There are six Michelin star rated restaurants in Cantabria. Before Tuesday, I had been to two – Annua (well documented) and El Molino (NOT well documented, but equally as well enjoyed). Now, I can officially say I’ve been to three.
On our way back from Ikea, we stopped for lunch at Solana, which is located in the Cantabrian town of Ampuero (which just happens to be sort of on the way between Corrales and Bilbao). To make the most of our experience, we of course had to order the tasting menu, which included seven (with a couple extra thrown in ) dishes. Here it is in pictures…the menu changes often enough that when we asked for a copy of the menu – for blogging purposes of course – the chef’s sister actually took the time to handwrite the whole thing for us. In silver pen on fancy paper. Good heavens. Pardon any misspellings (I’m sure C will spot them and point out my errors) but I couldn’t necessarily read every word, so I was putting forth my best effort with my handy dandy assistant.
I'm including a picture of the bread, because as I've mentioned, bread is not ever a meal highlight - it is more a utensil than anything. But this bread was GOOD.
“Falso Cocido Montañés: Mousse de Morcilla, Crema de Alubias, Espuma de Berza y Crujiente de Chorizo.” Basically a deconstructed Mountain stew with morcilla mousse, cream made with beans, cabbage foam and crispy chorizo. Totally Top Chef like.
"Helado de Pimiento del Piquillo con Anchoa del Cantábrico Rociado con Picual." Roasted red pepper ice cream, with an anchovy - I know this sounds strange, but it was reeeeeeally good. It had this salty/sweet/creamy thing going on.
“Copa de Centollo a los Aromas de Calabaza y Naranja con Vainilla e Hinojo.” Sort of like a crab based soup, with pureed squash and little beady things of orange and vanilla and fennel. Also super good despite how odd it sounds. A textural delight.
“Alcachofas a la Parrilla con Carabinero y Tallarines de Jibia de Santona.” Grilled artichokes with a large shrimp and cuttlefish noodles. And probably the only way I'd eat a banana. Yummmmm.
“Taco de Panceta Ibérica Hechada con Cola de Ceigala empanada sobre Pasta Fresco.” I don’t really know how this literally translates, but there’s lobster tail and fresh pasta and a delish piece of pancetta underneath it. And that crispy thing on top was something pork related.
“Salmonete de Alante – Atrás (puré de sus cabezas, caldo de sus espinas, aceites de piel e hígado).” An all fish dish, inside and out. That is red mullet, with a puree of the fish heads, a broth made of the fish bones, and oils from the skin. C loved it. Way, way, way too fishy for me. The only thing on the menu I didn’t like. And I felt horrible about it because everyone was all concerned...the waitress asked if I wanted something else instead and then when we were talking to the chef, HE even knew that I hadn't liked it!
“Carrillera de Ternera Lechal Estofada al Vino Tinto sobre Puré de Patatas y Yuca Frita.” Red wine braised veal cheek with potato puree and crispy fried yucca. Retarded good. So rich it just melted right in your mouth. The only dish I finished before C.
By now, you feel like this. Snicker, snicker, snicker. I was laughing so hard I almost had to excuse myself from the dining room. Laughter aids digestion.
Macedonia de Frutas Tropicales con Sopa de Pina, Helado de Queso Fresco “Las Garnillas”, y Espuma de Coco. Tropical fruit salad with pineapple “soup,” fresh cheese ice cream and coconut foam. Light and delish.
“Tostada de Pan Brioche Caramelizada con helado de lima y Crujiente de Fruta Fresca.” Sort of like flan and french toast put together with lime ice cream and some fresh berries. Super sweet. The only dish C couldn’t finish.
They even served a deconstructed shot of Tiramisu at the end that went down so quickly I forgot to even take a picture. Wooooops.
Overall, it was a fabulous meal. The flavors and textures were surprising and different and interesting and I love that. And of course the service was impeccable. If I were to poke around for any fault at all (besides the one dish I didn’t like, but that is purely a taste thing), it’s that there was just waaaaaaay too much food. We finished at 4:30 or so and I was BARELY hungry by 9:00 the next morning. More than 16 hours later!
Oh, I should also mention that we got a chance to sit down and chat with the chef for a bit. He was super cool, really just a nice, good guy – as was the rest of the family, particularly his sister who works in the restaurant also. Always nice to meet the people behind a restaurant like that.
One more Michelin star rated restaurant down, three more to go. Looking forward to every one.