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Alkimia (in Barcelona, Michelin 1 star)

Jordi Vila, one of the most promising, up-and-coming Catalan chefs, is someone to look out for. I predict, as Ferran Adria gradually steps down from the throne of Spanish cuisine, Jordi will be one of the top contenders to be his successor. Alkimia, which means "alchemy" in English, lived up to its name--- it put up a magical show of colors, tastes, textures and smells.

The decorations, like the dishes, were simple yet elegant.

Italian sausage with bread crumbs, herb-infused olive oil and tomato water. Essentially a classic Italian appetizer platter deconstructed and simplified down to a shot-glass. Very smart and creative.

Razor clams with zucchini. Both were minimally seasoned to allow the freshness of the ingredients to shine through, providing a refreshing, clean after-taste. I especially liked the zucchini--- serving it in thin slices lightened up the dish and its crunchiness added textural contrast.

Organic tomatoes with figs and anchovy. The freshness of the tomato, savoriness of the anchovy and fragrance of the olive oil were all soaked into the porous piece of fig, which added a tint of sweetness.

Mushroom dish. The Cep mushroom, almost as big as my fist, had a mild flavor but very meaty texture, which was beautifully complemented by the foam made from Iberian bacon and ham. If you closed your eyes, you wouldn't even know you were eating a mushroom. 

Pickled oysters with glazed cheek and sauteed spinach. The pork cheek was braised in the oven for so long that all the fibers had melted away, giving it a gelatinous consistency similar to that of the oyster. Surf-and-turf has always featured prominently in Catalan cuisine, and this was an interesting interpretation.

Spicy soup with noodles. The name didn't prepare me for what was actually in the dish. Razor-thin pig ear carpaccio, surrounded by crunchy pig ear bits, was served with a beefy consomme that reminded me of Chinese clear brisket soup. The combination was an intensely rich meatopia, yet thanks to Jordi's masterful play on textures, it felt neither heavy nor overwhelming.

Squid with its own ink and zucchini flower. Beautiful colors, well-executed, but ordinary.

Prawn a la mano. This was my favorite dish of the night and also one of the best dishes of the entire trip. The plate was extremely hot and served as an impromptu incense burner, from which earthy, intoxicating fragrances of lime, bay leaf, sea salt and clove emanated. I could smell the dish from 20 feet away literally. The herb-infused, semi-raw prawn was succulent and sweet, and the prawn's head was loaded with yummy brain tissues.

Cap I cua with chickpeas cream. I asked my waiter three times what exactly this dish was. Due to the language barrier, the only conclusion I could draw was that the brown gelatinous item on the right was some form of "veal head." The lightly-fried chickpeas were fantastic with the rich chickpea cream--- it somehow reminded me of creamy tomato soup with croutons.

Fish of the day with picked aubergine. The red mullet was panseered to perfection--- the skin was crispy while the flesh gently flaked off on first bite.

Young pigeon with peanut light sponge and coconut. I was wowed twice by this dish. Firstly, while foam has been all the rage in the past few years, a "sponge" is a true novelty. This is ingenious since a sponge has the physical capacity to soak up and retain sauces. Secondly, I was surprised by how well the coconut and pigeon went with each other. This was a combination of flavors that I have never tried before, and I was delighted to realize that two of my favorite foods would actually make a good couple.

Mango with juniper sponge, yogurt ice cream and maracuya flavored toffee.

Egg flam with lemon ice cream and ginger. I liked the serving "dish" since it was actually a slab of shales where fossils could be found!

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