Enhancing Excellence: How the World's Best Restaurant Uses Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Locally sourced extra virgin olive oil is an essential ingredient for the Michelin-star chefs at Disfrutar Barcelona and their award-winning tasting menu.

Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas (Photo: Joan Valera)
By Daniel Dawson
Jul. 9, 2024 14:46 UTC
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Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas (Photo: Joan Valera)

Extra vir­gin olive oil is one of the most impor­tant prod­ucts we use,” said Eduard Xatruch, a co-founder and chef at Disfrutar Barcelona.

The Michelin 3‑Star restau­rant, sit­u­ated half a dozen blocks from the iconic archi­tec­ture of Casa Milà, was recently named the world’s best restau­rant by The World’s 50 Best, a hos­pi­tal­ity indus­try trade pub­li­ca­tion.

We are three chefs,” Xatruch told Olive Oil Times. Like me, Mateu [Casañas] and Oriol [Castro] grew up in Catalonia, a coun­try of olive oil.”

Since they were young, Xatruch and his part­ners have been cook­ing with extra vir­gin olive oil almost daily. 

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These fla­vors remain marked in your taste mem­ory and culi­nary cul­ture,” he said. Later, as we began to work pro­fes­sion­ally in the kitchen, we have used extra vir­gin olive oil nat­u­rally through­out our lives.”

And here at Disfrutar, we make cre­ative cui­sine with a base of tra­di­tional fla­vor,” Xatruch added. Of course, we are inspired by prod­ucts and tastes from all over the world, but Catalan and Spanish cui­sine in terms of tra­di­tional prepa­ra­tions inspires us, and olive oil is a prod­uct we use a lot.”

Disfrutar pri­mar­ily uses Arbequina extra vir­gin olive oil with a Siurana Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sourced solely from Cooperativa Agrícola Vila-Seca. Spread across 12,000 hectares west of Tarragona, the coop­er­a­tive pro­duces about 4,000 tons of PDO olive oil annu­ally. 

It is an extra vir­gin olive oil that is very fruity. It does­n’t sting; it is very pleas­ant in the mouth and greatly respects the orig­i­nal fla­vor of the prod­uct,” Xatruch said. That is why it is an oil we use in 90 per­cent of the dishes.”

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Ninety percent of the extra virgin olive oil used at Disfrutar comes from a single cooperative in Tarragona. (Photo: Joan Valera)

Since it is an oil that we love,” he added, the coop­er­a­tive takes care of us,” leav­ing aside a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of extra vir­gin olive oil at the begin­ning of each har­vest specif­i­cally for the chefs at Disfrutar Barcelona.

The other 10 per­cent is Picual extra vir­gin olive oil, used in spe­cific prepa­ra­tions where the chefs want a strong fla­vor.

Xatruch said he knows the peo­ple who run the coop­er­a­tive well and fre­quently vis­its to taste the extra vir­gin olive oil and speak with the mem­bers.

He believes these rela­tion­ships are essen­tial for any­one who wants to achieve the high­est pos­si­ble qual­ity of gas­tron­omy: just as the qual­ity of extra vir­gin olive oil is dic­tated by that of the olives, world-class haute cui­sine begins with high-qual­ity ingre­di­ents.

We do this with many other prod­ucts,” he said. It is very impor­tant to know the prod­uct at its ori­gin, know the pro­duc­ers and have that direct rela­tion­ship… We have always said that the more local the prod­uct, the bet­ter.”

These rela­tion­ships are essen­tial after con­sec­u­tive years of poor har­vests in Spain, where pro­duc­tion dipped to his­tor­i­cally low lev­els, espe­cially in Catalonia in the 2022/23 crop year.

In the kitchen, extra vir­gin olive oil per­me­ates almost every step of the restaurant’s clas­sic tast­ing menu, used for fin­ish­ing and dur­ing the heart of the cook­ing process through to dessert.

