“He who eats well and drinks well does everything right.”
That’s the quote printed on the back of the Cinc Sentits menu. Enjoy a dinner at Cinc Sentits, and you’ll be able to tell they truly live by that motto.
With a pull of the weighty wooden door, you’re transported from the bright, bustling streets of Barcelona into an inviting den of simulation for the senses. Perhaps that’s why chef Jordi Artal choose Cinc Sentits – translated to ‘five senses’ – as the name. With a Michelin-star rating and superlatives like “one of the best 80 restaurants in the world” (Conde Nast) and “the best restaurant in Barcelona” (Zagat,) Cinc Sentits has become a staple of the European food scene that will undoubtedly be a highlight of any trip to Barcelona.
At this fixed-course restaurant, there’s the option of a four- or six-course meal. One course may include many dishes – our “tapas” course included pan con tomate with Iberian ham, grilled vegetable flatbread with olive oil “caviar,” freshly shucked baby clams, potato and bonito tuna belly, anchovy with pickled peppers and (you’re in Spain, after all) manzanilla-arbequina olives – so expect multiple dishes, even if you only opt for the four-course meal. Beverage pairings are also available and are highly recommended.
Eric, Cinc Sentits’ in-house certified sommelier, is an expert at determining which beverages best compliment each meal, ranging from a maple syrup and sea salt cava shooter to a house-made vermouth cocktail. Main dishes are of course served with wines from across Spain, recommended by the award-winning sommelier.
Cinc Sentits turns 10 in 2018, yet their food philosophy is unchanged. They’re continuously committed to working with purveyors across Spain to bring creative Catalonian fare. Given that dining at Cinc Sentits isn’t just about the one sense of taste – there’s sight, scent, hearing and touch, as well, to consider – we thought we’d mirror their philosophy below.
Here, the sights are about more than just food. Deep earth tones grace the walls and floor, with subtle metallic details. The overall feel is dark and elegant, with rich gold lighting to give it a slightly edgy, modern feel. The tables are all covered in white linen, perhaps an homage to classic fine dining.
Of course, when it comes to the food, sight certainly matters. Dishes here are creative both in taste and in presentation, with mixed textures, colors, and combinations you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Servings are artfully arranged and even the placement of each dish on the table is intentional. The only dishes that don’t expertly blend color and shape are those purposely designed to be simple and minimalist, like baby peas, served with pea shoots, extra virgin olive oil air, and anise.
Cinc Sentits goes beyond the obvious when it comes to scent. Of course, there are robust, fruit-forward red wines, perfectly spiced dishes, and flavorful combinations, but here, scent is given extra care. Dishes like the smoked hen-of-the-woods mushroom, served with with a slow-poached egg yolk, brown butter crumbs, and pickled baby onion, are delivered to the table under the cover of glass. Upon serving, the glass is removed and wafted, allowing the combination of flavors and spices to reach the guest’s nose first. This not only preps the palette for what’s to come; it also helps enhance the flavors of the dish by making it more of a multiple-sense experience.
Though Cinc Sentits encourages diners to listen to the sounds of crunching and chewing, we encourage you instead to listen to something else: the incredible talent of the team. Listen to the knowledge of the sommelier as he explains your pairings in detail – after all, he was involved in the creation of them, as with the Cinc Sentits house vermout. Vermouth is, of course, a staple Spain’s drinking culture, and as Cinc Sentits is committed to mixing Catalonian tradition with modern creativity, vermouth is also part of the tasting menu. It’s served with the tapas selection, also skillfully explained by a team able to answer any and all questions.
Learning about the ingredients and sources is one of the most interesting parts of the experience at Cinc Sentits, and the team will be happy to share the details of where their elements are sourced. For example, all their fresh fish is pulled from the Mediterranean by Joseph, a fourth-generation fisherman. They can even tell you the name of his boat (La Mar Vella, in case you’re wondering.)
Ah, taste – perhaps the most important element for a restaurant. Cinc Sentits knows this, with flavors that are rich when they should be, subtle when they should be, and – as is required of any Michelin-starred restaurant – flawless. Equally importantly, all dishes are thoughtfully created. Every ingredient or element is on the plate for a reason, and diners will almost certainly taste all elements of a dish; nothing is overpowered or overpowering. The wines or cocktails are paired to bring out not only the flavors of the dish, but also the flavor of the beverages themselves. Indeed, some dishes are presented with instruction on when and how to drink, including the dessert dishes, paired with a moscatel monteagudo – a sweet white wine from Jerez, Spain.
When it comes to feel and touch, Cinc Sentits has this covered both literally and figuratively, Dishes are heavy on texture and often elements are served separately to allow guests to feel the combination of textures in their mouths. Tender seafood is paired with crisp fried breads, adorned with purees and mousse-like whips. Dishes are best eaten slowly in order to feel each bite and properly combine gastronomic elements.
Cinc Sentits also touches the people and communities from which they source ingredients. In order to bring authentic tastes of the region to guests, they work with local artisans to source from nearby producers whenever possible. Their house wines come from the Serra de Llaberia hills in Catalonia, where they work with a specific vineyard to source garnatxa, or grenache, grapes. They also help touch the lives of local artisans by supporting small-batch producers, like Margot, their smoker for fish and meats in the small village of Sant Iscle de Vallalta, approximately 60 kilometres north of the city.
Cinc Sentits is an exceptional experience, intended for diners who are just as interested in the artistry and sourcing of foods as the food itself. In Spain, it’s traditional to have a large, leisurely lunch and smaller dinner, so Cinc Sentits serves the same fixed-course offerings at either meal. Given the intimacy of the venue and the personalization of service, reservations are essential. We recommend visiting CInc Sentits during your last night in Barcelona, making it the perfect way to wrap up your next Mediterranean getaway.