Avant-Garde Cuisine At Japeruvian Restaurant La Gaia

Posted on July 7, 2017

Words: Olivia Ebeling

Images: La Skimal

Within the sleek walls of the renowned five star Ibiza Gran Hotel in Marina Botafoch lies La Gaia, a serene and sophisticated restaurant that is making waves with its innovative take on Nikkei cuisine and combines creative and culinary art for one seriously cool foodie experience. With world-class chef Oscar Molina at the helm, the stylish eatery has been making headlines since it unveiled its new Japeruvian concept two years ago and is reportedly on the verge of gaining its first Michelin star. La Gaia has been on our hot list of restaurants to try for a while now, and this week, the time had finally come.

Thanks to the hotel’s valet service, which is also available to guests at the restaurant, we didn’t even have to worry about Ibiza Town’s increasingly erratic parking situation and could begin our evening completely hassle-free by stepping straight from the car into the beautiful dining space. Just like the hotel itself, La Gaia fuses understated chic with eye-catching design features, including a beautiful art installation of 29 handcrafted floating jellyfish sculptures by Danish designer Katrin Kirk titled ‘Life’, and a display of stunning black and white photographs from the 1970s by Tony Keeler, depicting Ibiza’s bohemian and free-spirited soul. The music is a modern and experimental take on electronica, at times deep and futuristic, at others paying tribute to the restaurant’s cuisine with abstract jungle sounds, smoothly mixed together by the roster of talented DJs creating the perfect soundtrack every night.

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

The chic grey, nude and white colour theme has a soothing effect and the overall ambience is calm, cool and collected, the perfect antidote to the heat and noise of some of the island’s hot spots during high season. The service, while impeccable, is warm and welcoming, and made us feel right at home as soon as we took our seats at a table in front of the open kitchen, which allowed us to watch the master and his dedicated team at work.

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

After being introduced to charming maître d’ Hugo, who memorised our names instantly, Oscar himself came to greet us and enquire about potential allergies before creating a selection of dishes for us to try. While we waited for the first course, we were treated to a round of refreshing and fruity aperitifs made with trendy vermouth, pisco and passion fruit and, a first taste of the feast that was about to commence, a trio of breads and pastries. A rule of thumb we like to apply to restaurant reviews is that if this classic opener is something to get excited about, you can be almost certain that your mind will be blown by the creations that follow. La Gaia is a standout example of such a case, as each of the three variations – a delicate crystal bread made with seaweed, a thin, crispy flaked style topped with chia seeds and a soft, croissant-like pastry filled with an aromatic pickled ‘kimuchi’ paste – served with a luxurious mint and yuzu butter – was absolutely divine and tempted us to go wild on the baked goods.

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

The spectacular quality of this very sophisticated bread basket, however, shouldn’t have come as a surprise to us as Oscar, always striving to grow his knowledge and improve La Gaia’s offering, has previously visited Tripticum in Barcelona to learn from ‘bread expert’ Chevi Ramon. It’s further testament to his passion for food and his work at the restaurant that he spends winter travelling all over the world to hone his techniques with the masters in their field, most recently training with Nikkei star chef Mitsuharu Tsumura and the influential Gaston Acurio in Peru.

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

As we waited for the first course, we couldn’t resist the lure of the cocktail menu and toasted the night ahead with the Lychee House, a sweet and exotic mix of Ketel One vodka, contreau, lychee and lime juice, and the adventurous Sakura, a potent and zesty concoction made with Japanese Jinzu gin infused with cardamom seeds, grapefruit juice, fresh lime and ginger cordial. We also tried the fruity Chicha Morada Pisco Sour, which contains Pisco 1615, lemon, egg white and sugar, as well as the chicha morada – a Peruvian variety of purple corn – that gives the drink its rich red colour. However, table favourite was the Wasabi Martini, a liquid interpretation of the famous Japanese horseradish plant paste that tasted like nothing we have ever tried before, but was utterly addictive combined with the citrus flavours of fresh lime juice and the sharp kick of Ketel One vodka.

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

We started our meal with a trio of oysters, which were served ‘al natural’ with just a slice of fresh lime to spritz the molluscs with, ‘en ceviche’ marinated in tiger milk and topped with ponzu gel and crunchy tobiko fish roe, and ‘tempurizada’ battered in tempura with a smoky eel tsume sauce. The presentation of the oysters was as much art as its subtle balance of flavours, a treat for all senses. The oysters were silky and had a divine sea flavor, sliding down all too easily. Purists will love the natural variety, while those who prefer a tangy marinade will be delighted with the zesty quality and the explosion of salty tobiko liquid. And for fledgling gourmets who are not too sure about raw seafood, the warm tempura oysters and their soft, deepfried texture, are the perfect entry point to becoming more adventurous.

