Friday, November 18, 2011

The Family Meal at Kika Tapas Bar, Tuesday nights

Ever wondered what Ferran Adrià ate and fed staff at his restaurant, elBulli (which was ranked the San Pellegrino World's Best Restaurant five times in the period from 2002 to 2009)?

Adrià believes in an 'eat well, cook well' philosophy so every staff meal, or the family meal as it was known, consisted of three courses of nutritionally balanced, ordinary meals - no fancy ingredients and often very multicultural to reflect the elBulli staff mix.

When it was announced that elBulli was to close in mid 2011, Adrià and one of his head chefs collected all the recipes for the family meals into a book targeted at restaurants. But given the home cooked nature of the meals, it's now also a beautiful book for domestic home cooks.

The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià
(Image courtesy of PEPR Publicity)
The Family Meal is not just a book of recipes but a book of meals. There are 31 three-course menus that combine starter, main and dessert recipes into a "sensible meal".  If it's good enough for Adrià and co, it's good enough for me.

The book overflows with step-by-step images as well as a visual spread of all the necessary ingredients per meal and even a timeline to ensure all three recipes are made concurrently and to perfection.

Further, each recipe offers quantities to serve 2, 6, 20 or 75 hungry mouths; the latter of which was the daily challenge for elBulli staff dinner.

Pintxos by Kika Tapas Bar, Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
And in a most innovative book/restaurant promotion, Kika Tapas Bar in Darlinghurst is hosting The Family Meal every Tuesday night.

For $55, you can dine on a choice of two weekly changing set meals - each three courses - straight out of the book. It's probably now the closest experience you'll get to dining at elBulli.

Along with a bunch of bloggers, I was invited to sample The Family Meal, coinciding with the launch of a new menu at Kika Tapas Bar. We started with a shared dish of pintxos, featuring an oyster shooter, gorgeously tender grilled lamb with roasted garlic and butterbean puree, and some grilled cuttlefish.

Daily Sydney rock oysters in gazpacho
When I first saw this, I thought it was a layered soup of some sort; not realising an oyster was submerged within the thick, orangey gazpacho. It didn't all come out in the one shot but when I did get to the briney oyster, its fresh flavours were enhanced by the tomato soup to a glorious point of sweetness.

Saffron marinated cuttlefish cooked a la plancha, watermelon, mustardcress and lemon dressing
With my share of the juicy lamb gone in a mouthful, the orange-hued grilled cuttlefish with a slab of watermelon awaited. Seafood and fruit (lemon aside) is a dangerous area I think, and this pintxo did nothing to change my mind. The watermelon was particularly sweet; the taste slightly jarring against the saffron-indulged cuttlefish.

Gazpacho from The Family Meal book
To the meal proper, I chose the option that was Meal 21 in the book, starting with a very well executed gazpacho. Tomato and garlic dominated this chilled soup which was thickened with bread and served with croutons that were deep fried in extra virgin olive oil. A perfect summer starter.

Lime marinated fish from The Family Meal book
For the alternative set menu (Menu 9 in the book),they started with the biggest dish of semi-raw fish I've ever seen. By Japanese sashimi standards, this would be a group share plate - for 6. The lime marinated kingfish slicers were topped with onion, diced coriander and olive oil, and claimed victory over many a diner.

Black rice with cuttlefish from The Family Meal book
Although my main meal wasn't black as the menu indicated (the chef later explained that they had forgone recipe's optional squid ink due to its high price and lack of availability in Australia), it was a particularly generous serve that smelt sensationally hearty and drool-worthy.

The first mouthful was like a warm hug: all-encompassing and giving in its big flavours and depth. The perfectly seasoned, creamy-textured rice actually tasted of cuttlefish, and when I chanced upon the first square chunk of cuttlefish, it was a tender delight.

I think the trick to the richness and depth of flavour was the addition of a sofrito; a common Spanish base for cooking, consisting of tomato, garlic, oil and onion (this and other 'basic' sauces are also explained in detail in the book).

Osso bucco from The Family Meal book
The other main meal was a braise of osso bucco, cooked in a tomato and vegetable sauce in the oven for two hours. The generous servings of veal shank were lifted by a sprinkle of zingy gremolata (finely chopped parsley, garlic and orange and lemon zests), which I can't wait to try at home.

Bread with chocolate and olive oil from The Family Meal book
After my rice main, I could hardly believe that the carb-fest was to continue with dessert of chocolate covered thick cut bread. The twists in this were also the highlights: the salt flakes contrasted magically with the shaved dark chocolate while the olive oil added an interesting and discernable third taste element.

The alternative dessert was a take on the piña colada cocktail: simply pineapple blended with coconut milk and white rum. Dessert cocktail, indeed.

At the end of a very filling meal, it was fun to look up both meals in the book and see the exact steps that were taken to get the meal on the table. The recipes are set out storyboard style with a few methodical words at every photo step - it's fun even just to look at.

Gazpacho in The Family Meal book

Black rice with cuttlefish in The Family Meal book

Bread with chocolate and olive oil from The Family Meal book
Adrià seems to have worked out cooking for dummies, which suits me just fine, but for the kitchen-averse, Tuesday nights at Kika Tapas Bar is the place to be for The Family Meal, Ferran Adrià style.

Food, booze and shoes dined on The Family Meal at Kika Tapas Bar and received a copy of The Family Meal (published by Phaidon Press, RRP A$39.95) courtesy of PEPR Publicity.

Kika Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon


MissPiggy said...

Love Kika Tapas Bar, in fact I love any Tapas bar now that I come to think about it!

Jacq said...

It was awesome to meet you on Tuesday! The massive servings totally defeated me, even though they were super tasty

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

Bread with chocolate and olive oil sounds interesting but carb heavy at the end of a meal. Must try it at home and see if it works for me.

Tina said...

Hi MissPiggy - Twas my first time at Kika; think I'll have to go back to check out the tapas proper.

Hi Jacq - You too! Was funny seeing everyone with those massive ossu bucco plates!

Hi Corinne - Yeah, I think thnner slices of bread are a must.

Dee@foodinhand said...

WOW. I've never heard of this place but it's an amazing promotion. I'm going to go as soon as I can :D

The kingfish looks so amazing, might forego lunch beforehand to fit this all in :9 Thanks for the share!

Tina said...

Hi Dee - I agree; it's such a clever tie-in. And who doesn't want to eat Ferran Adria's food? ;)

Ramen Raff said...

The black rice with cuttlefish was indeed drool worthy! lol The gremolalta on the osso bucco was amazing! It was nice to finally meet you! Your photos look great :) I've just recently tried making pesto off the book and it turned out pretty good. Love this book!

Tina said...

Hi Raff - Yeah, amazing what a little parsley and lemon zest can do - made the dish, I thought! Lovely to meet you too :)


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