Mugaritz is number six on Restaurant magazine’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and has two Michelin stars. One would expect food perfection from such a restaurant, non? But it seems Chef Aduriz aims to surprise more than to please.
The first few dishes (summer truffle slices with a garlic and parsley pesto and tomato-“smeared” radishes) were delivered to the patio, where wafts of smoke smelling of grilled meat were emitted. Each plate, as well as the sensory experience, was supposed to evoke memories and emotion.
We ground our own corn in a mortar with a pestle and were advised to moisten it with gelatin and eat on bread. Maybe this was to remind us of the labor expended for food, or ancient preparation? Either way, it was not appetizing at all.
Was horse meat meant to make us think of hard times in Europe when people were forced to eat it? Or was it meant to provoke us because some cultures find it taboo? We did not ask what was the tangy white slime that served as a sauce.
We were taken to the kitchen to try a sweet treat—after eating a brownish marshmallow, we were told it was made of pork blood and caramelized onions. The chef de cuisine said it is to teach the history of how sugar used to be so expensive that other items were used as sweeteners. Blood substituted for egg whites because it has the same protein properties, but was this part of the historical lesson? I believe blood would have been harder to come by than eggs in the past.
A server scattered “stones” across our table at the beginning of the dinner. If you are a savvy diner and research a restaurant before you go, you would know that in the past these were artfully decorated potatoes and were eatable. I picked up one and tapped it, tried to crush it, but it was as hard as a rock. How many patrons have cracked a tooth? Apparently the joke is on you, because now they are tiny sugar sculptures you are instructed to grate onto mini churros as a mignardise.