Albert Adrià is culinary royalty. Along with his brother Ferran, the Adrià brothers ran the most famous (and probably the most influential) restaurant in the world, El Bulli, which closed in 2011. El Bulli is where modern molecular gastronomy was born, and many of the world’s best chefs spent time at El Bulli, including Massimo Bottura, Rene Redzepi, the Roco Brothers, and Grant Achatz.
Once El Bulli closed, Albert decided to open up a series of restaurants in Barcelona under the El Barri group, the most famous being Tickets, which has been ranked in the top 20 in the world and is a modern play on Spanish Tapas. In 2016, Adrià opened Enigma, which only holds 24 people at one time. Enigma has one Michelin Star and is currently ranked #82 on the 2019 World’s 50 Best restaurant’s list.
Our journey to Enigma started in when we found out we were going to Scotland. We’ve been eyeing Barcelona for a while, because Barcelona is awesome and we like saying Barcelona with a lisp to each other. Plus, it’s one of the best food cities in the world. We were originally going to try to go to Tickets, but the reservation website for the El Barri group is, in a word, terrible. Apparently, in order for the system to accept your reservation, you have to set your computer’s calendar to Barcelona’s time zone. So we ended up “settling” for Enigma, which, spoiler alert, wasn’t settling. We also went with Yvonne’s dad, Wayne, who had never been to this type of restaurant prior to this. Except for the night before, when we went to El Cellar de Can Roca. Yes, we did El Cellar De Can Roca and Enigma on back to back nights. Do not try that at home boys and girls – leave that up to us professionals and Wayne.
Enigma is a tasting menu experience that involves traveling to different rooms throughout your time at the restaurant. The price is €220, which is not bad when you consider that you’re going to have between 25 and 40 dishes. Enigma was one of the most fun dining experiences we’ve ever had, as it truly was a journey through different rooms in what looked like The Penguin’s ice cave. When you make the reservation, you are given a code which is needed to get into the front door. As stupid Americans, we couldn’t figure out how to get the code to work (the numbers must have been in Spanish, ahem), so the hostess came down and helped us out. This was the only mishap of the whole night.
Once inside, you are brought to the first room, which is called La Cava. Here we were given our first few bites.
We were first handed a cocktail, which was gin and dry vermouth and a spray of Mandarin orange essence. Let’s get boozy, people. I think it’s nice when a restaurant starts you off with a drink, whether it be champagne or a cocktail. It’s a very welcoming sign that puts you in the mood. See pictures later for Yvonne’s mood.
Blini with Caviar
This was described as pancake air with caviar. It was good, but we aren’t going to remember this one.
Enigma served this dish at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants festivities this past April in Macao. It’s a clear bread that is crunchy with truffles shaved on top. Clear bread was a new one for us – pretty cool and innovative – and we’re only three bites in.
Aonori with Sea urchin & Wasabi
This crunchy aonori canapé with sea urchin and fresh mediterranean wasabi was served as a one bite. Notice we’ve gone from caviar to truffle to sea urchin already. $$$$$$$$.
Orange Blossom Kakigori
To round out the first room, we were given an orange blossom sorbet, which was a nice homage to our sus drink at the beginning of this section. A great palate cleanser for our raw bar experience ahead.
Next we were taken to La Barra, which was the raw bar.
We watched as our chef sliced the squid so thin that it was transparent. She then put a drop of olive oil and a drop of soy sauce on each of our pieces. One of my favorite bites of the night – so simple, yet so good.
Lobster Claw & Lobster Roe
This was not how the lobster was served, but it looked so cool on the plate that I decided to use this as the picture. The claw was cut sashimi style and then topped with its own roe.
Barnacle & Codium
Have you ever had goose barnacles with codium seaweed? I doubt it. The barnacle was served with a sauce made of seaweed and sunflower oil. It was then served with a side of “barnacle juice” and actual seaweed. This was, as my buddy Branden would say, a taste of the ocean.
The foie gras was cured in an anchovy salt while we were waiting at the table. The actual salt is cured with anchovies for over a year to bring out the subtle, extra-salty anchovy flavor. So smooth and delicious.
Off to the next room, La Planxa. This was a hot bar, almost like what you’d see at a Hibachi Style Japanese steakhouse.
Oyster with Iberian Ham
The best part of visiting Spain is the Iberian Ham. Sorry Italy, but I think Spain delivers on the best ham in the world, and I try to eat it as much as possible when traveling there. And who doesn’t love a little oyster confit in Iberico fat with Iberico broth? Poach anything in Iberian ham and it will be good, but pair it with a nice fresh oyster, and it’s the best.
I think i’ve come 540 degrees on peas. I think the smooshed, non-flavorful peas I grew up on soured me to what an actual good pea can taste like. When they are this crunchy and cooked so well you realize the magic of the pea.
The chefs wouldn’t tell us what this one was, for fear that we wouldn’t eat it once we learned it was rabbit brain. Come on bros, you know we’re not going to freak out on a little rabbit brain. Where Wayne comes from (Kentucky), this is a delicacy.
Wagyu & Sea Urchin
My dad has recently asked me 100 times what Wagyu is. God bless him. It’s technically any of the four Japanese breeds of cattle, but you can also just call it “really good shit,” k? The mix of the sea urchin created an ultra-upscale surf and turf experience.