For exam­ple, we make a clas­sic dish from Disfrutar that we call the Gilda del Disfrutar,” Xatruch said. It is inspired by the tra­di­tional fla­vors of gilda, the typ­i­cal Basque pin­cho made with piparra, a green pep­per cut into pieces in vine­gar, anchovy and olive.”

cooking-with-olive-oil-europe-enhancing-excellence-how-the-worlds-best-restaurant-uses-extra-virgin-olive-oil-olive-oil-times

La gilda de Disfrutar (Photo: Francesc Guillamet)

We make a ver­sion using what we call a Disfrutar olive, which is an oper­a­tion that we do with the olive juice and the cocoa but­ter that gives us a crunchy oil that remains inside,” he added. We accom­pany it with anchovy slices, a piece of mar­i­nated mack­erel, some piparra seeds, a lit­tle pas­sion fruit, and we fin­ish by dress­ing it with extra vir­gin olive oil.”

While extra vir­gin olive oil is mainly used to fin­ish this dish, it plays a more promi­nent culi­nary and tex­tural role in the restaurant’s polvorón de tomate.

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Polvorón de tomate is a clas­sic snack of the restau­rant that we fin­ish with Arbequina caviaroli,” Xatruch said. 

The prepa­ra­tion begins by grind­ing freeze-dried tomato flakes into a fine pow­der, mixed with olive oil and salt before being kneaded into a dough and baked. 

cooking-with-olive-oil-europe-enhancing-excellence-how-the-worlds-best-restaurant-uses-extra-virgin-olive-oil-olive-oil-times

Polvorón de tomate with Arbequina Caviaroli (Photo: Francesc Guillamet)

The pas­try-like polvorones are accom­pa­nied by Arbequina caviaroli, which is pro­duced using a tech­nique devel­oped by Ferran Adria, a for­mer col­league at El Bullí. The method involves sur­round­ing the oil with a thin layer of water con­tain­ing a gum that cre­ates a fine gelatin cap­sule around the oil drop, sim­i­lar to how caviar is formed.

Instead of using the oil as a dress­ing, we solid­ify it and make some spheres of oil seek­ing to give the dish a tex­ture,” Xatruch said.

Most dishes pre­pared at Disfrutar Barcelona use Arbequina extra vir­gin olive oil, which has a milder fla­vor. 

Depending on the type of cui­sine, we use Arbequina because it is an oil that is very del­i­cate in tex­ture and is not astrin­gent,” Xatruch said. In each dish, we look for the oil to be very har­mo­nious.”

However, the chefs some­times seek a more pun­gent extra vir­gin olive oil to enter the spot­light.

For exam­ple, we made a dish where we put a water base of tomato gelatin with a lit­tle fresh cheese, and then we put basil oil, tomato oil and extra vir­gin oil,” he said. In this case, we used Picual to give more inten­sity to the dish and promi­nence to the oil.”

cooking-with-olive-oil-europe-enhancing-excellence-how-the-worlds-best-restaurant-uses-extra-virgin-olive-oil-olive-oil-times

Tomato gelatinin extra virgin olive oil and basil oil (Photo: Francesc Guillamet)

Finally, extra vir­gin olive oil is also fea­tured for dessert, help­ing to accen­tu­ate the fla­vors of the choco­late.

We have a dessert, a clas­sic dish of Disfrutar inspired here in Catalonia,” Xatruch said. When we opened Disfrutar, we make a dessert that we call choco­late pep­pers with olive oil and salt, which con­sists of a Trompe l’oeil [a style of paint­ing intended to give a con­vinc­ing illu­sion of real­ity].”

We make a choco­late truf­fle, but it is shaped like a pep­per, and we put gelatin in it,” he added. There is a red pep­per and a green pep­per. On top of the red pep­per, we put a lit­tle bit of chili on it to make it spicy. On top of the green pep­per, we put mint so that you have this fla­vor, and we fin­ish it in front of the client by dress­ing the pep­pers with extra vir­gin olive oil, a lit­tle salt and a lit­tle toasted bread.”

cooking-with-olive-oil-europe-enhancing-excellence-how-the-worlds-best-restaurant-uses-extra-virgin-olive-oil-olive-oil-times

Chocolate peppers with extra virgin olive oil and salt (Photo: Francesc Guillamet)

Disfrutar Barcelona offers a fixed gas­tro­nomic offer­ing in its clas­sic menu and an alter­na­tive fes­ti­val menu at spe­cific times of the year, with the price of €295 per per­son until the end of 2024.

Premium prod­ucts have become much more expen­sive in the last two years,” Xatruch said. We are a restau­rant that seeks excel­lence, and in the end, if excel­lence has a higher price, then you have to pay it.”



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