In January, Ferran Adrià announced that at the end of the 2011 season he planned to close El Bulli, his mythic restaurant on Spain’s Costa Brava, with plans to reopen it two years later as a foundation, in which food service will be only a part. El Bulli has often been called “the best restaurant in the world” (whatever that means). Of course, it has been called many other things as well: an art performance space, a miracle, a shrine, sheer heaven, pure hell. I’m always a little surprised, in fact, by the diversity — and intensity — of the reactions a meal at El Bulli engenders.
Granted, the experience is genuinely unique. It’s not just a matter of unusual food, of unexpected combinations and unfamiliar forms — the famous spherifications and deconstructions and the like that have influenced chefs all over the world.