I’m so excited to write this post because I truly think my dinner at Tickets was the most memorable dining experience I’ve ever had! Tickets is owned by Ferran Adria, a an award-winning chef known worldwide. Let’s start with some background information about him, since he’s a pretty crazy guy. He used to run elBulli, which all foodies are aware of – the Michelin 3-star restaurant located in the city of Roses in Spain. elBulli was a restaurant all about molecular gastronomy. His cooking took on a scientific approach and an average meal at elBulli could cost you 250 euros. It eventually closed down in 2012 due to losses, and soon after, he opened Tickets Bar in Barcelona! It’s a place which will leave you with an empty wallet and stomach, but also an experience like no other. I mean, how often are you going to eat at a restaurant owned by one of the world’s best chef?
Now before you think you can just go ahead and visit the bar tonight, be reminded you need to make reservations around 3 months in advance…Yup. Well C made the reservations perhaps 2 months in advance and was able to get a table. Sometimes, if you go at around 6pm, you can try walking-in, although you might have a time restriction. For some reason, they had mixed up our reservation and ended up having a restricted time to eat… Anyways, you are greeted by a lady who looked like the ringmaster (all suited up in circus-wear). We got seated, and even their plates and cutlery were interesting! Instead of forks, we had these… tweezers. Yup, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do with them. But they’re on the menu and you can purchase them too. You can also purchase the menu which is a cute little book.
The inside is almost like a circus. It’s so colourful and each area sort of has a theme. If you’re a smaller group, you can sit at these bars and see the chefs at work. The picture is a bit blurry, but they had those Chinese Lucky Cats waving their hands on the shelves…not so sure what theme that was!
In front of us was another themed section. They showcased a machine that had something to do with their special olives (which I’ll talk about later) as well as tomatoes and the famous Spanish Iberican Ham. We had invited our Spanish professor to dinner and it was so informative since he could tell us more about the food we were eating as well as communicate to the servers. They know English, but it’s obviously easier when they speak Catalan. My prof pointed out that the ham wrapped in red hanging above is the Joselito Iberico Ham. Joselito is the brand and is known to be the highest quality of cured hams in Spain. Iberico cured hams are from free range and acorn-fed pigs in Spain, but Joselito is known for its pigs being able to run around in a land filled with oak trees in the town called Guijuelo in the west of Spain. Today, Joselito Iberico Ham is known as preium quality cured ham and is priced very high!
We began our meal with a bottle of cava (champagne) to share. I don’t remember the name of of it, but I really enjoyed it! We ended up having two bottles throughout the night for the 6 of us, and it gave us quite a few rounds. You can choose your dishes off the menu by yourself, or have your waiter decide, which is what we did. He basically asked us for our budget and he would help us order dishes that would give us a good variety of their famous dishes. He said the average budget is usually 70 euros, but our prof told him ours would be 50 euros, and he said it would be fine. Our bill ended up around 60 euros each since we ordered two bottles of cava and it also included tips. We were also able to try around 15 different items! It may sound pricey, and I don’t think I would ever spend that much on a meal for myself, but I definitely suggest doing this once in your lifetime!
Tempura of Pistachios – 3,60
Our first item was Tempura of Pistachios. It came in a basket with individual little bags filled with around 8 pistachios. The pistachios are lightly coated with tempura batter giving it a very light crunch. Not bad, although I don’t know if they’re worth 3,60 euros each bag…
Tickets’ Olive S – 8,10 for 6
Then came the Tickets’ Olive S, which is the classic example of molecular gastronomy and a signature of ElBulli. For a starter, I absolutely hate olives. I hadn’t told the server about that, so when the olives came, I was a little hesitant. But I sort of just stuck through and said I’d give it a try. The best part of the service at Tickets is that the server will teach you how to eat each of the dishes. Of course you can eat it differently, but the food is designed to be eaten a certain way. The instructions are so detailed yet concise from the server in the most casual way. For instance, they’ll tell you whether you should take 2 bites, or just eat it in one bite, or whether to just use your hands to eat it. These olives were presented on this silver spoon and were sort of glazed with a jelly. He said to put the olive in your mouth and lightly, using the top of your mouth, press down against your tongue. What happened was something I couldn’t imagine…The olive just burst and this olive flavoured liquid filled my mouth. I was left with a very thin piece of skin. I had to think twice about what just happened… This is just an example of what’s so fun about dining at Tickets. You would think an olive is hard and solid, but not at Tickets! It was like an infused olive liquid inside a jelly and I loved it. I felt like it wasn’t as pungent as normal olives. A MUST TRY!
We were then given another Olive-S. It looked identical but this time it came in this little jar. I believe he said it was infused with rosemary. Again, it popped in my mouth with the lightest pressure. This one was much more pungent, and I preferred the regular one more.
Crostini with Tomato Seeds & Cantabrian Anchovies
Next was the Crostini with Tomato Seeds & Cantabrian Anchovies. Oh god, another fear of mine. Yup, I’m not a fan of anchovies either… But seriously, after eating at Tickets, I questioned myself because I loved all the food that I normally hate. Does that even make sense? Although Tickets is all about modern molecular gastronomy, their cuisine is still based on traditional Catalan and Spanish ingredients, and this is just an example of that. Pan con tomate was basically the traditional counterpart of this dish. And of course, Cantabrian anchovies are premium anchovies found in the sea of northern Spain. This was eaten in 2-3 bites and the crostini was crunchy with the anchovy not being fishy at all! That’s what I really hate about anchovies, but these weren’t fishy. It was also topped with these little silver paper looking flakes that looked like fish skin. It was actually made of potato!
