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This is part of CNET’s “Dining Redefined” series about how technology is changing the way you eat.
My teeth pierce the crisp outer shell and sink through a fine layer of honey-infused dough, allowing the creme fraiche with its precious cargo of glossy caviar to spill over my tongue. The little black pearls pop like starbursts between my teeth, each sending a salty hit into the creamy, crispy, fluffy mix.
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Chef Eduard Xatruch of Disfrutar in Barcelona likes to call this dish “the best sandwich in the world.” I choose to fondly remember it as a fried pillow of joy sent from heaven to save my tastebuds from yet another plate of patatas bravas.
Cooking this bite-size masterpiece in hot oil while maintaining the freshness of its cool, soft center is no easy feat, but these magic tricks are a big part of what Disfrutar, an experimental Catalonian restaurant filled with natural light, is all about.
Come to mama.
It’s fiddly work that’s preceded by months of research in the team’s lab in the basement of the restaurant — all to get the science of it right. It’s also this innovation that earned Disfrutar the accolade of the One to Watch in the World’s Best 50 Restaurants Awards 2017.
Serving up foams and multi-sensory theatrics at the dinner table — sometimes referred to as molecular gastronomy or modernist cuisine — are considered the hallmarks of scientific cooking. That style has fallen out of favor with food critics these days, but just as technology has infused itself into most aspects of our lives, top restaurants are embracing science and innovation in the kitchen in other ways.
You just may not see it.
“The way to think about it is that the techniques have become embedded in many kitchens already (think sous vide), but perhaps chefs are now moving on from drawing attention to the science of cooking and focusing more on the end result,” said Charles Spence, a gastrophysicist (yes, that’s a thing) who runs Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory.
Restaurant-goers might therefore need to look beyond what is served to see the science at work, because in some cases in can be more than just a dish — it can be a whole new ethos of running a restaurant.
Waste not, want not
When it comes to science in cooking, one area that is seeing innovative leaps is how restaurants handle waste, according to Adam Coghlan, UK editor of Eater. “Food waste and sustainability is absolutely rightly becoming much less avoidable for chefs than it perhaps once was,” he said.
Doug McMaster is best known for pioneering no-waste cooking at Silo in Brighton, an English seaside resort town about a two-hour drive south of London. McMaster is taking that concept to his new project, vietnam dried fruit Cub, in London. It’s a joint effort with his friend Ryan Chetiyawardana, also known as Mr Lyan, the man responsible for Dandylyan, which won the World’s Best Cocktail Bar 2017 in the 11th annual Spirited Awards — a sort of Oscars for the drinks industry.