This is no ordinary cookbook review, because Mugaritz is no ordinary cookbook. For those not familiar with the name, Mugaritz is one of the highest ranked restaurants in the world and is famous for its innovative, stylish and scientific food led by genius chef Andoni Luis Aduriz.
Usuallly I have a mental checklist of what I want in a cookbook but I had to throw that out of the window when reading this one. I doubt that I will cook many of the recipes in here but I don't care, I'd still recommend this to anyone who cares about food, it is beautiful and eye-opening.
The discussion pages are the real joy in Mugaritz - they describe the journey that Aduriz and his team have been on as well as their philosophy on food, their ingredients and the ideas behind the cookery. The writing is poetic, an emotive and clear journey through the history of a restaurant and its food.
The style of food is clean and thoughtful - ensuring you get the true taste of each ingredient. It is a rebellion against the rich and over-stuffed food we have been eating since the mid-80s with lots of strong ingredients and strict recipes. Aduriz and his team source their ingredients by seeking the freshest, giving diners the best food not just the food they want to order. There is a lot of science involved in both the conception of ideas as well as in the preparation of recipes. While this may be frustrating for people wanting to try out the recipes at home (I don't happen to own lactose, powdered polypody, kaolin or calcium oxide) it does make for a highly unique book. The thing that I love most about Aduriz's use of technology in his cooking is that it isn't for show. He is not trying to prove an experiment works but really using science to get the best from ingredients and create the most pure taste possible.
Nothing is left out, after reading the process you understand the food. Aduriz has been completely open and it makes for a compelling read. Clearly the downside of this cookbook is that the recipes call for ingredients you won't have in your kitchen and due to the nature of immediate locality and freshness even core ingredients may not work. These are not quick dishes but rather ideas - something to get your brain cells salivating. The photography is art, clean and simple all dishes are shown at portion size (very small compared to usual) on stark white to enhance the recipe alone.
Mugaritz will make you look at the food around you in a new light and see simple ingredients for their own worth. The book as a whole succeeds because it knows exactly what it is doing. Aduriz describes the importance of the road and countryside leading to the restaurant - the same is true of the introduction and notes leading to the recipes. You appreciate the food and the ideas because you understand the journey and environment.
Although more of a coffee table read than a day-to-day recipe book the ideas here are astonishing and the approach to food and flavour combinations makes this a joy to read. A truly inspirational book that foodies will love.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of 'Mugaritz'.