And the longest tasting menu award goes to…Enigma Concept for their 40+ courses, but after 20 or so who’s counting anymore? From the creative mind of Albert Adrià (of the elBarri restaurant empire and elBulli fame), Enigma Concept is a culinary journey into a futuristic dream world. While I did enjoy the experience, I felt that the overall concept was trying a little too hard.
On first impression, the muted grey tones of the walls, decor, and custom made furniture jumped out. This, along with the purposefully wrinkled garments of the service staff and the odd, ice-looking ceiling made a loud statement – this wasn’t going to be a typical dinner experience. Over 4.5 hours, we were lead through six uniquely themed rooms, including two interactive chef’s tables.
To note: For the initial year or so after opening, diners were requested to not post any photos of the meal. When we visited in May 2018 though, they were very open to photos and had no policy about posting publicly. Therefore all photos I captured are shared here for your viewing pleasure. If you don’t want spoilers, please don’t continue reading.
The first room was named after the traditional Kyoto ryokan inns. We were served a fermented yuca and pumpkin “unclarified” consume. When we asked the server how a consume could be unclarified, she wasn’t sure. This response was about the average level of service we got from the Engima wait staff. Luckily half the rooms had direct interaction with chefs, who were more than happy to explain the dishes.
Next we moved to the cave room, named after a wine cellar in the room that was not obviously visible. Here we had a series of small bites paired with a couple cocktails. We were also given a wine list. When we asked for a crisp, light white for dinner, the sommelier recommended a biodynamic Spanish white that was indeed very bright and great on its own. However the oak was overpowering and a very poor pairing for the seafood heavy first half.
The small bites here were some of the strongest on the menu. The demistrawberry was an epitome of the perfect strawberry. The pistachio air pancake dissolved nicely on the tongue. An elderflower “ravioli” with strawberry and blackcurrant notes (not pictured) had a delightful cotton candy texture.
The third room was all seafood courses and my favorite room of the night thanks to the engaging personality of Executive Chef Oliver Peña. This room had just six diners around a chef’s table. We had a front row seat to the preparation of the five courses here.
The sea cucumber served two ways contrasted the spaghetti-like tubules with the sliced body. The dashi broth was a refreshing pairing.
The whole red prawn head was visually very neat to see. It was raw, or nearly raw, in texture and surprisingly gamey for shrimp. A very unique dish, served with the more familiar tail in a clear, chilled seaweed broth.
My favorite course in this room was the mullet and ikura roe trio. Chef Peña mentioned they usually have mullet roe to go along with the other two mullet courses, but they ran out and substituted the arguably better ikura. Watching the chef cut open the egg sac was a new experience for me.
The “dinner” room was where the bulk of the tasting menu was served. Here we had a reverse progression with the heavier dishes served first. The servers purposefully didn’t tell us the ingredients before each dish, letting us guess what we ate along the way.
The first course of wild pigeon was not my favorite, as the pigeon was too gamey for my taste.
Next was one of the more visually stunning dishes – an air croissant with pigeon sauce. The pigeon sauce was a surprisingly good savory pairing to the light, shattering crisp and buttery croissant. This dish was made by pumping up croissant dough with air prior to baking. A video of the impressive process can be seen here.
The artichoke rose salad was one of my favorite dishes as I am very partial to mild, nutty taste and soft texture of artichoke. The edible bits of the plant were skillfully cooked and arranged.
The white asparagus had an intriguing progression of texture – from the completely cooked, almost mushy base to the raw, crunchy tip. While the technique was impressive, the actual dish wasn’t as satisfying as an evenly cooked, crisp asparagus.
This was another chef’s table room and my second favorite room of the night. Though the food wasn’t as strong, I enjoyed the interactive experience here with the chef from Peru. We sat around a large plancha grill with Japanese charcoal grills on the side. The five courses here were very Japanese influenced as well.
The stracciatella with yuba (tofu skin) and caviar was a decadent and creamy start.
The tamogamochi was a nice hybrid of egg and mochi texture, filled with a burst of brightness from the ginger and cilantro.
Not pictured was a truffled wagyu from Chile, which was perhaps the best quality yakiniku I’ve had, but seemed like a waste of wagyu by serving it well done.
The chawanmushi was also unfortunately a weaker dish, with the white truffle flavors too muted and under-seasoned overall.
After the Planxa interlude, it was back to the Dinner room with perhaps the most memorable dish of the night. We were not told this was rabbit brain beforehand, and though it was palatable, it had an unfamiliar texture, especially compared to the walnut.
The olive oil course I enjoyed since I like the knowledge gained from side-by-side comparisons. The smokey, robust Roble was my favorite.
The baby almonds in this next dish could have been tiny grapes for all I knew! The texture was very grape-like and very neat to experience.
Next came the desserts! The soy sauce pineapple and mustard ice cream were a great harmony of savoriness. The chocopic dessert was a decedent, darker chocolate accented with bright cabernet sauvignon vinegar.
Perhaps my favorite was the black sesame ice cream hidden under a fluffy yuzu yogurt cream with seaweed for texture contrast.
After the desserts, we were led to a hidden room behind a storage closet. The surprise final room was a replica of the shuttered 41° bar. Here we enjoyed craft cocktails paired with small treats.
While I appreciated the process behind the courses and interacting with the talented chefs, the service from the wait staff left some to be desired. As noted before, the wine recommendation was pretty terrible given the menu.
Small details were also missed like water preferences. We were given a choice of sparkling or still in the second room, but not given water until the third room. They also poured me the wrong water preference, but then got it right in the fourth room.
General knowledge of the courses was also much worse than expected for a restaurant of this caliber.
Overall though, the wonderful chefs made my experience a positive one. Chef Peña and my husband really hit it off with food talk, and Chef even surprised us with a bag of Kuzu root starch which my husband had asked about earlier in the meal.
Though I’m not sure I would go back, I was glad to be able to experience Enigma Concept.