Tickets, the Chef's Menu

You know who's obsessed with food – even more than I am? Barcelona. The entire city is teeming with restaurateurs, famous chefs, and Michelin-starred eateries. But on a backpacker's budget, there was no way I could afford to visit them all, so based on reviews, blogposts, Anthony Bourdain, and the general hype train, I decided on Tickets. 

Of "El Bulli" fortune and fame, Albert and Ferran Adria have opened up this magical tapas-style bar that takes its customers on an incredible taste journey. If you want to take part in this journey, you have to plan ahead – 2 months ahead! 

Reservations on their online website open exactly 2 months in advance, right at midnight. Due to time difference, that meant 6 pm for me. I had multiple browsers open and was frantically refreshing all of them to be able to snag a seat – and I did.

The waiter sat us at the best seat in the restaurant – right at the bar in front of Albert Adria, the chef. Mom and I felt especially honoured to watch him work his magic the entire night. 

First things first – drinks. Mom went for a beer while I went for the stronger stuff. If you know me, you know I love cocktails. Here, I ordered the Beet Royal, "the most famous cocktail, beetroot and cherry base with a sophisticated Moet & Chandon touch..." At first, I was afraid it would taste too earthy and "healthy" (beetroot?! come on!) but it was a perfect blend of flavours. 

Once we were seated, our waiter asked us if we wanted to order from the menu or have the restaurant bring us a "surprise" tasting menu. Since I had no idea what we should eat (or how much we should order) we opted for the surprise. We ended up having twenty-three completely different, wildly unique, and insanely tasty dishes. I took photos of every single one, and I'll do my best to take you on a little journey through Tickets.

We started off with the infamous "El Bulli" olives, Olivas Gordal Adobad. Using a method the El Bulli research team invented known as reverse spherification, olive juice from perfectly handpicked olives is transferred into a solid olive using calcium chloride, alginate, and xanthan gum. Sounds fancy and complicated, but the research pays off, because it's a delightful explosion of olive in liquid form. 

The olives also came with a plate of Tosta Boqueron. It looks like the anchovies are served on crackers... but it's actually crispy chicken skin toast.  

At Tickets, as was with El Bulli, the chefs like to play with your mind. When your plate arrives, you judge it based on its looks. Your mind forms an opinion on what it's going to taste like. But here, the dish is completely different from your expectations. The below wasn't sushi – it was eggplant. The Nigiri Berenjena.

The Gofre de Albahaca is a green air waffle made with basil. Inside, there are pine nuts and melted scamorza (a mild white Italian cheese made from cow's milk).

They called this next one the Ceviche de Melon. Ceviche is a South American dish made from raw seafood, doused in cilantro and lime. Once again, they like to turn everything on its head at Tickets. In their version, it's served with mango, ice cold, sweet spicy and tangy all at the same time. 

Mini airbag de queso. I. Love. Cheese. And when Albert Adria makes cheese... damn, it's just a whole other level. The fun thing about this dish is that you assume it's a bun with a slice of cheese on top – which it is. But surprise, surprise, it's a crispy hollow bag of bread with oozing, melting manchego foam inside. It's topped with hazelnuts, olive oil, and caviar. Heavenly. 

Airbaguette Rubia. Another hollow pastry, this time wrapped in marinated Gallega beef (not ham like you would assume!). 

Viaje Nordico translates to "Northern Travel". This next dish had a different flavour with each bite, because along the solomillo sandwich were placed vastly different and flavourful herbs and spices – a bite of dill, a hint of cilantro, finishing off with a sweet pickle. 

Foie Escabeche. There's a first time for everything, and for me, it was foie gras. Here it's served with thyme, rosemary, and crunchy sweetcorn. Garlicy, oniony, deliciously rich. 

This next one looks like watermelon slices. But by now, we knew it wouldn't be. It's actually an Ensalada de Tomate (tomato salad) served with tomato ponzu, codium juice and pickled padrón seeds.

Viaje a Hokaido is a travel through one of Japan's islands through these fresh oysters that were shucked in front of us. Can't remember what was in them, but apparently Tickets offers a variety of different oysters that correspond to a different city around the world. Could be cool to try them all!

Next up is a dish that made Mom and I tear up. It was that good. Mejillones Mantequil – mussels in butter. Or was it butter in mussels? Either way, these were devoured within seconds. 

Another favourite of mine was this Mini Chapata, a lightly fried eel sandwich served with chipotle mayonnaise.

I love all of the dishes and would give them not one Michelin star, but a million. This one would probably (most likely) win by a hair's length, though. My obsession with octopus was solidified with this Pulpo Crujiente. Served on a glass box enclosed with seashells and sand, it was crunchy and tender at the same time, dipped in kimchee mayonnaise and Panko breadcrumbs. It also came with a side of sweet and spicy pickled chili.

Spaghetti Setas. I'm not the biggest fan of mushroom, so this was the hardest dish for me to fully enjoy, since the spaghetti is literally made out of King Oyster mushrooms. But the truffle in it made me feel super fancy. 

Cochinillo Pekin. Another highlight – this pork belly taco is made with Peking suckling pig. It's placed on a cappuccina taco leaf and topped with micro greens and hoisin.

Codorniz Rellena. This was a night of many firsts. I'd never had quail prior to this, and I doubt I'll ever taste a quail as incredible as this one again. 

17 courses later, it was time for dessert. Albert Adria was recently named the world's best pastry chef, so we knew we were in for a real treat. Our first dessert was the Rosa de Ambar. I was so confused when this arrived at our table. Was it a decoration? Was the whole thing edible? But looking closely, a delicate drop of dew sat amongst the petals. You suck it off the rose petal, and experience the flavours of lychee and raspberry. 

Medio Fresier. Sorry, this was one was so good, Mom and I had already taken a few bites by the time I took the photo. Holy. It was like eating frozen strawberry air clouds. 

Cornete Taten Manzan. Tasted just like apple pie, with the crust as the cone. 

Polvoron de Avellana. We were told this was white chocolate. Our minds immediately expected hard, cold, crisp chocolate, which is exactly why it was the opposite – warm, crumbly, and sugary.

Mortero. This was the part of the night when the waiter came to our table with an ice cream cart, ringing the bell and announcing our dessert had arrived. After some magic with liquid nitrogen and oil, we were served this frigid cold, bitter yet still sweet, ice cream. We ate it on rather salty (but still tasty) hole-y crisps.

I hope I've managed to translate Tickets' crazy circus-like carnival of taste. I highly recommend if you ever plan on visiting Barcelona, think ahead (2 months ahead!), and make a reservation here. You'll have the meal of a lifetime, and if you're lucky, get a photo with the head chef, too.