Messina Tasting Menu, Marbella Spain

Fun is not the first thing that comes to mind when walking into a completely empty dining room at 8:30 in the evening, but that’s just how the evening turned out. It couldn’t have been more fun. Messina is well regarded for its innovative dishes.

The contemporary dining room is decorated in soft gray fabrics, contrasting dark wood furniture with bleached wood flooring and splashed with bright red chairs. The tables and chairs are generously sized and spaced, creating an elegant and comfortable ambiance.

On a Monday evening in the middle of winter I wouldn’t expect the restaurant to be full, but to be completely empty and remain so for the entire evening was a surprise.

As this was a special occasion, hence the reason we were out at a fine restaurant on a Monday, we decided to go for the tasting menu. From the limited descriptions on the menu we really didn’t know what to expect from the experience.

The first service setting consisted of a pair of pincers and a small spoon. I was intrigued.

The first course “snack” included a tray of small bites – blood pudding sandwiched between two wafers, broccoli topped with a cream cheese, and a parmesan puffed pastry; a small bowl that actually released smoke when she took of the lid revealing tiny morsels of both smoked beef and ham, a garlic infused olive and a breaded pickled onion; and for dessert a dollop of blue cheese ice-cream.

Next a small package tied with a string containing tender shredded pork in a soft garlic bread.

Burning Mackerel. The outer wrapping is torched tableside and served burnt. Breaking through this thin layer reveals a wonderfully fresh square of mackerel served on an onion confit.

Bread – small specialty rolls served in a paper sack along with two amazing Spanish olive oils, arbequiña from Pago de Baldios San Carlos and hojiblanca from La Donaira. Our server suggested we mix the two combining the sweetness of the arbequiña with the spiciness of hojiblanca.

Sushi  de-fusion, third version – deconstructed sushi, another dramatic dish consisting of a small platter with three squares of sashimi tuna on one side and the accompanying condiments on the other – rice cream laced with ginger gel, wasabi and drops of soy sauce. The server pours hot ginger broth into a drain in the center of the platter after which the steaming hot liquid bubbles up. We’re then instructed to place a morsel of tuna along with the condiments into the broth creating a wonderful infusion of flavors.

Luke warm ceviche – so many delightful dishes but this one was one of the highlights. Barely cooked small filets of bream served with a citrusy foam and accompanied by dollops of sweet potato garnish with a micro confetti of minced vegetables.

Neck of Malaga baby goat with pumpkin purée and micro pickled vegetables. A simple and satisfying preparation of tender goat simply roasted served with a salsa of the tiniest diced vegetables I have ever seen.

Dessert – French toast Thai style. As the name would suggest an eggy bread drenched in a cream of the most perfect blend of Thai flavors including lemon grass, ginger and other spices.

And yes, there is more. Not listed on the menu but served with coffee is chocolate and more chocolate – a small chocolate fondue setting with a small vessel of the rich liquid alongside a tray of one each – banana, strawberry and a butter mint drop; and two additional small trays, one with handmade dark and white chocolate squares and the second with more traditional looking pieces including white chocolate lemon grass, all divinely decadent.

And this is just the smaller of the two tasting menus. 62 Euros.

January 14, 2013

For links to all the posts in this series see the Spain page.

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