Today I spent the day exploring Ronda but tonight I have fancy dinner plans. I am dining at Bardal, a two-star Michelin restaurant.
I return to my hotel to prepare for the evening. Not important but it is a chance to display the cool hallway.
Bardal is close to my hotel. I arrive early so I walk the surrounding area and look at the bullfighting ring. I take a picture from the outside but that is the extent of my visit. I am not a big fan of using animals for sport anymore in fact I’m not sure why I am not a vegetarian….perhaps because I like the taste of meat too much to give it up totally. Maybe someday I’ll evolve.
I still arrive a little early for my reservation that was made well in advance. I am a solo diner but they don’t make me feel like I am a freak as some places often do. The staff defaults to speaking English, I assume because it is a high end restaurant and most of the guests around me are English speaking. I usually take opportunities like dining out to practice my Spanish vocabulary but this meal will be too complicated for me to understand every item and I really want to know what I am eating.
I have been to only a couple Michelin starred restaurants and those were in NYC. What I am experiencing tonight is a bit different from those experiences. Dining here is expensive and I expect that but this is a once (or rare) in a lifetime experience; I am willing to pay the money for it.
Chef Benito Gomez specializes in small dishes concentrating on ingredients found regionally. There are two menu choices and I order the smaller menu with the accompanied wine pairings. The smaller menu is a good choice; even though the dishes are small in size, the sheer number of them still leave me quite satisfied at the end of the evening.
The dishes and style of serving are very unique. It is like I am looking at individual works of art as each one arrives at my table.
We begin with a long line of starters and their wine pairings.
The first course came out with 3 items…..The mushroom course
I am instructed how to eat each each item. I don’t pay attention enough to the instructions so when I try to bite down on the mushroom bun the insides explode all over the place. I’ve made a mess and it is only the first course. I like this course very much and enjoy the different ways the mushrooms are prepared.
There are three more courses of appetizers. Many are served on top of interesting platters that are not meant to be consumed along with the item. Fortunately I am told what I can eat and what is decoration only. This meal needs an instruction manual! For the Rossini picanha I eat in what I later learn is caveman style: I grab the bone with both hands and eat the meat out of the middle. Also in this course a tuna is served on a bed of rocks surrounded by non-edible seaweed and a sea urchin is served in stone bowl to be scooped by a wooden spoon.
The next starter is another type of meat I have never tried, a cock crest. I had to do some research on this afterwards; the cock crest, or comb, is the fleshy part on top of a chicken (or turkey’s) head. I read it is hard to prepare because is both a hard to clean and rare to find. In this case it served over a bowl of dried corn (not edible). No complaints with this unique course.
The last starter is the “salad”. It is a tasty inner piece of lettuce with a creamy beef sauce.
Soon the main courses begin. We start with a lobster with split peas and caviar. A piece of bread accompanies the dish with a spicy Spanish salad spread.
Next is the sea anemone with green sauce. It is my first time trying a sea anemone and I am quite pleased. Look at how gorgeous this plating is?!?
Next is the calçot with payoyo cheese (a local cheese). A calçot is a type of green onion (also similar to a leek) that is grilled. It is a simple and small but very enjoyable course.
The next course is the bread course. I normally don’t get excited about restaurant bread but the two different types of breads with the accompanied olive oil and butter are amazing. I forget the story behind the butter but I love butter with a story. The calories and fat don’t count as much when the butter has a good origin story, right?
For the next four courses, the two standouts are the aubergine fricando and the baby goat. I am not a fan of the consistency and accompanying sauce for the hake cheek with corn, coriander and vanilla. I find it strange this course doesn’t work for me because I normally like fish cheeks and the flavor of coriander; perhaps the corn and vanilla combination is a turn off for me. The monkfish a la espalda is good but not one of my favorites from all the courses. The final savory course is a baby goat with spinach and a kidney with perigordine sauce. They were both very good. I’ve had goat before but never this way and this is my first time trying kidney. I’ve read it is healthy to eat organ meat. This is a good alternative since I do not care for liver.
Finally we reach the dessert courses and the first item is a celeriac cake with fennel. I am not a fan of fennel but I don’t mind this dish. Celeriac is a turnip like root vegetable sort of related to celery. I am not sure I’ve ever noticed it in supermarkets in the USA. The cake has a nutty flavor and the fennel compliments it. Also it isn’t too sweet. I don’t care for desserts that are overpowered with sweetness.
The next course of chocolate and almond is not overly sweet as well.
The final course it is a collection of petit-fours or smaller items. Being very full from all the food and wine I take a bite out of each one but I don’t completely finish this course.
At this point in the evening the generous wine pours kick in and the conversation volume levels get louder in the room. One of the servers brings out another piece of art, but no it is the bill only. I am also given a list of all the dishes served this evening. This is a nice touch because there is no way I can remember all that is served. I do really wish I had the wine list though because I loved most of the pairings and would have liked to share them with others. Probably the only improvement on my experience would be including the wine list at the end.
I am very glad I booked dinner at Bardal. It was worth every EURO.