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Spanish cuisine is known all over the world for the use of fresh ingredients, produce and seafood and its distinct flavors that reflect the various influences and the culture in the different regions. Visitors come to the country not only for its historical marvels but also for its culinary delights. Some of its restaurants are among the world’s best as rated by gourmets and food critics and here are the ten of its most illustrious culinary gems:
El Bulli: A trailblazing restaurant situated in the town of Roses in Catalonia, El Bulli has been named five times by Restaurant Magazine as the first on its Top 50 Best Restaurants of the World and was rated 3 Michelin stars in 1997. Run by Ferran Adria, it is known far and wide for its imaginative haute cuisine. The restaurant is only open six months in a year and the reservations list is always a mile long.
Restaurante Zalacain: Featuring a Basque-inspired Nouvelle cuisine, Zalacain combines an elegant ambience with impeccable cooking. Veal escalopes in orange sauce and oysters with caviar in sherry jelly are paired with excellent choices from over 800 varieties found in the wine cellar.
Can Fabes: This is the first Michelin 3-star rated restaurant ran by chef Santi Santamaria. Can Fabes is located in the quiet town of Sant Celoni in Catalonia and serves seasonal cuisine whipped up from the best local produce. Must-try are the Shrimp Ravioli, Iberian Piglet and their scrumptious desserts.
El Celler De Can Roca: It was listed as Number 2 in the S. Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants of the World for 2011 and rated three Michelin stars. Ran by three brothers – Joan Roca is the chef, Josep Roca is the sommelier and Jordi Roca is the pattisier, the Girona restaurant has been serving highly-inventive cuisine since 1986. From the amuse bouche, the selection of fine wines from five regions to the savory main courses, each bite is a pleasant gustatory surprise.
Arzak: New Basque cuisine is cooked and plated in modern and imaginative ways by the father-and-daughter team of Juan Mari Arzak (3-Michelin star chef) and Elena Arzak Espina. Go for the 16-course degustacion menu.
Martin Berasategui: Three-star Michelin chef Martin Berasategui serves up traditional Basque cuisine in molecular gastronomy style. Jellies, foams, mousses and frozen bubbles all lend to concentrated flavors and an enjoyable dining experience.
Mugaritz: Using what he calls as a “techno-emotional” approach, Chef Andoni Aduriz turns fresh local, seasonal produce into works of tasty art. It ranks third in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants this year and a two-star Michelin rating. The degustation menus offer playful and flavorful takes on coastal fish, Iberian pig parts and even simple herbs and vegetables.
Jockey: Fine French haute cuisine in an elegant English country house ambience brings in royalty and celebrity alike in one of Madrid’s culinary pride. The well-stocked wine cellar with over 700 varieties complete an unforgettable dining experience.
Sant Pau: French, Japanese and traditional Spanish flavors come together in the innovative kitchens run by woman-chef Carme Ruscalleda. This three-star Michelin restaurant serves up a feast for the eyes and the palate with dishes like King Prawns and cherries in tomato cream, Stuffed Calamari and Parrotfish in curry.
Cal Pep: Popular among tourists in Barcelona, Cal Pep serves up masterfully prepared seafood tapas and traditional Catalan dishes. Try the Foie Botifarra, Shellfish a la Plancha and the homey Tortilla.