Food Travel / Peak Experience

Experience 41 Degrees – My Adrià Odyssey

41° or 41 Degrees, or 41 Grados as it’s known was the hardest reservation I’ve ever secured.  People talk about the French Laundry being hard to get in to.  People complain about how confusing it is to snag a reservation to the Momofuku fried chicken lunch.  Even Tickets is now listed as one of the toughest reservations to get.  But for all 3, I learned the rules, practiced a bit and then scheduled my date for booking into my calendar and when the specific moment was right, whammo – I was able to book.

But 41°  kept changing the rules.  First I read 90 days in advance, (which would have been tragic, because I only started looking 70 days in advance).  Then I noticed it was booking 30 days out.  So I practiced and waited for my dates, but just days before I was about to try to make reservations, the site went down.  It came back up 2 days later, but with a message that the reservations would be “back up in moments”.

41° had recently from being just a cocktail bar that served bar snacks to a 41 course “experience” featuring many “best of El Bulli” dishes and I really wanted in on it.  I couldn’t even talk about wanting it, because I didn’t want to jinx myself.  So I  kept checking back to 41° website and constantly hit “refresh, refresh” waiting for the reservations to come up.  When it did, it was only a week in advance.  I’m not sure what it is now, but when my date finally came up, it was less than 3 weeks in advance. On the first day that I could book, I was on the computer right as the reservations were released and all that was available were reservations for 4, no 2’s.  It happened again on the 2nd day, only 4’s, so this time I decided to just book and try to find another couple to join us for the experience.  I posted on chowhound and within 20 minutes, I had a couple on their honeymoon who were in.  And lucky for us, they were amazing dining companions looking to enjoy the meal as much as we were.

"41 degrees adria door"

41 specifically requests on their website to only take photos for personal use and to not publish or share them. They say that it’s “very important to the Experience and we would ask you to respect our wishes when it comes to showing our work”. As much as I respect their wishes, I am also practical in writing this post. I know that the majority of people I know and want to share my experience with, will never have the opportunity to visit 41°. With only 16 diners/evening, open 5 nights a week, at 5o weeks in a year(subtracting holidays)  only 4000 people a year who will get to experience what I did. To put this into perspective, the French Laundry at capacity can serve over 53,000 a year. Even El Bulli was able to serve 8000 diners over the 7 months they were open each year.

I was a bit nervous going into my meal at 41° because of the epic dinner we had at Tickets the night before.  But sitting down in the very slick & modern room at 41°, I knew there would be no comparison because the two were so different. We weren’t given any menus as the servers explained that the element of surprise was integral to our dining experience.  The controlling side of me cringed a bit at the thought of not knowing, but when I saw Albert Adrià behind the bar looking over our menus with the staff, I knew I would just let myself be taken on a journey by this master again.

There were 6 themes presented throughout the meal and the dishes represented each theme.  Although the dinner was supposed to be composed of 41 different dishes, all in, there were over 50 elements served in this 4 hour meal.

Although every dish  during the 41° experience utilized techniques created out of the El Bulli Taller/Restaurant, the ones marked with an “*” were ones that were served “as is” at El Bulli in the past.

EL VERMUT

1. Nitro Apple Mare

"41 degrees adria"

Nitrogen was added to a gin mare & apple cocktail to create a quick sorbet that melted in your mouth on contact.  Every meal at El Bulli started with a similar type cocktail.  With this start I knew I going to be taken on a magical food adventure.

2. Las Olivas del 41° *

"41 degrees adria olives"

Sigh, spherical olives again? No, no… just joking, I love these olives.

"41 degrees adria olives"

These differed from the night before by being anchovy infused. My favourite of the 3.

3. Orange cocktail with sweet vermouth sorbet

"41 degrees sorbet"

The lightest crispy meringue holding a very boozy orange sorbet.

4. Raspberry orchid with pistachio cream

"41 degrees adria raspberry"

I was thinking fruit leather but the petals were light and crackly. I was amazed that there was so much raspberry flavour in something so delicate.

5. Infused watermelon w/sesame seed shot
"41 degrees adria watermelon"

6. Solid campari

"41 degrees adria campari"

So thin it was translucent, these crackly sheets were solid booze.

