Violet, banana and palo cortado at El Rincon de Juan Carlos

El Rincon de Juan Carlos, Tenerife

I’m not quite sure how it can be January and I’m already behind on my blog but hey, it happened. I was so busy having a ball over Christmas and New Year, including a grand old adventure round Scotland, that all my virtuous plans of getting ahead on some posts so they were all ready to impress you in the New Year went out of the window.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t got plenty up my sleeve. There are a few meals from Tenerife to tell you about (including this WONDERFUL one), Parts 2 and 3 of our epic European roadtrip, which I’m genuinely hoping to have finished before we go on the 2018 one otherwise that will be rather pathetic. And of course, the latest little finds from Scotland!

With the hangover from 2017 still lingering around (metaphorically and literally), I decided to kick off 2018 with one of the highlights of the end of last year – our trip to Michelin-starred El Rincon de Juan Carlos in Tenerife. I have to confess, when we booked our holiday to Tenerife for a bit of winter sun in December, I had stereotypically assumed that there wouldn’t be much in the way of great food.

Not only was I wrong, with a whole array of restaurants to cater for all budgets and all palates, but I found that just half an hour’s walk away was a restaurant owned by one of Spain’s top chefs. A quick peep at the reviews and I was filling in the online booking form, only to realise you have to get in pretty early to get a table.

Unless, of course, you happen to get a cancellation….

El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeWith that in mind, just a few weeks later full of sunshine on our boozy break we found ourselves trotting down a little side alley in Los Gigantes to the unassuming front door of our latest fine dining find. It may be quite modest from the outside, but the futuristic automatic sliding door entrance reveals a swish, ultra modern interior that at the same time manages to stay intimate and friendly, helped by the fact it’s a proper family affair.

Settled with some drinks, we sat down to eagerly await the ‘Grand’ Tasting menu produced by someone who I’m not alone in thinking is an amazingly talented chef. The Real Tenerife‘s Jack is a big fan and thanks to his review I learned that Juan Carlos was not only runner-up in the best chef in Spain competition but went on to be a judge in the contest. No mean feat. I also have Jack’s review to thank for making me feel more than justified in waxing lyrical about a meal that really did knock our socks off.

As ever, I’m not going to write War and Peace on a tasting menu that treated us to no fewer than 14 courses, plus an epic finale, so I’ll let you salivate over the pretty pictures of the ‘Grand Menu’ plus a few little words. It goes without saying that each dish was a story in and of itself, as well as simultaneously being challenging, baffling, delightful, educational, artist and full of complex flavours and textures. But not before starting with some simple, soft, homemade artisan bread…

Artisan bread at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeYou might think that after this we’d be on to the menu itself. Erm, no. In true fine dining style, we had a few amuse bouches to set the tone for the night ahead. They were basically Juan Carlos’ twist on traditional Canarian black pudding. Sweet, fruity, and sexed up with the addition of a bit of gold leaf….

Amuse bouche at El Rincon de Juan CarlosAmuse bouche at El Rincon de Juan CarlosFeeling ever so slightly excited about our evening of new tastes and twists, we finally got on to the menu proper.

Oyster Gillarbeau no 3 with coconut and galangal

It may look like an innocuous leaf perched on top of the pot, but after eating it – as instructed – in two bites, you are treated to the baffling flavour of a bit of green that tastes remarkably like an oyster. Inside the pot, a meaty, creamy smoked oyster with fresh Asian flavours of coconut and galangal.

Oyster gillardeau at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeOyster gillardeau at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeEnoki Mushrooms, cream of enoki, noisette goat butter and caviar

I’d never even heard of enoki mushrooms, but they are the tiniest little things I’ve ever seen. Tinier even than the huge balls of caviar stacked up on top like a precious pile of bubbles.

Enoki mushrooms at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeSmoked eel, ponzu, corn, yoghurt

I don’t think I’ve had eel before and I’m not sure if I ever will again because it was THAT good that I doubt I’ll ever get it again. Great with the crunch of the corn.

