Barcelona’s Reopened Enigma Is a Feast for All Senses
The restaurant closed during the pandemic and was kept locked and intact until this summer
When Spanish star chef Albert Adrià opened Enigma in 2017, I waltzed through six separate spaces and tasted more than 40 dishes, most prepared without the deconstructions that made Adrià’s fame at El Bulli. With only 28 people to please every night, he could create with the single goal of serving delicious food.
Then Covid emerged and Enigma, along with most restaurants in Barcelona, shut down. Like the set of a sci-fi movie, it was kept locked and intact until this summer, when it reopened with little fanfare. As soon as I could I flew to Barcelona, among the first to experience Enigma’s rebirth. Now a host greets guests outdoors, allowing entry through an inclined corridor resembling an ice tunnel, with a ceiling of clouds made of aluminum mesh. Changing lights enhance the ambiance, and the diner is now in control of the menu, with a little help from the outstanding Enigma team.
Begin with one- or two-bite snacks, such as crunchy apple meringue with pisco-sour sorbet, or basil waffle with green pistachio cream and yuzu. Tapas are not huge but large enough to satisfy and tease the curious palate. As an homage to Joël Robuchon, a cream of cauliflower is topped by a lobster consommé and a dollop of caviar, and ice-cold barnacles are painted with a Codium seaweed emulsion. Finger foods include pate-a-choux pizza, a gougère puff filled with Gruyère cheese mousse adorned with candied lemon and almond.
A tribute to shinkai (Japanese for “deep sea”) is unconventional, featuring pañuelo de calamar—a handkerchief created with paper-thin slices of squid, dotted with pickled Japanese plum and a smoky gelatin laminate—and sashimi of salmonete (red mullet), with crunchy scales. Sua (“fire” in Euskera, the ancient Basque language) presents us with chargrilled fungi and pine brochette and grilled prawn wrapped in birchwood and herbs. Enigma’s mixology program makes us rethink what we are tasting. Both lips are touched by an airy pink-hued cloud of spiced salt before tasting the refreshing Cala Montjoi hibiscus margarita, a nod to El Bulli, the place where it all begun.
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