The cooks at Gustar know their onions in the metaphorical sense because they are well versed in the culinary arts. But they also know their onions in the purely literal meaning — they produced two dishes based on onions as mellifluous as I have ever tasted. It’s actually quite easy to cook this ubiquitous bulb to this lusciously mellow state — but not all that many home cooks and pros manage it.
That’s because this little kitchen chore takes time and patience. And if there is anything home cooks and pros don’t have these days it is the time and the patience to get things right.
The result is that many a dish isn’t what it could be because the onions weren’t cooked through and the texture and taste were completely off course.
French and Spanish cooks excel at slicing onions finely, putting them into a sauté pan with plenty of butter or olive oil, covering it with the lid and leaving the onions on a gentle diffuse heat until they get to that incredible meltingly soft state.
That’s the classic old-school way of doing it. Modern cooks take short cuts — which is fine if the end result is onions that are soft and scrummy. Donna Leon, famous for her Venice-based novels featuring comisario Brunetti, in 2011 produced a book called The Taste of Venice: At Table with Brunetti, which reproduces scenes of Brunetti at home eating meals cooked by his wife Paola. A book for fans of Brunetti and Italian cooking.
The recipes are by Leon’s best friend Roberta Pianaro, a Venetian jewellery designer who is also an accomplished cook. In every dish that starts with the sautéing of onions, Pianaro plays safe and stirs them around in oil for a minute and then adds a glass of water.That way the onions won’t scorch (a common fault in homes all over the world) and they will be soft.
I think the Gustar cooks took a similar shortcut because their onions, although beautifully soft, were very white instead of being golden. But that’s not a complaint: I adored their oozy softness.
These memorable onions were at their best in dish on the menu as butifarra amb cebes, a Catalán white sausage done with onions. But what we got was the Majorcan black pudding called butifarrón, a delicious one lightly flavoured with anise seeds.
This dish had visual impact (the jet-black butifarrón against the white onions) but it was the texture and taste that made it so delectable. There’s nothing new about butifarrón with onions — but the onions aren’t always as good as this.
The Gustar cooks are trying to be different but without being pretentious about it. The printed menu is quite short and is based mainly on cold dishes although they have cooked dishes as daily specials.
We kept to the printed menu and had a most enjoyable meal. A slivered fresh salmon salad had a beautiful tangy dressing with an ever-so- slight piquant touch.
The delicious salad with gossamer-thin slices of raw salmon. Photo: Andrew Valente
Although the butifarra dish turned out to be butifarrón, it was most successful.
But the restaurant should get the names right.
The escalivada, although far from authentic, was most enjoyable.
Restaurante Gustar, Plaça del Banc de l’Oli 11, Palma (the pedestrian square behind the eastern corner of Plaza Mayor). Tel:871-710880. Open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday. Best to book if you want to eat at a pavement table.
- Salmon salad, 12 euros
- Escalivada, 10 euros
- Butifarrón, 12 euros
- 3 cañas, 6 euros
Total cost with VAT: 42 euros.
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