The cooking that Pedro Sánchez exercises in the tiny Michelin star Baga dining room transcends local traditions and customs. It reflects the dreams of a cook who wanted to return to his motherland: “I cannot live without Jaen, without my land and without my family”, Baga has been featured as one of the coolest restaurants in the world to eat in 2023 by Forbes magazine
This chef is an example of how you can be a genius from a small restaurant without losing focus or humility, and how your curiosity can break down unimaginable barriers. The chef from Jaen put food trends upside down, dives deep into our gastronomic imaginary and shapes everything as if he was doing origami.
This radical and totally fresh point of view has made this 45 square meter restaurant a place of foodies pilgrimage all around the world, as stated in an article recently published by the magazine Forbes about the 10 coolest places to dine in 2023.
Pedro Sanchez has made a lot of food aficionados travel to Jaen, the Cinderella of a community exuberant with monuments and charms. When you arrive, you discover a city full of life, home to one of the most impressive Renaissance cathedrals in Spain.
However, what surprised me the most about my visit to Baga was finding a much more universal cuisine than I expected from an ambassador of his land as few have known. And it is that having roots is not incompatible with having wings. And Pedro Sánchez has both of them.
The bottarga and the carrueco, are the perfect presentation card for everything that we will be able to enjoy later. In his book, Pedro Sánchez explains that in the orange/bottarga he intends to combine in a single bite the sweetness of the oranges from Jaen, which he slices and dehydrates, with the salinity of a grated mullet roe artisanal bottarga.
The carrueco consommé, a type of elongated pumpkin typical of the orchards of Jaen, is the other appetizer with which we warm up. It brings back one of his most cherished childhood memories. Despite Jaen being the largest world producer of extra virgin olive oil, veggies production still plays a key role in the province.
In this case, instead of serving the soup that his grandmother prepared, he surprises us by filtering and serving only the broth, the negative of the photo, which treasures the purest flavors. This game will be constant throughout the entire menu that awaits us. Fran, the sommelier, wisely accompanies it with a manzanilla from Sanlucar de Barrameda in Cadiz.
Baga wine list
The rest of the meal we will drink O Morto 2019, a godello wine from DO Ribeiro, fermented in amphora for nine months on its lees. Perfect for an eminently seafood menu. “Fran, the sommelier, loves Jerez wines. 90% of our menu is made up of white and sparkling wines because we understand that they are the perfect complement to our type of cuisine. Our wine list is short and cozy because we have limited space”, Sánchez explains.
The next dish nods to the sea and the mountains, and to the crossroads that Jaen represents, one and a half hour away from the coast. Motril shrimps swim happily in a light and elegant shitake mushroom broth, which once again shows us how Pedro Sánchez can recover and make shine what we, amateur cooks, would throw away.
This dish wanted to radically unite sea and the land. To do this, the beetroot is roasted in aluminum foil for 24 hours. Then it is roasted again with its skin wrapped in nori seaweed for approximately a day and a half, depending on the size. In this way its structure changes completely. The sauce is made from the seaweed, which has an intense flavor of the sea.
This is where we beet lovers are really happy as Pedro Sanchez has very present in his kitchen this Scandinavian veggie root.
Again, a dish full of contrasts. Not of textures, but of flavors, totally surprising and outside our usual coordinates. It has retro eighties flair, the era of aspic and jellies, but it´s recreated in its most sophisticated form. The combination you thought wouldn’t work, does.
It is a partridge consommé that has turned into jelly, accompanied by a caviar pâté that is placed in the center. Mapy, the extraordinary front of the house manager, recommends that we eat it from bottom to top without mixing flavors.
Pear/smoked eel skin
This is it. The technical culmination of the Pedro Sanchez thought process. He suddenly presents us a whole pear in the middle of the menu. The pear has undergone a fermentation and oxidation process in which the sugars disappear leaving a sneaky pear skin. And speaking of slippery skins, Baga chef then creates a foam with the eel skin. A prodigy of sustainability
Coconut/almond/pineapple/basil (Baga ajoblanco)
And we arrive to one of the signature dishes of the house. The dish that will never disappear from the menu, even though Pedro Sanchez describes it in his book as “the one that people like the most, although I am tired of serving it.” The dish that he has prepared for 14 years and remains frozen in time.
He now considers this dish it a little rest for the mind and the palate after a demanding and complex start. I thought it was delicious, and I see something very unconventional accompanying it with a pineapple and basil granita that is more salty than sweet on my palate.
Another salute to the sea and Nordic cuisine, in a dish that combines celery root, a very rare tuber in Spain, with an aioli made with collagen from the hake heads emulsified with olive oil. Once again, a wonderful nod to sustainable cooking with an exquisite result.
Green pepper/oyster Île d´Oleron
Again, a game of contrasts. In this case, it´s between the delicacy of the oyster from the île dÓleron and the green pepper that has a very intense flavor, on a sauce also made of green pepper. Surprisingly, the delicacy of the oyster is not nullified, but enhanced.
This is one of the most innovative dishes from Pedro Sanchez. In fact, he has been doing research on its development for the past few months. A simultaneous nod to Japanese and French cuisine, in which seaweed takes center stage from sole and becomes a princess for a day. Wonderful contrast with the fried capers that add a touch of saltiness that had been tempered by the butter.
We return to the Andalusian coast to present a sea urchin, but with a totally unexpected sauce from the dessert world: whipped cream, which displays for all its versatility here. The same happens with the trout, strawberry, tomato, and chamomile roe, in which the acidity of the strawberry is at the service of the salinity. The chamomile granita refreshes the palate to enhance that transition. Another of my favorite dishes for its lightness and freshness.
And we come across another star dish on Pedro Sánchez’s menu, which once again shows us an unexpected aspect of fish: cod tripe with sheep butter and edible flowers. A gift for the eyes and the palate with an unforgettable texture. And behind him the only concession to meat devoid of any accompaniment. A long-aged beef steak flavored with vanilla from Tahiti. I call it a concession, because I have the impression that Pedro Sánchez would be happy with a menu without meat of any kind, but perhaps he thinks that the client expects a dish of these characteristics.
The Upside-Down dessert
However the double somersault comes at dessert time when a lettuce heart in syrup appears on your plate. Not only because it breaks the rules of how and where on the menu you should eat lettuce. You discover that it has a neutral and crunchy flavor and that it really is delicious accompanied by a double cream ice cream. But also, because it gives an obvious role in a Michelin star menu to a humble product, and again with an eighties flair.
The same happens with the egg/coconut, in which it also takes advantage of the neutral flavor of the egg to offer it in a salty visual format but accompanied by a sweet element. Here, right at the end, we have already launched ourselves on an exciting culinary journey without a net.
In small format
This is a culinary trip in which the environment also plays a fundamental role. Baga’s tiny and charming dining room makes you feel as if you were in the Orient Express, traveling to a magical and distant place. And at the same time as if you were at Pedrito’s house and you were his guest and not his client.
In the same way, his cooking stems from his love for his land, Jaen, and he embarks on free flight without worrying about concepts such as kilometer zero or local cuisine. A kitchen that knows no ties or conventions. Simply unclassifiable.
You can by Baga book here ( only in Spanish)
Read about other Spanish Michelin star restaurants
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