with Paco Morales, Josean M. Alija, Eneko Atxa, Marcos Moran, Nacho Manzano… A generation in its thirties that is filling Spanish kitchens with freshness and new sensations. Two of his virtues stand out: his extraordinary creative talent and his proverbial gift of taste, which plays an integral part of all his dishes, always elegant and harmonious. Although the articulations might seem amazing and the flavours might be “exotic”, the proposals always turn to be velvety and structured. His work also rimes with constancy, thoroughness and knowledge; essential qualities to reach the level obtained, which will certainly be raised, I insist.
The menu has been totally changed. There is only one charming, exquisite, light, ingenious and intensely Mediterranean proposal left, which has been reinvented: dried tomatoes swimming into red pepper juice with olive oil, smoked sardine, breadcrumbs, anchovy brine and basil oil. A dish any Italian chef would envy. The torrent of imagination starts with the very techno and impressive appetizers like the mojito and nitrogened yoghurt lollipop with caviar, which reflect the importance of Ferran Adrià’s influence. These vibrant moments are repeated with the third bite: utterly fresh sea urchins, wild and oceanic, enhanced with some Thai curry that brings some tempered warmth to the mouth and daringly accompanies the seafood. The great techno shows and the complexity of the constructions, which are part of Jordi’s work, are brilliantly executed. Like the liquid Parmesan gnocchi with bergamot butter, served with walnuts, mushroom and lemon grass infusion and truffle; timeless flavours with galactic forms. The raw and lukewarm oyster, with all its juice and essences, accompanied with mushroom juice, citrus and salsifies, confirms the propensity for purity and elaborate treatments of familiar flavours to get new sensations. The smoked tartar steak is an amazing deconstruction: incredible alteration of the texture of the meat, which is transformed into a veal “snow”, decorated with crunchy focaccia, mustard veil and egg yolk sauce. The spherified egg, presented with great pomp, is stylishly accompanied with an exquisite new texture of mashed potatoes, juicy pork jowl, aromatic black truffle slices, olive oil, arugula, … A great combination of historical elegance and renewed technical design. The splendour of Catalonia is reflected through the Maresme peas cooked in a foil parcel, served with their cream, baby octopus, Figueres onion juice and slices, cod tripe, bergamot, … The dish could not be more meaty, natural and precise. Japan’s westernization is a complete success: grilled Mediterranean tuna belly, macaroni with ponzu sauce, kumquat peel, mizuna salad, crunchy artichoke and spicy roots purée. And what can we say about the clairvoyant and very elaborate vision of the hare “à la royale”, artistically modernized and served after performing all its components: slightly grilled saddle, stewed stuffing and foie gras, amazingly and funnily accompanied with pineapple and pine kernels. The main courses have been considerably consolidated.
Jordi Cruz has made a clear qualitative leap forward. For a transcendental change, he just needs to focus on the definition of a clearly distinctive culinary personality.