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

Our gourmet journey continued with spicy tuna ceviche, tender chunks of superbly flavoured red tuna served in spicy tiger’s milk, ají rocoto, cancha and palta, which came with a glass of chicha morada to help extinguish the tingling sensation left by the aromatic but sharp sauce with a palette cleansing sip. A classic white fish tiradito dressed with ponzu gel and a special type of pepper dazzled not only with the delicate texture of the thinly sliced flesh, but also its zesty flavours and colourful presentation, remaining on the spicy edge of the spectrum. Meanwhile the Mediterranean Cold Fish Stew became an instant table favourite thanks to the incredible textures of the fresh Ibicencan red shrimp, octopus and squid, perfectly rounded in flavour with the addition of seaweed and yuca foam. A bottle of the elegant Whispering Angel rose wine, crisp and clean in flavour with aromas of summer berries and floral hints, was the perfect companion for the selection of seafood dishes.

la gaia by la skimal

Next up, a carefully skewered scarlet shrimp was served with the whole head intact, but its body dissected and turned into juicy tempura chunks of irresistible shellfish, the sea flavours juxtaposed with a silky teriyaki sweet potato mash and dollops of shiso mayonnaise. At the same time, we fork-fought over a plate of Shiitake Gyozas, the soft centre filled with pak choi, tofu, seaweed caviar, and topped with an intricate layer of fragile crystallised foam. Both dishes were a perfect example of Oscar’s avant-garde approach to food, edible pieces of art that were as fascinating to behold as they were delicious to eat.

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

Of course, the evening wouldn’t be complete without trying a couple of La Gaia’s sushi varieties. Both the flambé tuna and the horse mackerel nigiri went down a treat, delicate in flavour and served on perfectly textured parcels of rice that dissolved in the mouth. After this grande opening of a meal, we couldn’t wait to see what the main courses would hold. Of course, we were not disappointed. The Seabass Chifa Style, grilled and served on a soy and sake sauce, wowed us with its tender, moist flesh and amazingly crispy skin, the sauce an explosion of flavours thanks to its unique ginger, seaweed and sake ingredient combination. A slow-cooked beef strip, cooked for 28 hours at a low temperature, sent the meat lovers at the table straight to gourmet heaven with its incredible soft texture and rich flavours. Accompanied by crunchy quinoa, ají peppers and zapall, we savoured every last bite.

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

All good things must come to an end eventually, and despite our reluctance to leave, we were as excited about La Gaia’s desserts as we were about the previous courses. Of course, Oscar wouldn’t send us off without a spectacular finale, and we were totally wowed by the three sharing plates that arrived at the table. The Santa Ines paid tribute to the White Isle with its caramel filled carob-shaped chocolates, a tree you will find all over Ibiza, as well as silky ice cream made with fragrant Ibicencan herbs, and a fennel gelee. The oh-so-pretty Red Passion dessert, a beetroot and ají chili sponge cake with passion fruit, tamarillo and crispy ñame came topped with edible gold leaf, the ultimate in luxurious sweet indulgence. Going out in style, our last postre was the Sabancaya Volcano, a grey marbled bowl that looks like stone but is made from a carbonated chocolate rock, filled with refreshing rhubarb and huacatay ice cream, chocolate chunks and topped with zesty yuzu foam and raspberries. And it was just as much fun emptying the bowl as it was smashing it up with a silver hammer afterwards and nibble on the crumbles that, thanks to our enthusiasm, now covered the whole table.

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

la gaia by la skimal

After a night of craft cocktails, innovative food and a sophisticated ambience, we concluded that La Gaia is well on its way to become an unmissable gourmet destination on the White Isle, ready to wow not only as a fantastic hotel restaurant, but a foodie hotspot in its own right. It’s a great spot to drop in and enjoy pre-party drinks or a special meal in stylish surroundings before heading to neighbouring super club HEART Ibiza, while the welcoming team and accessible price points will make you want to return again and again.

Information & Reservations
t: +34 971 806 806
w:www.ibizagranhotel.com

la gaia by la skimal