If you never made it to Catalonia, Yamada Chikara New York is the next best [El Bulli] thing

I started out in search of an omakase experience for our Fine Diners Over 40 New York group. That I serendipitously landed on Yamada Chikara was manna from heaven: The restaurant’s well-known Japanese chef-owner, Chikara Yamada, trained under chef Ferran Adrià at the legendary El Bulli, which closed in 2011.

From its perch in Roses on Spain’s Costa Brava, the Michelin-three-star El Bulli wowed diners over a 47-year run. For its last 26 years, under the tutelage of Ferran Adrià and his brother, Albert, a cadre of El Bulli chefs regularly debuted new feats of molecular gastronomy. Experimenting with the chemical and physical aspects of cooking, they delivered truly imaginative takes on haute cuisine. In recent years chef Adrià has been gearing up to open El Bulli 1846 – a research lab, exhibition center, and museum dedicated to culinary experimentation. The opening is slated for February 2020.

So for fine dining lovers who lament never having made it to El Bulli, or those simply in search of a unique Japanese omakase, there is Yamada Chikara New York. Indeed, most New York omakases are sushi omakases, or kaisekis. Here, chef Yamada has deftly weaved techniques spawned at El Bulli into a creative omakase featuring kushiage – delicate, panko-breaded, deep-fried skewers of vegetables, meat, or seafood that are relatively rare in the world of high-end Manhattan omakase.

Our nearly four-hour affair seemed like two – so engaging was the company and our server Tomo’s presentation of a harmonious parade of flavors and gastronomic ingenuity. With dishes incorporating espumas, spherification, liquid nitrogen, and other staples of modernist cuisine, the team at Yamada Chikara accomplished what they set out to do: Deliver a wonderful social dining experience that surprises and delights at every turn.

P.S. For an excellent overview of the modernist influence in Spain, see Lisa Abend’s piece, “The El Bulli Legacy, Six Years On.”