GIN TONIC

7. 41° Gin Tonic

"41 degrees adria gin tonic"

Gin tonic smoked.

"41 degrees adria gin tonic"

Gin tonic shaken with shiso and poured.

"41 degrees adria gin tonic 3"

Gin tonic about to be consumed.

8. Crispy seaweed with quinoa

"41 degrees adria seaweed"

Salty snacks at their best.

9. Spicy corn tentacles

"41 degrees adria tentacles"

Crispy like a Chinese shrimp chip, a little bit spicy and not enough of it. A bag of these would make the perfect road snack.

The Luxury Trio

10. “Joselito” Iberian Ham Sandwich *

"41 degrees adria jamon"

Beautiful Iberico jamon wrapped around a cracker like the airbag from TIckets.

11. Parmesan Ice Cream Sandwich *

"41 degrees adria parmesan"

Parmesan ice cream surrounded by parmesan crisps with a smidgen of lemon marmalade reminded me of those fluorescent orange “cheese” filled crackers.

12. Nigiri Foie Gras

"41 degrees adria nigiri"

Seared foie sitting on top of a marshmallow. So untraditional, it took my mind a second to not be horrified and enjoy the soft sweetness that complimented the rich foie gras.

The Caviar Trio

13. Belgian Endive with Almonds and Caviar

"41 degrees adria caviar endive"

One of my favourite bites of the night. Crisp endive with salty caviar; a fantastic pairing with the cava we’d moved into.

14. Caviar and Hazelnut Oil Caviar with Hazelnut Vodka Shot

"41 degrees adria caviar"

Not that I’ve a huge caviar expert, but who knew caviar and hazelnuts paired so well?

"41 degrees adria hazelnut"

15, Razor Clam with Smoked Miso and Caviar

"41 degrees razor clam"

Barely cooked and gorgeous, these razor clams reminded me of tender abalone.

16. Frozen Banana Daiquiri Rose

"41 degrees adria daiquiiri"

Eaten in 2 bites, this solid ice daiquiri took me to the beaches of Mexico.

17. Sugar Cane Mojito

"41 degrees adria mojito"

It was fun to savour the mojito infused into the sugar cane, but the server stepped in to gently tell us to “eat it quicker as our mai tai was melting”.

18. Ambar & 19. Mango Mai Tai

"41 degrees adria mai tai"

Tiny amber spheres encapsulated in a larger sphere were a bit of a shock after the sweet mojito. The frozen shell which released liquid mai tai left us all smiling in amazement.

Journeys

20. Catalunya – Rossinyol mushroom ravioli

"41 degrees adria ravioli"

The most “normal” dish of the evening, this ravioli was warm and soulful.

21. Navarra – Asparagus with Crispy Cheese Powder & Chilled Soup

"41 degrees adria asparagus cheese"

Crisp chunk of white asparagus crusted with cheese. After seeing huge stalks of white asparagus in the markets, it was so nice to sample it.

"41 degrees adria asparagus"

The textures and contrasting temperatures of this soup were interesting but the asparagus chunk before it was so flavourful, it left me wondering if this soup was asparagus or cheese.

22. Galicia – Oyster with codium, fingerlime and oyster leaf

"41 degrees adria oyster"

Simple oysters topped with a sprinkling of finger lime= perfection. The crispy seaweed tempura on the side was a nice contrast.

23. Peru – Tuna belly tiradito with “leche de tigre”

"41 degrees adria toro"

The fatty tuna was brightened with lively citrus flavours. The crunchy fresh greens were a welcome addition as it was the only fresh vegetables I saw all trip.

24. Mexico – Sweet corn ravioli with crispy corn

"41 degrees adria mexico"

Liquid ravioli was one of Adria’s revolutionary creations. This dish was the most fun to eat as you slid the ravioli into your mouth, while squeezing the lime. The combination of intense sweet corn and lime had us all smiling and nodding around the table.

25. Japan – Tuna Temaki

"41 degrees adria temaki"

I don’t what was done to the nori to make it so crisp, but I loved this dish. Has my Japanese stamp of approval.

