A Review of Disfrutar: Barcelona’s Avant-Garde Restaurant

When you think of Barcelona, what comes to mind?

We imagine you are picturing a hodgepodge of architectural styles – ranging from almost menacing, yet impressively ornate Gothic cathedrals, to whimsical and sculptural structures from the era of Modernisme, also known as Catalan modernism or Catalan art nouveau.

And undoubtedly, the city’s rich cultural and artistic history pops into your head.

As you may know, Barcelona was a source of inspiration for artists like Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, and you can find museums dedicated to their works within the city limits.

The colorful city is also famous for having amazing nightlife, and if you find yourself our dancing and bar hopping until 6 AM, then you’re living like a true Barcelonan.

The city is of course also well known when it comes to its food. When you think of Barcelona, you probably immediately think of tapas, paella and crema catalana.

But did you know that Barcelona is home to some of the masters of molecular gastronomy?

It makes sense if you think about it.

For a city with some of the most peculiar, yet magnificent, architecture, art and culture in the world, it follows that it would produce food to match.

And one restaurant, Disfrutar, is carrying on Barcelona’s obsession with the modernist sub-discipline of gastronomy.

The Definition of Disfrutar

Disfrutar chefs

The direct translation of the verb disfrutar from Spanish to English is: enjoy.

And that verb is more or less what defines the overall concept of the restaurant.

Disfrutar opened in December 2014 after three chefs – Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch – spent years working rigorously at another famous experimental restaurant in Catalonia, El Bulli, which closed temporarily in 2011.

They first opened another restaurant, Compartir, in 2012 in Cadaqués, a small town in the province of Girona along the Mediterranean, about 20 km south of the French border.

The success of this restaurant inspired the three chefs to continue their collaborations at a new restaurant in Barcelona, and so Disfrutar was born.

Their slogan is that you can “Compartir” in Cadaqués, and “Disfrutar” in Barcelona – or you can share in Cadaqués and enjoy in Barcelona. It’s warm and welcoming all around.

The logo for the restaurant has a smiling emoticon in the place of the “D,” (so it looks like, :)isfrutar). It’s playful.

And this playfulness carries over into the menu and the atmosphere at Disfrutar, without becoming too kitschy.

Though playful and experimental, the restaurant also remains very much connected to a Mediterranean identity both in terms of the menu and the architecture.

After all, it is a restaurant known for using the techniques and artistry of molecular gastronomy in its dishes. So you get that perfect mash-up of the weird and avant-garde, with elegance and sophistication.

But most importantly, the restaurant focuses on taste. They want you to enjoy what you eat.

The Disfrutar-Barcelona-emu.jpgMenu

Disfrutar Barcelona menu

The aim of the chefs at Disfrutar is to entertain and stimulate your senses through gastronomy.

The chefs believe that “surprise is an important experience in the gastronomic experience,” and they advise eaters not to preview anything beforehand, as noted on the gastronomic offerings page of the restaurant’s website.

As such, the restaurant offers various tasting menus as opposed to a traditional menu.

Diners, therefore, have a completely unpredictable eating experience. There are a few different tasting menus to choose from, but you never really know what you’re going to get.

Condé Nast says that the “creations are playful and unpredictable, often surprising us by telling our eyes one thing but sending our taste buds a completely different message.”

In one word, it’s paradoxical.

And because the menus fall under the umbrella of molecular gastronomy, there’s a lot going on. You can expect to see fire, ice, smoke, and color with the dishes. It’s almost like a food exhibition. Of course, there is also lots of flavor.

For example, you might find a dish composed of translucent pesto ravioli, where the “noodle” is made from a gelatin. Or maybe your particular tasting menu will have chocolate pepper served with oil and salt for dessert.

If you want to get an idea of the types of dishes you might eat, there are tons of photos of the restaurant’s Yelp page.

But again – you never really know what to expect.

It’s daring, fun and modern, but nonetheless pays subtle homage to the Mediterranean identity.

Oh, and the wine list provides ample pairing options at affordable prices.

The Atmosphere

Disfrutar atmosphere

You may perhaps associate molecular gastronomy with an overt pretentiousness and stuffy atmosphere.

But the space at Disfrutar is surprisingly laid-back, cool, and effortless.

The founders of the restaurant wanted to open an establishment where anyone would feel welcome. So though the food is rather elevated, the environment and service are friendly and informal.

The space itself is bright with clean modern lines.

And yet, you can see the references to Mediterranean architecture and interior design throughout the restaurant.

Casañas, Castro and Xatruch are very respectful of the history and legacy of the Mediterranean. The Ninot Market (which is right across the street) and colorful ceramics of Miró serve as inspiration for the entrance of Disfrutar.

Ceramics are actually a common theme throughout the entire interior, with varying clay tones and textures along the central corridor. The main dining hall is a bright white, with the intention of creating an indoor terrace-like space to match the actual outdoor terrace.