Manchego Cheese – foam inside of mini airbags with hazelnuts olive oil caviar – 8,40
Then came these little cheese puffs. The Manchego Cheese were turned into a foam and filled in these light, airy mini airbags. You put the whole puff into your mouth, and again, it just explodes. Your mouth is then filled with a buttery, smooth cheese. It was also topped with hazelnut olive oil caviar which added a nutty flavour. Manchego cheese originates from Spain and is from sheep milk. I’ve had it on its own before and it was really pungent for me, but not here! The balance was just right!
Joselito’s Iberian Ham – 13,40 (tapa)
Then we got to try the famous Joselito Iberian Ham. I’ve had quite a lot of Iberico jamon during my time in Spain, but I’m pretty sure I was having cheap versions of this prized cured ham. The pieces of ham were light pink and so thin with a just the right amount of fat. It was wrapped around an air baguette! The baguette was hollow inside and the feeling you got when you bit into it was very similar to the Manchego mini airbags. Super light and the ham was perfect with a touch of paprika.
Quail Egg in Nest
Then came a visually beautiful dish. It was like an egg shell in a nest! It was the Quail Egg in Nest, which had a quail egg in an edible crunchy nest. The quail egg was runny in the middle with the yolk just bursting in your mouth. I find that most of their dishes are about the explosions in your mouth! The top of the egg was also topped with some wasabi mayonnaise which gave it a little kick. Delicious!
Tuna with Roe in Cone
Next was the Tuna with Roe in Cone, which was again presented beautifully. Even the plating they used was whimsical! The cones were put in a pot that looked like it was crumbled and filled with pebbles. The tuna sashimi cubes were wrapped with seaweed and then wrapped around a crispy cone.It was then topped with some tobiko. So delicious and made me miss Japanese food. I love how they mix other cuisines into their menu. There’s really something for everyone!
Edible Crab – in avocado cannelloni – 14,80
Then came another dish with an ingredient I wasn’t very fond of. It was the Edible Crab which was wrapped with tons of avocado slices! I usually choose not to eat avocado, but holy, this was so good! Basically they use the avocado slices to imitate a cannelloni with the crab meat filled inside. The avocado was so soft and creamy and mixed with the sweet crab. It was just amazing.
Oysters with Ponzu Sauce and Salmon Roe
Mmmm then came one of my favourites! Oysters with Ponzu Suace and Salmon Roe. Such a simple dish, but the freshness of the oysters combined with the Ponzu sauce, which is citrus based really brought out the sweetness of the oysters. Again, they took advantage of the Japanese sauce to accentuate the dish. The salmon roe also gave a little pop in your mouth. I could’ve easily ate a dozen of these…
Marinated Fried Fish
The Marinated Fried Fish was probably my least favourite. It didn’t seem as special. I believed it was fried sea bass which was marinated in a spicy sauce. It was crispy and not greasy, but I didn’t find it too spectacular compared to the rest of their menu.
Confit Potatoes – with Iberian cured ham and pork rib juice – 10,80
The Confit Potatoes also didn’t make it onto my top favourites list. The potatoes were cut thin like scalloped potatoes, and were very soft. It was soaked in a lot of the pork rib juice and paired with an Iberican cured ham. The whole dish was topped with a bit of paprika. It was good, but wasn’t a stand out dish.
Mollete with Double Chin
We were then presented with the Mollete with Double Chin inside these little paper bags. Mollete is a type of bread roll that originates from Andalucia in southern Spain. The bread was so fluffy and light! I don’t think I’ve had bread that light before. It was filled with some fatty pork – sort of like pork belly. It was so juicy and the pairing was so simple, yet delicious.
Next was dessert time! Our server started carrying over an aloe plant and we were all confused. Are we having aloe for dessert? But wait! There were these cut little Worms on the plant. They even had little eyes!! They were passionfruit-flavoured marshamllows! Definitely an fascinating presentation. They melted in your mouth, but I did find it to be a little too sweet.
Black Sesame and White Chocolate Lava Rock
Then, he brought over a lava rock… We were all like what? Do we just eat the rock? Is it chocolate cake? By the end of our meal, we were always guessing what we were eating. The grey-looking pumice rocks were actually Black Seasame White Chocolate! It was like having an Aero chocolate in your mouth! So airy and it just melted in your mouth. Seriously, how can someone be so imaginative!?
At the end of our meal, we were definitely not full, but it filled me enough so I wasn’t hungry. The bill came in a Paellero tin can, which is the traditional seasoning the Spanish use to make paella. It’s a blend of spices and saffron according to my prof.
And that was my gastronomical experience at Tickets. I think their slogan is La Vida Tapa which is on their theatrical movie posters outside. It translates to The Tapa Life. Tickets is definitely more than just tapas. It’s a way for diners to be curious about what they’re eating and be filled with surprises. It’s a change from the traditional ways of cooking, and I highly recommend everyone who loves food with a twist to visit Tickets. The brothers have also opened up other establishments, like 41 Degrees Experience, which I am dying to go back to try when I can afford it. Tickets is their tapas bar, so it’s priced lower. Can’t wait to be back!
I actually found a video clip from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations where he visits Tickets! It begins at 5:40 for those interested 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ghf5gGKgAkg