This restaurant closed on 22nd October 2019.
Dani Garcia trained at Martin Berasategui before opening his own restaurant "Les Tragabuches" in Ronda in 1998, earning a Michelin star for it in 2000. In 2005 he moved to Marbella and opened La Calima, earring a star in 2007 and a second in 2011. In 2014 he moved premises and his establishment is now just called Dani Garcia, the restaurant being located in the Hotel Puento Romano. The man with his name over the door was not in the kitchen tonight. Judging by the bar and deli at Malaga airport with his name on it, Mr Garcia is not overly concerned about spreading his personal brand too thin.
The new flagship restaurant location is on the ground floor of the hotel and next door to a bistro owned by the same chef, the bistro having an attractive outdoor terrace. The dining room seats 22 when full, which it was not this evening. A dozen chefs work at any one shift on the quite elaborate dishes. The cooking style, very much molecular gastronomy, feels at times oddly dated when eaten in 2015. There was a lengthy tasting menu at €148, a short version at €75 and a full a la carte selection; a nice touch was that most dishes could be sampled as half portions, allowing a mini tasting menu to be put together.
The wine list had good coverage of France as well as Spain. Vino Sastre Pago 2011 was €75 for a bottle that can be found for €70 in the high street, the lovely Alion 2011 was €90 for a wine that retails at €62, and Didier Dagenau Pur Sang 2011 was €180 for a label with a current market price of €88.
The meal tonight began with some amuse bouches. The first arrived in a hollowed out book, a carrot and smoked cod muffin made of edible paper. The mousse was very nice, the carrot flavour good, though the paper was a bit hard (15/20). This was followed by a rice crisp with mushrooms and black truffle with black garlic and garlic flower. This was enjoyable, the mushrooms and garlic flavours working well together (16/20). Next was a "gold ingot" made of olive oil and butter, with black truffle grated over at the table, with caviar, breadcrumbs and summer truffle. To be honest this was just odd, the texture of the breadcrumbs too fine so that they ended up tasting like sand, and the ingot was just like eating a slab of over salted butter (12/20 is a kind score).
Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen and comprised a choice of olive and walnut loaf, black bread with orange, focaccia, tomato bread, green tea bread, pretzel and a local flatbread from Andalucia. The tomato bread in particular was good, nicely seasoned (16/20).
My starter of quail egg and peas came with Iberico bacon and edible flowers. This was very enjoyable, the peas having good flavour and the quail egg working well with the bacon, the pea shoots a nice touch (16/20). Crab with cauliflower came with a white garlic soup with almonds, the latter a local specialty. The soup was surprisingly rich and enjoyable, given a luxurious edge by black truffle, the crab pleasantly sweet (17/20).
Sea bass was deep-fried and coated with black pepper and coated with a balsamic reduction. On the side was a plate of local vegetables including sweet corn, carrots and courgette. The fish was pleasant, the batter not of the level of top tempura in Japan, but I liked the bold pepper and the contrast of the vinegar (16/20). Iberico pork came with smoked aubergine and soufflé potatoes with a meat jus. Having eaten perhaps the best soufflé potatoes in the world at Michel Guerard last week it was always to be a tricky comparison, but the texture was enjoyably light, and the pork had good flavour, thought the aubergine could have been better (16/20).
Tropical fruit dessert comprised a "passion fruit iceberg" of meringue with passion fruit soup, which worked really well. The meringue was light and there was plenty of fruit flavour to offset the sugary richness (17/20). Coffee was Nespresso and was fine.
The service was excellent, my charming waitress having worked previously in Edinburgh, and overall the staff were friendly and attentive. The bill came to €222 (£159) per person, albeit with a lot of good wine. If you shared a modest bottle then a typical cost per person might be £115, though if you went for one of the cheap menus then you could certainly eat for less. Overall the meal was quite enjoyable, with a couple of particularly good dishes, though there was one distinctly off key nibble. The menu felt curiously dated in some ways, as if stuck in the El Bulli era, though the simpler dishes such as the crab dish and the tropical fruit meringue were genuinely good.
We ate at Tragabuches in 2004 - memorable for one small dish comprising a rectangular and intentionally firm parfait of foie gras with very thin slices of sharp apple and the added crunch of turron on top. It was delicious.
I think you've been kind. We had the tasting menu in 2015 and it was a calamitous mess. We only really liked one of the 21(!!) dishes and it all felt like they were trying to do too much with the food. JCG up the road however was a triumph.
We were a little disappointed with Dani Garcia when it was Calima a few years back. You need to visit Aponiente, it's the best restaurant in Andalucia and one of the finest in Spain. I think it will get a third star soon too.