OAD Dinner (Top100 European Restaurants)

Some stories are there to be told…

… the PAST: one about my personal history with OAD (Opinionated about Dining)…

… the PRESENT: one about the friendship and professionalism of seven chefs serving the OAD Top100 European Restaurants 2014 diner in Brussels last Monday…

… the FUTURE: and, finally, one about the future of fine dining that already shined through at the OAD diner…


When I started to get interested in fine dining in a serious way I came across some forums that discussed the latest trends, shared experiences and gave advice from an international perspective. Among them was Steve Plotnicki’s Opinionated about Dining where I found similar minds to share my passion. It was here that, in 2005, I posted about German fine dining and asked why no-ones writes about the German scene. Steve answered that there is nobody to promote those restaurants and the consensus was that German fine dining was a mere copy of French haute cuisine. So, as a matter of fact my whole blogging mission was born out of this OAD threat as I want to showcase and portrait the German fine dining scene, first on the site highendFOOD (that miraculously now belongs to the you-know-who of the German culinary world) and now under this new endeavor culinary-insights.de.

OAD Top100 European Restaurants.

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Can Roca – Less Magical

”There were once three brothers who were traveling along a lonely, winding road at twilight. In time, the brothers reached a river too deep to wade through and too dangerous to swim across. However, these brothers were learned in the magical arts, and so they simply waved their wands and made a bridge appear across the treacherous water.“

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El Celler de Can Roca – Imaginative, Intelligent, Ingenious

The bitter pill of Can Fabes we swallowed had still to be digested when we headed off for El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. A lot has been written about the restaurant of the three Roca brothers, Joan (head chef), Josep (sommelier) and Jordi (patissier), so it might not be necessary to tell you much about the background, history etc. Only that Joan is one of the premier protagonists of sous-vide cooking, that Jordi creates dessert which resemble the aromas of different perfumes and Josep is a fantastic sommelier who has fallen in love with German wine.

The Destination

The Destination

Not easy to find in the outskirts of Girona the new restaurant espacio (opened in November 2007) very much reflects the Roca’s philosophy – it is modern, but not puristic, it is contemplative, but not boring, a perfect place to eat and just to enjoy yourself. Basically a two sides of a triangle with a kind of atrium in the middle only separated by glass from the diner. It is the most spacious and light-flooded place I have ever dined. You can get a good idea of the place here. It’s awesome and some kind of monument where you feel at home at once. Rafael Garcia Santos of Lo Mejor refers to the new espacio as “the cloister of the 21st century”. Very well!

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Can Fabes – Slightly Below Expectations (September 2008)

When I planned my trip to Barcelona it appeared natural for me to also include two well-known restaurants, namely Santi Santamaria’s Can Fabes and El Celler de Can Roca. Santi is regarded a Spanish monument and has had a tremendous impact on Spanish Fine Dining. He enjoys enormous popularity with his TV cooking show on Saturday, has written numerous books and articles (some were quite controversial recently about his “different” take on molecular cuisine) and opened Santceloni in Madrid, EVO in Barcelona and recently the restaurant Tierra in Oropesa.

Can Fabes holds three Michelin stars since 1994 and is the most traditional of the six three star chefs in Spain renowned for his mastery of meat courses and his quest for product perfection. Funnily, I could not find a single detailed review of his cuisine at Can Fabes in the foodie community, only short posts on eGullet or elsewhere where there was praise and blame. This should have made me cautious, but the name was strong enough to get me into a reservation…

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The Barcelona Files (III): Gresca

“Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster.”
– Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Great cuisine can be easy, intellectually stimulating, fun and not elitist or whatsoever at all… In Barcelona a new species of restaurants has evolved in recent years, the so called Bistronomias – a mixture of bistro (reflecting both the atmosphere and setting as well as the traditional dishes which serves as an inspiration for the chefs) and gastronomia (reflecting the haute cuisine touch to improve the dishes).

Recently Rafael Peña of Gresca (who worked for some years in IT and then changed careers) received some attention after his appearance at the Madrid Fusion where he demonstrated his young, intelligent and relaxed approach to cooking. At Gresca, he serves a two courses lunch for €18 by abiding with one the traditional hallmarks of haute cuisine, the usual suspects of turbot, lobster from Brittany and the like. Instead he uses best quality local products from the markets of Barcelona. Well, he is an advantageous position there…

Interesting enough for me to ensure a reservation. And, as Gresca is opened on Mondays it fit very nicely in my overall eating schedule. For lunch it was – they told us to call in advance when we wanted the big degustation menu. Sure we did call…

Gresca is located in the Eixample the part of Barcelona where the best shopping places around Passeig de Gracia and beautiful Modernisme (the Barcelona version of Jugendstil) buildings meet. Casa Mila is just around the corner so we could use Gresca as a target and later as restarting point for straying around in this beautiful area.

Modern Moments inmidst Modernisme

Modern Moments inmidst Modernisme

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The Barcelona Files (II): Rias de Galicia

After a long night at Comerς24 we took a good nights sleep and had a wonderful day in Barcelona. As Sunday is a quite difficult day for fine dining especially in Barcelona as all starred places are closed we decided to give Rias de Galicia a try renown for being one of the best sea food places on the planet. Very well…

We took a subway to Plaza España and walked by the big fair building (not modern at all, hey, it is Barcelona). Soon we arrived at our destination:

Rias de Galicia

Rias de Galicia

Coming closer we discovered some food which just looked fabulous:

Simple Arguments to get People in

It's so easy to fall in love..

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The Barcelona Files (I): Comerς24

Eating late in Spain is not a problem as most diners and restaurants start at 9pm or later. When reserving I am always hesitant to book at 9 in order not to be judged as a tourist or food amateur. So, landing in Barcelona around 9:30 we thought would be a perfect way of having diner at Comerς24 around 10:30. Well, we actually started much later…

What made me go there? Well, I heard a couple of good things, Kobe Desramaults of In the Wulf stayed there after Oud Sluis (so it seems to be a good working experience), Sergio Herman seems to be a friend of Carles Abellan and, last but not least, I came across the blog of a young chef who is currently working there and who has a full page of enthusiastic reviews. He was very nice to arrange the table – thanks again!

Expectations? Well, somehow it seems that Carles Abellan was at the forefront of the bistronomia movement – Comerς24 has still the atmosphere of a bistro located in a renovated salting house and preserves shop, but received one star in 2007 for its new way of thinking about traditional tapas. Carles worked at ElBulli and then was supported by Ferran after his stint there. So, my expectation were high and I envisioned modern, deconstructed tapas from all over the world, something inspirational. Not really…

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