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The food of Spanish culinary sensation Andoni Luis Aduriz is all about contradictions.

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  • 00 ZbBz ISSUE 11 ISSUE 11 ZbBz 00

    I have to be well-equipped with skills in order to keep creating

    beautiful surprises for diners, going beyond their imagination.

    GOURMET

    On TheContraryThe food of Spanish culinary sensation Andoni Luis Aduriz is all about contra dictions

    TEXT LIM HUI SIN & PHOTO MUgarItz

    Andoni Luis Aduriz, the man whom celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal calls the smartest chef in Spain, can spell out contradictions in everything about his restaurant, from its location to its cuisine. And therein perhaps lies its charm.

    Mugaritz, ranked No. 5 in the The Worlds 50 best Restaurant Awards 2010, is one of those obscure destination restaurants in San Sebastian that can confound even the most earnest GPS-toting diner. And after beating many a winding path through the Basque mountains to find the place now known for its high-tech cuisine, one is greeted not with sleek metal and glass interiors. Instead, he is faced with a simple farmhouse and an earthy dcor of teak ceilings, ceramic tiles and wicker furniture. Huge windows lend an easy, natural feel.

    Why pick such an obscure location for the restaurant? Says Aduriz, who founded Mugaritz in 1998: In the beginning, it was because we didnt have money for a downtown location. Now, I just think this is the best location.

    The restaurant, which has two Michelin stars, is found in Spains Basque region, and we belong there, but we also belong to our customers, who come from

    all over the world, he elaborates. We respect tradition, but we are in a modern time and environment, so even though we are in a small village, our cuisine is reflective of the world.

    Mugaritz has been contributing to the innovative Spanish cuisine scene at a fast pace rather unexpected for a restaurant set in a village. We have too many things to do, but we have too little time and we have to work as quickly as possible. This opportunity for me to live and learn from two extremes is given to me by the kitchen.

    To get an idea of how creative Aduriz has been, just dig into one of his starter dishes, Eatable Stones, or what he calls ceramic potatoes.

    Expect lots of contradiction because its unpalatable name says nothing about the final dish, which looks deceptively simple to prepare and tastes divine.

    The potatoes first have to be boiled before being put in lactose, black corn syrup and edible kaolin clay, then bathed in hot water before being put in a dryer. The result is a potato that is crispy on the outside and buttery and soft on the inside.

    The dish was inspired by a trip to Peru, when he came across an ancient

    method of cooking potatoes. Back home, he poured heart and soul into experimenting with a new way of cooking potatoes, which includes using edible kaolin clay for the right amount of crackle an idea offered by a minerals researcher.

    Aduriz notes: The important part is that the potato has to be served at 45 to 50 deg C, so that when the diner bites into it, there will be a cracking sound like with chocolate.

    Ignatius Chan, owner of Singapores renowned Iggys restaurant, attests that it tastes nothing like its name.

    There is so much thought and so many steps behind this deceptively simple dish his creations have a lot of depth, says Chan. He is always so inspired by the earth, the region he is in and the seasons. The dishes he presents are so unique, surprising and memorable, and the bottom line is, [the ceramic potato] tastes great.

    This February, Chan invited Aduriz and five other chefs of repute to Singapore for a charity dinner held at Iggys. The chefs prepared nine dishes in all for 45 diners, who paid $3,000 each.

    Kudos to Chan that these diners had the rare treat of sampling Adurizs cooking outside of Spain. Aduriz, 39, says he has received many invitations to make an appearance from Singapore, but has declined so far because he never cooks outside of his own kitchen. He made an exception as a favour to Chan.

    Adurizs cooking showcases that fine balance between food technology and good old-fashioned fine cooking. This is showcased in dishes such as Fossilized

    Salsify with Algues Tops finished with a briny roe. In this dish, the dried burdock is not dehydrated while dried on the outside, the inside remains soft. The flavours are concentrated in the drying process, with an interesting texture being created at the same time. And the saltiness of the roe garnishing complements and enhances the dish perfectly.

    This creation and other similar feats have earned him the label of the future of Spanish cuisine from gourmet critics. It has been said that in the avant-garde culinary world, Ferran Adria is like Picasso while Aduriz is like Monet. He has inherited the spirit of exploration in the kitchen, unveiling new discoveries of old and primitive flavours. His assured use of chemistry and advanced techniques to do this sees him roasting carrots in clay and creating crispy milk flakes and even hay consomm.

    Aduriz counts himself luckier than the chefs who had come before him, as his generation from 10 years ago started to work with other food scientists, so we can get more valuable material from scientific talent.

    The transformation of the Basque region into the cradle of high-tech cuisine is all thanks to chefs like Aduriz. A decade ago, he shared tips at a culinary festival in San Sebastian, such as the perfect temperatures for making poached eggs (62 deg C) and foie gras (60 deg C). In recent years, these tips have become accepted as the norm, publicised and used globally.

    Even so, Aduriz is convinced that his cuisine is simple. Usually, each dish has three or four ingredients and the focus is on maintaining harmony between these ingredients while showcasing the special taste of each. But his simple dishes appear to have a rather complex mission: In addition to provoking surprise, he desires to create a gourmet experience that money cannot buy.

    Why does he push himself so hard? Because I want to steal the hearts of diners, he explains. The clients who come to the restaurant are not common; they have travelled the world and come with a deep wealth of knowledge. I have to be well-equipped with skills in order to keep creating beautiful surprises for them, going beyond their imagination.

    A dish of clashing contrasts heavy cream, sweets and leaves. (Photo: Jose Luis Lopez de Zubiria)

    Fossilized salsify with algues tops finished with a briny roe. (Photo: Jose Luis Lopez de Zubiria)

    Mugaritz (Photo: Oscar Oliva)

  • 00 ZbBz ISSUE 11 ISSUE 11 ZbBz 00

    201050

    Mugaritz

    Andoni Luis AdurizMugaritz

    Heston Blumenthal

    39Aduriz

    14

    Michel

    BrasFerran Adria

    DESIGN GOURMET

    Eatable Stones

    4550

    AdurizIggys

    Aduriz6

    45

    3000

    Aduriz

    Aduriz

    6260

    Aduriz

    Vegetables, oven roasted

    and raw, sprouts and greens

    Fossilized Salsify with Algues Tops

    finished with a briny roe

    A piece of milkveal roasted and perfumed

    with vine cutting embers

    A d u r i z

    Roasted Tomato Salad, cool chufa milk

    Inte rp re ta t ion o f van i t y : Mo is t

    Chocolate Cake, cold almond cream and cocoa

    bubbles

    Aduriz

    11

    Mugaritz aldura aldea 20-Otzazulueta Baserria E - 20100

    Errenteria gipuzkoa,Spain +34-943-518343

    Eatable Stone (Photo: Jose Luis Lopez de Zubiria)

    Aduriz

    50Mugaritz35(Photo: Oscar Oliva)

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