25. Japan – Prawn with “miso” sauce

"41 degrees adria miso"

Barely cooked prawn, which still looked raw, sprinkled with nori and shiso, the miso pearl on the fried head was made of concentrated prawn head juices. “Head suckers” know how delicious this is.

26. Thailand – The Coconut and the Leaf

"41 degrees adria coconut"

In a meal full of favourites, there had to be one that was “just ok”. This frozen nugget of green curry flavours just didn’t match the experience of a hot bowl green curry.

"41 degrees adria leaf"

Sucking on the somewhat gelationous leaf did nothing to elevate the experience.

27. China – Xa Su Bao

"41 degrees adria china"

Served in a traditional bamboo steamer, I smiled because something so familiar looking was being offered during such a wild meal.

"41 degrees adria bao"

A dollop of chipotle sauce on top, this pork belly bao had all the flavours of China in 3 precious bites.

28. Nordic – Journey and the Carrot

"41 degrees adria carrot"

Tiny beet glazed carrots planted in “dirt”.

"41 degrees adria beef"

Carpaccio of Kobe beef topped with pickled onions on rye bread. Another one of my favourite 2 bites of the night.

29. France – Rabbit Chop with its Blood

"41 degrees adria rabbit"

The “blood” was beet consomme and I nibbled away on this until there was nothing left on the tiny bones. I know I keep saying things are my favourite, but this was tops for all of the savoury dishes.

29. France (continued)  – Potato with Bone Marrow

"41 degrees adria marrow"

What looked like a nugget potato turned out to be filled with bone marrow.

30. Catalunya – Fava Beans with Iberian Ham Consommé

"41 degrees adria fava"

All of the flavours of a rich split pea soup in a clear consommé. Brilliant.

31. Cactus Leaf
"41 degrees adria cactus"

Margarita soaked cactus leaves left a very sweet finish on my palate.

31. (continued)Margarita

"41 degrees adria margarita"

Wonderfully refreshing lime margarita topped with a salty lime foam.

SWEETS

32. Mandarin Bon-Bon

32. Black Currant Profiterol

"41 degrees adria profiterol"

Crunchy exterior led into an oh so blackberry interior.

33. Moscovado Sponge Cake & Strawberry

"41 degrees adria microwave"

I was excited to be served Albert Adria’s famous 30-second microwave sponge cake. So delicious and apparently very easy to make, I’m going to try this at home.

34. Wild Strawberry with Sherry Vinegar and Mango Sorbet

"41 degrees adria mango"

“Simple” mango sorbet and wild strawberries + a complex solid sherry vinegar round = a great marriage of sweet and sour.

35. Wasabi Lime and Ginger

"41 degrees adria wasabi"

I had a spoonful of the wasabi sorbet and thought “yuck” but when I ate all the components together I sat back, closed my eyes and enjoyed the moment. I love it when a dish challenges my taste buds and wins.

35.(continued)  Undocumented Drink

"41 degrees adria drink"

I have no idea what this drink was, although I remember liking it. But hey I remembered all other 51 dishes so I know you’ll forgive me.

36. Chocolate Mint Leaf *
"41 degrees adria mint"

At this point they put all of the chocolates on the table signifying the end of the meal. This chocolate mint was the first chocolate creation Albert made for El Bulli.

37. Black sesame rock
38. Crunchy plàtan
"41 degrees adria banana"

Freeze dried banana chocolate

39. Chocolate truffle

40. Raspberry with saffron

"41 degrees adria chocolate"

41. Peach pit *
"41 degrees adria peach"

Fitting that our last dish was the final chocolate dish created by Albert for El Bulli. What looks like a peach pit was pure chocolate goodness. If the meal had to end, at least it was ending with a smile.

41° turns into a cocktail bar after the meals are finished and although we talked about coming back another night, we knew that wasn’t a likelihood so we decided to stay and keep living the fantasy.

We had another 2 cocktails each with our lovely dining companions Phillis and Ben.  Thanks again for a wonderful night!

We had the first reservations of the night at 8pm and ended up staying until after 2am.  I can without hesitation say that this was the greatest dining experience I’ve ever had.  I am utterly amazed to not only be able to say I’ve eaten Ferran and Albert Adrià’s food, but I also loved every moment of it.

