In the view of foodies all across the globe, Ibiza has become a gastronomic destination that’s simply not to be missed. A world-beating combination of innovative cuisine, Michelin-star chefs and outstanding service has secured this reputation, and nowhere excels more in all three of these categories than La Gaia at Ibiza Gran Hotel, the island’s flagship ‘Five-Star Grand Luxe’ property. Under the esteemed expertise of head chef, Óscar Molina, La Gaia has set the benchmark for a menu of genre-defying dishes that while defying categorisation, evoke instant adulation and praise. One element that really ushers the culinary offering at La Gaia to the very highest level is Chef Molina’s exclusive style of Nikkei cooking. A unique amalgamation of Japanese and Peruvian flavours, he takes the best elements from both styles of cooking and combines them with his own extraordinary creative flourish. Widely considered a trail-blazing master of his art, Óscar is particular to the nth degree, and consequently only employs highly-trained chefs with specialisms in one or the other styles of cuisine in his kitchen. The result is a selection of haute dishes, unrivalled anywhere on the island in both taste and style.
Chef Óscar has been influenced by flavours from all over the world during his career; in fact, he makes it his personal mission to travel in search of inspiration each and every winter, which is one of the many reasons he’s considered one of Spain’s leading chefs. He demands a similar level of immersion in food circles from his staff, and that means every dish is constructed with the same level of precision, love and flair as you would expect from an avant-garde restaurant. There is no room for error – a few seconds here or there can make all the difference between a perfect and an almost perfect dish. Take the broiled monkfish cheeks as an example. Served with black garlic sauce, sake and garlic scape confit, every step in preparing this dish is carried out with an extreme level of accuracy. First, the best cut of fish (the fish’s jowls – called kokotxa in Basque cooking) is vacuum packed. It’s then boiled for three minutes at exactly 60 degrees, before being opened and then broiled on both sides. Meanwhile, 20g of sake is brought to the boil to eke out its strong alcoholic flavour. It’s then combined with soy sauce and black garlic mayonnaise (homemade to the highest specification, naturally) and the monkfish, and placed back on the heat. The fish is then placed in a deep dish with a few dots of freshly-made black garlic gel and garlic scape confit and decorated with watercress.
The bonito tataki served with homemade kimchi and pickled tomatoes requires similarly intense levels of detailed preparation and execution, especially with three unique components to create the final, delicious dish. The kimchi includes exact amounts of Chinese cabbage, fine salt, hot paprika, oil, yellow chilli paste and cumin. The pickled tomatoes are made with soy sauce, mirin, icing sugar, fine salt and dashi – a kind of stock used in Japanese cooking. While the bonito is cured with sea salt and rice vinegar. All of these ingredients are then combined. So first, one-centimetre thick slices of tuna are placed on a plate, each one on top of a pillowy bed of kimchi. They’re then sprinkled with flax seeds and decorated with ice plant shoots. In a separate bowl, the pickled tomatoes are placed with a small amount of pickle juice and then combined with shallots and diced coriander. The two plates are then served side by side, and eaten together for the optimum mouthful.
Such definite instructions and measurements come from a combination of Óscar’s experience, skill-set and curiosity. To create recipes in which every ingredient sings while combining to make the perfect forkful of food is no mean feat. It takes years of practice and an innate awareness of flavours that can’t be taught, but rather, has to be felt. This is what you get at La Gaia – cuisine that you see, feel, and taste – delectation for all the senses.