October 19, 2018
Dani Carnero (La Cosmopolita)
I’m not surprised that Madrid Fusión has decided to put Dani Carnero, of the restaurant La Cosmopolita in Málaga, and Rafa Peña, of the restaurant Gresca in Barcelona, in a talk together. Despite their different styles, they are both cutting-edge cooks: both offer refined haute cuisine in their unassuming restaurants, yet always with a moreish simplicity and without fussiness that can win over even the most bistro-loving gourmet.
It is this dual naturalness that defines what Dani Carnero is doing at his gastronomic eatery in the old part of Málaga, where he has put his twenty years of experience at the service of this complex simplicity.
He has worked at El Amparo in Madrid, and with Martín Berasategui, at Las Rejas with Manolo de la Osa, and at Portalón, in Marbella. Restaurants where they really know how to cook and know the basics. And at elBulli, although there is no visible evidence of this in his dishes, except perhaps during his short stint at El Galatino, in Granada, where he played around somewhat with ingredients. It was a time when it was de rigeur for cooks to follow, either a little or a lot, the style of elBulli.
But, with the passing of time, a mature cuisine – that this cook himself would enjoy eating – began to surface. In other words, without using too many techniques, aside from ensuring that the base for sauces was well made.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of a delicious Russian salad. Or an oyster dressed with just a splash of amontillado wine. Soon a flavoursome crab ‘tortilla’ arrives at the table, as good as any found in the best eateries in San Sebastián. Things go up another notch with the prawn tartare with meat jus and parsley crumbs, served with roasted bone marrow: a luxurious pairing that makes the dish even more luscious.
Squid à la Bordelaise or artichokes Meunière give a French touch. Then comes a surf ’n turf of lobster and pig’s trotters, a Catalonian nuance that completes this unfettered look at modern Andalusian cooking. A cuisine where references to the land can be seen in dishes linked to memory, such as spinach esparragada
with sauce of cumin, hard-boiled egg, paprika and lemon, pounded in a mortar.
In January or February of 2019, Dani will be on the verge of inaugurating new premises very close to his restaurant La Cosmopolita. Rather than just opening another grill house, that are so in fashion now, his aim is to cook over the embers, reviving bygone Andalusian recipes.
I have observed a growing astuteness in many modern cooks as they rescue the culinary heritage of their respective regions. They are doing so without shunning outside influences, in a constant and gradual reworking of their cuisines via the centuries. It’s not a bad idea to look in the rear-view mirror from time to time and rescue the cultural flavours rooted in each region. Tacos and ceviche cannot become our only references when we have cocas
, escabeches and gazpachuelos
Dani Carnero’s cuisine reminds us of that, now more than ever.
By Philippe Regol