Korean cook Luke jang He is in love with Spanish cuisine and, above all, his product. "You have four seasons, when there is something excellent in one place there is in another," he says. He liked our cuisine so much that, a decade ago, with 24 years, he planted in El Bulli and tried to get him a job.
Lisa Abend, magazine correspondent Time in Spain, he told his story in the book The sorcerer's apprentices. The Korean arrived at the restaurant of Ferran Adria mid-season and when he was told there was no room for him, he planted a tent in front of the place. He was lucky, in just three days he managed to talk to the cook, but only to tell him that he had to leave. Years later he returned and repeated the operation and, after a week, managed to enter as an apprentice. I spend two half seasons in The Bulli, in 2008 and 2009 and then he went to San Sebastián and ended up working on Mugaritz, where it was installed from 2012 to 2014.
It was in the Basque Country where he collected much of the influences of what make up his new restaurant in Madrid, Soma de Arrando, which opened just over a month ago with a risky proposal: a single communal table, where 12 people fit, and a unique tasting menu of nine passes and two desserts to 65 euros the covered.
Lang and his assistant Sung Kyun, also Korean, finish all the dishes in sight of the diners, at one end of the table, and discuss the play with the staff, explaining each of the dishes. Some preparations for note, of Korean roots, but Spanish inspiration and product.
A festival of Korean flavors
Start the menu with two kimchi-based snacks, the classic fermented cabbage of Korean cuisine, which Lang prepares every Sunday at the restaurant, to serve three weeks later. When he opened, he says, he prepared seven kilos, nobody came, and they spent weeks eating kimchi. Now he has taken the point to the quantities. Serve the kimchi accompanied by trout roefirst and of Iberian gill and oyster, after. Of ten.Kimchi cylinder with candied Iberian, oyster and kimchi foam.
The deployment continues with another typical Korean dish, the Ssam, name given to any green leaf that wraps a portion of meat, as if it were a taco. Lang opts for one dragon leaf -acid and crispy- with candied Iberian bacon, crispy purple onion and a paste of homemade chili pepper and fermented soybeans.Ssam of Iberian bacon.
To prepare the ground for the most convincing dishes, a salad, with carrot juice, seasonal herbs, corn cream and black tiger vinaigrette.
Then comes one of the star dishes of the restaurant, the foie of sea with kombu candy, black sesame and wasabi cream. He foie Lang explains, it is made with monkfish liver, a product considered a delicacy in Korea that is barely appreciated in our country. The Korean tells how, working in a restaurant in Spain, they threw livers of eight kilos in the trash because nobody wanted them. Is about a very bitter product It must be thoroughly treated for consumption. In Korea it is salted and cleaned with water and vinegar, to reduce its bitterness. What Lang serves in the restaurant is just a micuit from Foie gras Made with this liver and it is really delicious.Exquisite sea foie, made with monkfish liver.
Continue the menu with a quail Grilled with its egg - a trap made with the blood of the bird - and a tomato leaf, a surprising dish but too sweet and a little cloying.
Seconds of Basque inspiration
The following, more convincing dishes, are of clear Basque inspiration, a cuisine that Lang knew well during his stay in San Sebastian, working in Mugaritz.Sea and mountain.
It is the turn of a plate of sea and mountains: pig's tail Glazed in its juice -cooked 48 hours at low temperature-, accompanied by a Korean style prawn in tempura and a sour cream. Lang account that prefers to fry rice flour, because it allows the preparations to be more crispy, having more starch, and is tastier than wheat flour. Very good.Cantabria hake with burnt milk skin.
We continue with what is, next to the sea foie, the best preparation of the menu: a hake from Cantabria, Lang's favorite fish, which he claims he discovered in San Sebastián. "When you stick the cooking it is like a flan", Explain. And we attest that the Korean nails it. It accompanies the fish a "skin of burned milk", which is nothing other than a cream of previously frozen milk that heats with a blowtorch at the moment and brings even more juiciness to the fish.
Finish the salty part of the menu one txuleta Grilled Beef with Pear and Bulgogi Korean Sauce: a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, chopped garlic and sesame seeds with which meat is marinated in Korea. Also excellent.Cow txuleta with Bulgogi sauce and black garlic vinaigrette.
Good desserts, nice conversation
Finish the menu with two desserts that do not detract. First, Lang's reinterpretation of the classic dessert of the Basque sydrerías: walnuts, quince and Idiazabal cheese. On this occasion, the cheese is served in cream, the caramelized nuts and the quince in Korean version, where it is fermented for a whole year to eliminate its bitterness, turning the fruit, inedible in raw, in a refreshing and aromatic bite. This is also wrapped in a fake chocolate nut.Lang's interpretation of the typical cider house dessert.
The second dessert and last dish of the menu is a surprise: yogurt flower, edible yuzu stone, toffe mud and soy cake. It is a dish that Lang devised in one of his mountain walks, trying to imitate the frost and mud that forms on the roads. The result is a dish that is not sweet at all, but refreshing and that puts a very interesting final touch to an outstanding meal.
There is no doubt that Lang predicts a good future in Spain. The fact that everything was prepared with the guests and that the chef is present at all times chatting with them gives the experience a plus and the food is really interesting. Only one but: the winery is very scarce and the only wines available, somewhat expensive considering that there are no other options (35 euros). Now, if you want to bring your own bottle, they uncork it for only 10 euros.
A highly recommended visit.
Worst: there is no wine list, and there are no less than 35 euros; The quail promised more.
The best: hake, kimchis and sea foei; the conversation with Lang, a very interesting guy.
Where: General Arrando, 16 (Madrid)
Average price: 65 tasting menu, without drink.
Reservations: 91 022 76 30.