41° Experience – Avinguda Parallel 164, Barcelona Spain

16 thoughts on “Experience 41 Degrees – My Adrià Odyssey

  1. That meal looks amazing. I’m salivating over the potato with bone marrow, liquid ravioli, razor clam (of course!) and prawn dish. I’m so impressed you were able to remember so many details. Did you take notes? When we visited, we got to try the olives, parmesan ice cream sandwich and the ham sandwich. I remember the ham sandwich definitely being one of our favourite bites.

    • I still replay moments of that meal in my mind. No I didn’t take any notes, but remember every single bite, (except for that pink drink) so vividly. Everything was so amazing… a definite meal of a lifetime! Were your cocktails good too?

      • Yes! The cocktails were fantastic. I was trying to find a picture I took of my cocktail… but my husband seems to have taken the pictures off his phone (yes, we forgot our camera at the hotel before that evening… I was killing myself because everything was so photo-worthy!). I had this red shiso and apple tobacco concoction. The drink was served tableside and there was this enormous decanter/vial of pink smoke that was “poured” through my drink. Delicious!

  2. Love your blog about 41 grados! Where did you get the menu? Were you allowed to take it home? We are going soon and I would be bummed if they don’t give us a list of what we ate!

  3. I’m hoping to go to 41 degrees later this year so this blog post is fantastic! Making me really want to go, even though I only have 3 people (not 4). I might have to do the same thing on Chowhound boards!

    Do you know if people were able to order snacks at the cocktail bar? I’m thinking if I can’t get a reservation for the ‘experience’ I can just go for the no reservations trip to the bar that opens at midnight but I’m not sure if it even has any food anymore…I know it used to be both.

  4. Your photos are so gorgeous (here and throughout your blog). What kind of camera do you use and do you have any special tricks to share especially with low light levels?

    • Thanks so much for your kind words! I take photos on a Canon T2i and most of my food photos from Barcelona onwards is taken hand-held with a 50mm f1.4. The lens changed my life in terms of low light photos. I usually lower the exposure (the AV +/-) to -1 and then brighten up the images in Lightroom after the fact.

  5. Can you compare Tickets to 41 Degrees? I am going to Barcelona in a little more than 2 months, and I am trying to decide whether to make reservations at Tickets or 41 Degrees. I would love to try both, but I will only have time for one of them. What, in your opinion, is the main difference between the two places? Who should go to one vs. the other? Thanks a lot!!

    • The 2 are so different, it’s hard to say one over the other. 41 Degrees is an experience. You’re there to be wow’d course after course and it’s all about the food. The room is dark and sultry and you’re at the mercy of the chef. The meal at Tickets is more relaxed and while you will definitely enjoy the food, you’ll find the pace is such that you’ll also be able to enjoy the company you’re there with.

      At 41Degrees, you’re at the mercy of what they decide to serve you, at Tickets, you have more of a choice. Either way, you’ll get to sample some Adria greats.

      Tickets will also end up being half the price of 41degrees, if price is a concern. But to be honest with you, you won’t be disappointed either way.

      • Thanks for your quick reply. This is really helpful!

        I am curious: why will tickets end up being half the price of 41degrees? Do you just eat less (and so you pay less) at tickets? If you get similar dishes, I would expect the individual dishes to be similarly priced (on average)?

        Also, would you recommend the wine pairing at 41degrees? Or is that too much wine ;-)

        Thanks a lot!

      • Sorry, I realized I never replied. I found that we probably ate more at Tickets than we did at 41 degrees but it was way less expensive You can see everything we at at both Tickets and 41 degrees. At Tickets we had 2 drinks each plus food and the total for 2 was 160 Euro. At 41degrees, between the 4 of us, we shared a inexpensive bottle of cava, had 2 drinks each and then food for 770Euro. At 41degrees, it’s all about the “experience”. The plating, presentation and types of dishes are at another level than at Tickets.

        I never get the pairing because I find it’s too much wine. Maybe you could share a pairing with whoever you’re going with or ask the server to match your individual glasses to pair well several upcoming courses.

        Enjoy!

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