One of the things I was most excited about on our Eurotrip was eating at Tickets. In all seriousness, I set an alarm to wake at 2:55 am one night two months before our trip to score the reservation, and it was worth every bit of wasted sleep.
As a foodie, this was a serious bucket list item for me. I was on the waiting list for a reservation at el Bullí when Ferran Adrià announced its closure, and was heartbroken at the thought of having missed my chance. So this, his brother’s restaurant, was the next best thing. The Michelin star was reflected in well-executed decor and lovely service. And as we settled in to our seats at the open kitchen, to watch the chefs execute our tasting menu and enjoy our caparainhas, I knew we were in for the meal of a lifetime.
Mini airbags de queso were served on a platter of rock salt. Filled with Manchego foam, topped with aged Manchego, caviar, and pimentón, it was a cascade of flavors and textures.
Then I had my mind blown by the legendary el Bullí olives. Alignate spherification encases an intense olive purée just until it dissolves on your tongue. I am no olive fan, but these were glorious and a little bit life changing.
Our oyster course included two delicious variations. I especially loved the second, where the oyster was served with its pearl (spherified champagne and powdered silver). Full disclosure, I might have been influenced by the darling waitress who suggested it was because I was una princesa and complimented my skirt.
Monica was the most perfect waitress ever, for the record. So solicitous about indulging our palates and preferences throughout the tasting menu, and so enthusiastic when discussing the food with us, but never a bother. We exchanged addresses and emails, I adored Moní that much.
She’d just brought me my next cocktail, with a dragonfruit base and dry ice cloud, when I was admiring the fancy gold-wrapped jamón iberico gran reserva on the counter. I watched as another waiter lifted the entire ham and its stand to deliver to a nearby table, and I nearly fainted when I realized who was sitting there… Albert and Ferran Adrià.
I’m not typically the type to get starstruck, but Ferran Adrià is practically a god. Some people hunt big 5 game, but my big five is Choi, Chang, Bourdain, Ripert, and Adrià. The hero worship is real. So after I worked up the guts to stop creeping and staring at the master of molecular gastronomy, I was grateful to have Monica to translate. I was practically vibrating as I held his hands and fawned and babbled about how he inspired me and food and love and cried a little and god knows what all else- sucked to be David attempting to get a picture of my hot mess, and I was too much of a wilting violet to bother him again. The entire exchange is a blur, but I will never forget it as long as I live.
It seemed almost silly to eat when I was so excited, but the next arrival brought my attention right back to the plate. Crunchy pizza with Bufala straciatella is one of the most popular tapas on the menu, and it was easy to see why. Shatteringly crisp crust, brightly flavorful dehydrated tomato dust microbasil and spherified basil oil are topped with strands of creamy burrata. It was at the same time both definitively a margherita pizza yet completely unlike any pizza I’d ever had.
Scrumptious smoked eel mini sandwiches were accented with shiso leaf. The bread was an ultralight and crispy air baguette, a perfect contrast to the tender unagi.
Crabmeat and vegetables were delivered in delicate cucumber rolls, served floating in a watercress broth.
This dish was dubbed the Nordic landscape. Veal tartare, lingonberry, shallots, soft smoked cheese and greens were piled upon a dark crisp bread and dusted with sherry vinegar ‘snow.’ We were loving the experience of eating with tongs rather than traditional cutlery.
The suckling pig mollete was a delicious grilled jamón y queso sandwich. The tender bread was totally unique to me, with the delicacy of a steamed bao but the crumb and crust of an English muffin.
Roasted sunchokes and celeriac were drenched in a rich truffle purée. My mouth is watering just remembering- I’m pretty sure I fought David for the last bite of this goodness.
Spicy fresh tuna tartare was served on a nori mille-feuille with popped tapioca. Fresh and delicious, the different textures combined beautifully, in a way that recalled California sushi bar tuna crispy rice.
Maresme was bright and refreshing. Whole Catalán green peas floated in delicate pea soup, drizzled with fennel jus and and sprinkled with crunchy pancetta.
Even dessert was a three-course affair- my sweet tooth was thrilled! The first was caramelized carrot cones, with a fluffy queso center. All the best aspects of carrot cake and cheesecake, they were served planted in chocolate soil.
The meringue churros were positively meltaway. I could barely stop nibbling to dip them in the rich spiced hot chocolate, but I was glad I did- the two together were incredible.
A dessert drink to share rounded out our meal. Cocoa and citrus combined with cachaça for a cocktail that managed to be equally rich and refreshing. And then my new friend Ferran sent over shots of his family reserve orange-and-limoncello and I was so flattered I could have died right there on the spot, and I’m certain I would have ascended straight to heaven.
After such amazing food and drink and the emotion of surprise hero worship, you could have stuck a fork in me, I was so done. Our incredible dinner experience had stretched more than four hours, so we paid the (substantial) bill and headed out for a moon-and-neon-lit walk home.