Mushroom & Black Truffle Chawanmushi
I’m not a hot soup fan, never have been. So this wasn’t my favorite. I do love the mushroom + black truffle one-two punch that has found itself on a lot of menus recently (see Eleven Madison Park). It was good, and I ate it all, but it wasn’t my favorite.
Now we’ve made it to the central dining room where our main courses and desserts were served. What was cool was that the dishes were brought out and we were asked to eat them and then guess what we were eating. This was a fun exercise for all, and started a lot of interesting conversations. Wayne even made up a new type of plant – a sea orchid. We think he was trying to say lily pad or water lily, but we’re still going through the tapes to figure out exactly what happened.
Wagyu pâté en croûte
Let’s admire the plating for the second on not just this dish, but all the dishes. I adore a small bite placed on a large plate. I love to see where they place it and if there are any patterns, etc. I’ve also been obsessed with pâté en croûte recently, as it’s been showing up on fine dining menus often. A great first bite to the dinner portion.
This was the outstanding dish of the night to me. The lobster is cured in aged cow fat and had the most delicious, marbleized meat essence. Plus, they made this sweet music video to show how they make it. Try not to start dancing when you watch, I dare you.
Again, Soup Nazi here, but I’m not a soup fan so it isn’t fair for me to comment on the lobster bisque and its roe. Again, I ate it all, because I’m not a loser, but I just didn’t care too much for it. Sorry, soup lovers.
Morels with Coconut
Morels are my favorite mushroom now – let’s get that on the record. I also love the refreshing flavor of coconut. I would have never thought to put these two things together, as I think of Morels as a cold, forrest ingredient and coconut as a tropical ingredient; however, they combined beautifully. East meets West – let’s solve some world problems through food, people.
Warm Spring Salad
This was sea anemone served with lettuce heart and a lettuce vinaigrette. This is the course where Wayne famously invented the term “Sea Orchid,” as he tried to guess what this dish entailed.
White Anchovies & Trout Roe Dango
Trout roe in a roasted anchovy dashi with tapioca balls. Kind of like a boba tea, but with trout. A great looking and great tasting dish.
A fun play on a traditional Spanish dish. Tigre, coconut ,and soy milk were a great transition from savory to sweet. Dink Travel says the soy sauce is 30 years old, and they seem reputable, so let’s go with that.
Banana & Foie Gras
A combination I’ve never had - banana and foie gras. Momofuku Ko in NYC always has shaved foie gras on the dessert menu, and it’s a nice creamy compliment to the soft banana and star anise sauce.
Baby Beans, Wasabi, & Lime
Lime and wasabi ice cream – a great combination of spicy, sweet, and acidity. Then you add the crunchiness of the beans and it leads to a well-balanced dish.
This dish only contains chocolate - freeze-dried chocolate air, frozen cocoa kombucha rock, and confit cocoa beans. I am a chocolate lover, so this was naturally my favorite dessert.
Soya, Soya, Soya
There are only soy beans in this dish, from the cracker to the sauces.
The main dinner was over, and we were taken through the main kitchen into a dark room that looked like the exit. They opened the door and boom – we’re in the secret back 41 Degrees bar. How fun is that! And we’re given more snacks. It never ends!
Lyo-strawberry & Truffle Profiterol
Each of these snacks were served with a cocktail. Who doesn’t love a nice strawberry with a truffle profiterol? This was a fun bite.
Hot take: I don’t like seaweed. It tastes like your brother dunking you in the ocean and you feel like you’re going to die. But maybe that’s my childhood talking.
This ravioli was made with lychee, rose, and orange, and boy, was it good. It was a great bite to finish off the night.
We’ve been to a lot of restaurants all of the world, and Enigma is one of the coolest, most well-designed, fun restaurants we’ve ever been to. It feels like you’re in the dream from the moment you walk up the ramp to meet the hostess. I love the concept of moving around during a four hour tasting menu, because four hours is a long time for a millennial to sit in one place. We were at the restaurant for quite a long time, and it felt exhilarating and exciting for the entirety of our meal, which is a feat for any event of that length. Every detail and inch of space at Enigma was well thought out, and you can see why they’ve won numerous awards for their design.
The service from the moment you walked in was spectacular. Our main server was from Argentina, and it turns out she was only 20 or 21 years old. She was amazing, she knew every dish and every drink on the menu, and couldn’t have been more friendly. I know what I was doing when I was 20 years old, and there’s no way I could have been working at a place like Enigma, that’s for sure.
El Cellar de Can Roca and Enigma within 24 hours is almost as crazy as the time we did Maido and Astrid & Gaston tasting menus on the same day; Warning: only try this if you are a true eating professional; I felt like I was in The Penguin’s Lair in Batman Returns, and was half expecting an Emperor Penguin to walk across the room and hand us a glass of champagne; We couldn’t be prouder of Wayne for making it through two tasting menus and enjoying the experiences, plus he made up some fun new species along the way; Guessing what you’re eating is fun and should be done more often.
Rating: 5 out of 5 with 2 Michigan Pugs
Enigma’s overall experience is up there with the best of the best. In no other place we’ve been have we traveled through a restaurant as we did at Enigma. All the food was inventive. Some of the dishes were outstanding, some were forgettable, but none of them were bad. I wouldn’t put the food up there with Noma, but it was a close second for me.