Geeta Bansal Interviews Albert Adria About His New Pakta and Yaguarcan Restaurants

Categories: On the Line
Geeta with Albert

Every Monday, Clay Oven Irvine executive chef/owner Geeta Bansal shares an interview that she has done with some of the heavyweights of European cooking. Today, she regales us with the second part of her interview with Albert Adria. Here is the first one. Enjoy
Albert Adria On Tickets, Pakta, Yaguarcan and 41° Reincarnated (Continued . . .)
By Geeta Bansal, executive chef/owner at Clay Oven Irvine

Albert Adria is simply one of the most notable chefs of the world at this time. He belongs to a genre of chefs endowed with magical powers to transform food into unique forms while enhancing their taste. Adria joined the El Bulli team (his brother Ferran Adria was already on board) at the ripe old age of 15 years. He is known for creating the various deserts at El Bulli and the processes of transforming products by what came to be known as "molecular gastronomy" all over the world. In his book Natura, Adria says that he still doesn't know the meaning of the term molecular cooking.

He does not understand why he is addressed as the confectioner, foam guy, the desert chef, a deconstructionist, or as the chef who does weird food. He views his creations not as technical marvels, but as art with the ability to convey emotions. Adria is most inspired by nature, along with its imperfections. Food is his passion, and that about sums it for him.

A family man who will sometimes break off in the midst of a conversation because he just remembered he did not call his mother that day, so he must, of course, do so right away, Adria lives close to the restaurant with his wife, Sylvia, and son, Alex.

He left El Bulli in 2009, before it closed the following year, to work on his various projects such as Inopia (which opened in 2006), Tickets, 41° and two more that will open this year. Each successive restaurant that he opens becomes my favorite. As much as I love Tickets, 41° (aptly named the 41degree Experience) is at the top of my list, until I visit the next one.

Wherever you travel in the world, you see the way Adria's cuisine and style has changed the face of gastronomy. He works tirelessly, checking products, creating new plates, giving demonstrations, handling the operations of all his restaurants, travelling all over the world to food events, and still working at the pass each night at Tickets. All these ventures have been very well-received, and business is booming, which speaks to his competent management of this growing empire. Those of you trying to get a reservation know how hard it is to get in without a few months' notice.

Adria's new restaurant, Pakta (in Quecha, an ancient language spoken by the Incas; it means "union"), was to open on Jan. 15, but it was postponed to March 5, and just last night pushed back another three weeks. I first heard details about Pakta from Franco Kisic at Tickets, during one of many conversations we had at the end of night when things quieted down. He was at that time assisting Adria in fine-tuning this new concept they had come up with, and I got to see the location of this new project close to Tickets.

Adria's Tickets

I was curious about the décor since Tickets is based on the Vida La Tapa theme and is a bright, cheery space (with a cute female door girl guarding the entrance, top hat and all). The adjacent 41° is smaller and more chic, with red-leather-topped tables, a bar in half the space, silver steers on the walls, and plastic filaments hanging from the ceiling, from which an ever-changing projection alters the space on a continuum. It is a dimly lit room with a mysterious air that in a way prepares you for what comes next: the smoking, flaming cocktails or the unending procession of exquisite little bites, all enjoyed to a soundtrack by Suey.

Interior of 41°

In subsequent conversations with Adria, I got the gist of his plans for the brand-new ventures in his empire. I learned about the concept of dual kitchens, one Japanese and the other Peruvian, both meeting in the middle. Pakta is located on Calle Lerida, just 200 meters from Tickets, in the Parallel. I don't know if it will have a listed telephone number.

The menu will include traditional items such as soba noodles, salsas and ceviche, sashimi with the influence of South American cuisine, and modern or inventive things such as nigiri with Peruvian chili peppers called ají, as well as, of course, leche de tigre, or tiger's milk. This is the potent citrus marinade used for making ceviche in Peru and much of South America.

Smoking Salmon with Roe

"When I think of a menu, I think of a closed space," Adria says. So unlike Tickets (which has an à la carte menu), Pakta will serve a degustation-style menu at an average of 100€ per person. Adria commented that during the creative process with Kioki Li, who will be handling the Japanese kitchen, and Peruvian Jorge Munoz, they had all been making nigiri for some time, and he was very proficient in it by now. Rias de Galicia will be handling the seafood supplies to ensure quality products.

Seafood at 41°

Adria and his creative team have created more than 100 new dishes over the past six months, though, initially, the menu will have just 35 dishes. The kitchen team will include a brigade of six chefs, plus the two main. Franco assisted in the training and formation of the dining-room team and the creation of authentic Peruvian cocktails such as chilcanos and sake sours. In my last conversation with him, he had left for Lima a few days after his recent visit to Barcelona, with everything ready to go. After the opening of Pakta, 41° is moving next door, into a larger space that will retain its style. The dining area will be on the upper floor, while downstairs will be its very popular bar with small bites, charcuterie and its 14€-plus cocktails that are so famous.

The next venture is named Yaguarcan (house of Jaguar) and is located on Calle del Carmen in Barcelona's El Raval neighborhood, which has now transformed from a rougher area into an edgy quarter with hip bars and restaurants. (I have another favorite restaurant there named Dos Pallilos.) It is to be a large space with a mescal and tequila bar, a restaurant, and a visible tortilleria as part of an open kitchen. This is by far the largest of the Adria ventures and will be a casual space with 80 seats. Mexican specialties such as moles, tamales and empanadas (with a contemporary twist) will be served like tapas for the younger clientele of that area. Raval is the area adjacent to the bustling Ramblas and is a must-see for every tourist to Barcelona. The atelier where all of the R&D for El Bulli and other projects was done, as well as their offices, are also situated nearby.

Albert's version of Mexican Sweet Corn Ravioli

By now, Adria must be tired of my never-ending questions, but here I go again. . . .

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