Smoked eel at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeSmoked eel at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeCeleriac noodles, cream of comte cheese, truffle and pine nuts

Would it be wrong to say one of the winners of this course was the special tweezers provided to eat them with? Along with, of course, the epic comte cream with a generous helping of black truffle on top. One of my favourite dishes so far.

El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeCelery noodles at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeCelery noodles at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeJapanese Clams, with fat of foie gras and black garlic

Another fave. Tiny clams on the same size scale as the enoki mushrooms. But flavour-packed enough that they can stand up to foie gras, sweet black garlic, and the sweet citrus of ‘finger lemons’ cutting through the richness.

Japanese clams at El Rincon De Juan Carlos, TenerifeRavioli of Montesdeoca cheese & lentil soup

Resembling an Asian dish rather than traditional pasta, these little parcels had a light broth poured over them, combining what felt like a Japanese broth with an Italian pasta course.

Ravioli at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeCrayfish in juice and sriracha

Anyone who knows me will tell you at home I put sriracha on EVERYTHING, and it’s certainly not something I’d expect to find in a place like this, but this crayfish was a winner. One of the prettiest dishes in my mind, and slightly simpler than the others but with all the refinement you’d expect.

Crayfish at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifePigeon with pumpkin and couscous

Delightfully simple and probably the least ‘Michelin’ dish of the menu, though still boasting the attention to detail, artistry and execution you’d expect. A perfect example of why sometimes it’s good to let simple things sing without too much fuss.

Pigeon breast at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifePigeon breast at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeViolet, banana and palo cortado (old sherry)

If you liked parma violets as a kid, you’d like this. Pretty as a picture, with a bit of fun to bring out the child in all of us juxtaposed with the very adult addition of a great sherry. A winner for me though Mr M wasn’t so keen.

Violet, banana and palo cortado at El Rincon de Juan CarlosCoconut Dumpling

At first glance you might think these look a bit gelatinous, but in the mouth the little bite-sized delights were incredibly creamy and just right in flavour, texture and size. A Goldilocks of a course!

Coconut dumplings at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeChocolate, yoghurt, lemon, anised and tonka bean

Not keen on the violet dessert, Jamie was holding out for the chocolate as his favourite. He wasn’t disappointed. Sweet chocolate balanced with bitter yoghurt, and presented in an almost Willy Wonka style guaranteed to pique your curiosity.

Dessert at El Rincon de Juan Carlos, TenerifeThe final hurrah

The Willy Wonka world continued with Juan Carlos’ final flourish – and what a flourish it was. An epic candy floss tree that this photo completely does not do justice to, complete with branches holding an array of petitĀ fours. As petit foursĀ go, this one was well up there with La Speranzina in Lake Garda for an impressive culmination to a meal.

Candy floss tree at El Rincon de Juan CarlosNeedless to say, that final flourish was about as much as we could take and brought our epic eating experience to an end. I’m sure I don’t have to say much more to make it clear that this was about as Michelin as it gets. Experimental, artistic food that’s not about filling your face or sticking to your comfort zone, but trying new things, challenging your palate and thinking about food as far more than just fuel.

While I wouldn’t necessarily eat like this every weekend, it’s food like this that captures the imagination, starts discussions and provides memories that a 10oz rump doesn’t always do (though on some occasions it can, of course). In fact, it’s food like this that also makes you appreciate that 10oz rump for its simplicity and straightforwardness, yet reminds you that food itself can be enchanting, magical stuff, packed with endless possibilities.

We paid in full for our meal at El Rincon de Juan Carlos. The tasting menu is 85 euros per person, which isn’t half bad. We didn’t have the wine flight, instead enjoying a really reasonably priced Tenerife wine recommended by the sommelier, but if we had 6 glasses would have been 50 euros, with 12 at 85 euros.

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