You won’t see any white tablecloths or velvet-cushioned chairs. Instead, the tables are clean, elegant natural-looking hard surfaces, and the chairs (like the walls) are modern and geometric.

There is also lush greenery, giving the space a thoroughly airy and natural aesthetic.

Pricing

As you may have presumed, this outside-the-box menu and sensual atmosphere does not come at a bargain price.

If you make a reservation at Disfrutar, you should be prepared to spend.

After all, it’s a “Four Dollar Sign,” or rather a “Four Euro Sign,” restaurant on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Though the exact price of your meal may vary depending on the current tasting menu offerings, currently the restaurant’s website lists four tasting menu options: two of which cost 150€ and two at 190€.

Now we are by no means saying that these prices are low, but do keep in mind that, because they are tasting menus, you are going to get multiple courses (in fact, it’s rumored that the menu can run to over 30 courses) with very unique dishes that you likely won’t find anywhere else.

And, depending on how hungry you are, it is possible to share a single tasting menu between at least two people. (If you end up with that 30-course menu then you can probably share between far more than two people.)

The wines, however, are actually quite affordable. You can pay as little as 5-6€ for a single glass (that’s about $6), and as little as 22€ (around $25) for a bottle. If you want a bottle of wine paired to go with your tasting menu, then you will pay closer to 50€, which comes out to around 60 US dollars.

It may be laid back, but Disfrutar is kind of a special occasion restaurant if you take the pricing into consideration.

But we imagine if you are spending time in Barcelona, then the entire trip is a special occasion. And it’s perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Public Perception of Disfrutar

disfrutar barcelona

Well, as we just said, Desfrutar is one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

In 2017, the restaurant scored the Miele One to Watch Award from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and in 2018, it actually made into the list itself.

In fact, it made it to Number 18, making it the highest new entry on the list.

But the restaurant has been gaining various accolades since as early as a year after its initial opening. Disfrutar received its first Michelin star at its one-year anniversary, and the Catalan Academy of Gastronomy name it “Best Restaurant of the Year.”

In 2016, Opinionated About Dining named the restaurant “Best New Restaurant in Europe,” and in 2017, they also ranked it at number 29 on their list of the Top 100+ European Restaurants.

Disfrutar is now positioned at number 12 on Opinionated About Dining’s 2018 list of the Top 100+ European Restaurants.

The restaurant has also since managed to earn itself two Michelin stars, and Condé Nast listed it as one of the best restaurants in Barcelona.

All of these recognitions and awards probably speak for themselves.

Nonetheless, we want to underscore that it’s not just these major culinary critics and groups that are highly impressed with Disfrutar.

The restaurant has very high reviews from regular people, just like you.

On TripAdvisor, the restaurant has an average rating of 4.5 stars out of over 1,500 reviews, and it has an average rating of 5 stars on Yelp.

A quick glance at reviews will tell you a couple of things:

1) That this dining experience is not for everybody – it is an unusual experience not made for picky eaters.

2) If you approach the menu at Disfrutar with an open mind, it will be one of the most unforgettable dining experiences of your entire life.

Yes, the food is truly avant-garde, but it tastes very good. It’s molecular gastronomy that is accessible to a wider public and doesn’t feel too contrived or forced. In other words, they aren’t turning a food into something weird just for the sake of turning it into something weird.

All of the experimentations are very intentional – that intention being to take an ingredient and preparing it in such a way that it affects your senses differently than if it was prepared in a more traditional manner. Think of it as enhancing the taste of a food

This intention is reflected in many reviews that also point out that it’s not solely about taste. The dining experience at Disfrutar invigorates all of the senses in surprising and quirky ways.

People also rave about the excellent service that is never haughty – only, warm, friendly and informative – and the beautiful atmosphere.

In short, Disfrutar absolutely deserves its many awards and recognitions.

What We Think

Do we even have to say it?

If you ever have the opportunity to eat at this restaurant, you absolutely have to take it.

We don’t care if you are a foodie or not, nor do we care if the idea of molecular gastronomy makes you roll your eyes.

For one, as we’ve mentioned it’s clear that Disfrutar does not fit the stereotype of the pretentious, overpriced molecular gastronomy dining experience with dishes so strange or so tasteless that you walk out the door confused.

Of course, there may be some dishes that you do not like at the restaurant. But this will most likely be because you don’t like a certain food used in one of the plates – not because the dish is too weird to consume.

And yes, it’s expensive. But with the amount of food you get, combined with the creativity and playfulness of the menus, as well as the unique atmosphere, it’s well worth the price. In fact, we’d go as far to say that’s it’s a priceless experience.

So, we fully endorse you making a reservation at this one-of-a-kind Barcelonan restaurant.

And if you do dine at Disfrutar and it’s not to your liking…

Well, then we’ll eat our left foot.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.