“I want you to come and try my new degustación menu.”
We’d just won the culinary lottery.
Last year, after being blown away by a dining experience that was right up there with the food at El Bulli and the Cellar de Can Roca, we’d praised El Rincón de Juan Carlos in Los Gigantes in website reviews and airline magazines.
Then, Juan Carlos had been one of the finalists in the best chef in Spain competition (he came runner up), this year he’s a judge in the competition. He’s also made a few changes to the restaurant and has a brand new degustación (tasting) menu.
It’s a 300 kilometre round trip for us from Puerto de la Cruz to Los Gigantes (thanks to a slight detour to Santa Cruz to pick up friend and fellow foodie Arantxa). It would be like us driving to Birmingham for a meal when we lived in Manchester. Having sampled Juan Carlos’ creations previously I would have gladly travelled twice the distance to worship at his table.
The kitchen is bigger, the decór sleek, minimalist and modern but the warm welcome (it’s a total family affair) was the same.
The food we’d ‘Mmmm’d’, ‘Aaaah’d’ and gushed over on our previous visit had been so inventive and involved such a kaleidoscope of flavours that we were positively giddy with anticipation to see what JC had come up with this time.
This is where the difficulty with writing this review comes in.
I want to share it all, but part of the delights of sampling a degustación menu is the surprise element. I’m not going to reveal all the magician’s tricks… only a taster.
We began our meal with a sexy glass of pink cava and a selection of breads whose flavours would see off the best meals many restaurants on Tenerife could come up with. This was followed by an appetiser of marinated cherry tomatoes served in an old-fashioned jam jar – sweet tasting and looking – to warm us up for the all star cast to follow.
Then we were off and running with a dish that I would have proposed to had a) I not been already married and b) marrying a plate of food actually been legal.
The smoked eel with teriyaki mayonnaise and dried raspberry on a crispy chicken skin coca (coca is a typically Catalonian creation, like a mini pizza base) was a knock-out in the first round. Its appearance and flavours exuded a tsunami of inventiveness. One bite and memories of Juan Carlos’ previous menu were cast aside like a discarded lover.
The eel was followed by oysters, black pig, bogavante (European lobster), goat, mussels, lamb and San Pedro’s fish.
Clearly with somewhere as creative as El Rincón de Juan Carlos you don’t just get pig, goat and oysters; I’ve deliberately stripped the dishes of their descriptions to maintain the element of surprise.
For example the San Pedro fish (the marine world’s ugly duckling in that it looks like an ogre yet tastes like an angel’s kiss) came on an ebony slate with a creamy olive oil emulsion accompanied by radish leaves and caviar that looked as though it came from a vine.
That’s it, that’s all you’re getting as far as descriptors for the rest go. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you the degustación menu is a magnificent feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.
The meal was rounded off with a dessert of perfumed summery ice cream flavoured by passion fruit and zesty orange; a light and lovely way to float gently back to earth from up high in foodie heaven.
Even then it didn’t end; the encore of chocolates that accompanied coffee brought the performance to a close with a light-hearted wink.
Overall it represented everything I love about chefs who have a passion to push the culinary boundaries. What you get at El Rincón de Juan Carlos is artistry, it is dining at another level.
Some people comment that El Rincón de Juan Carlos is pricier than other restaurants in the vicinity. Maybe so but, as it’s in the Champions’ League of restaurants, it represents excellent value for what you get. There are restaurants in the centre of Tenerife’s main resorts that charge more money for cuisine that would never be allowed to darken El Rincón’s doorstep.
A comment on a Tripadvisor review summed it up beautifully for me:
El Rincón de Juan Carlos is ‘An oasis of brilliance in a desert of mediocrity…’
El Rincón de Juan Carlos,Pasaje de Jacaranda, 2; Los Gigantes; (+34) 922 868 040; open 7-10pm daily, closed Sunday.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites plus lots of other things. Follow Jack on Google+