The Roca Brothers — Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca — of El Celler de Can Roca, currently the number one restaurant in the world according to Restaurant Magazine, landed in Houston this week as a part of a five-stop tour around the world with BBVA Compass. Though most of that time was spent preparing for the lavish, 18-course dinners reserved especially for BBVA Compass guests (a total of 300 people were served over three days), the Roca Brothers were still able to spend some time sampling Houston fare.
So, where did the brothers that own the best restaurant in the world choose to eat while in Houston? Here’s a snapshot of where and what they ate:
“The kitchen team from El Celler de Can Roca team arrived in Houston about a week ago in preparation for the dinners, so they were the first ones to come and try Peska,” said Omar Pereney, executive chef of Peska. “They had a relationship with my sous chef, Armando Ramirez, who spent four months at El Celler de Can Roca earlier this year,” he elaborated. “They enjoyed it so much, two days later, more of the team came to eat. Then, on Sunday, the Roca Brothers came to eat at Peska. It was one of the best days of my life,” Pereney said with excitement in his voice.
Asked what he served the Rocas, Pereney sent us a long list of dishes — many of them highlights from Peska’s regular menu: “We sent them oysters raw and fried with watermelon gazpacho, octopus and snapper tiradito, ceviches sampler (7 kinds of ceviche), tuna tostada, jicama tacos, soft shell crab tacos, smoky mussels, blue crab fingers, arroz caldoso, snapper a la talla, pescado zarandeado, miso bacalao…”
“We also made them some dishes off the menu,” says Pereney, including “two types of shrimp aguachile — a shrimp cocktail made of red shrimp, and blue shrimp and langoustine. They loved the aguachiles.”
The Roca Brothers wanted to try Vietnamese cuisine in Houston, so they spent one afternoon dining at Thien An Sandwiches in Midtown. “I talked to them a little bit about the food. They said it was very good,” said Linh Bui, whose family owns Thien An. “They tried the egg rolls, Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crepe), duck salad, Bun Cha Ha Noi (chargrilled pork with vermicelli, Hanoi style), Com Bo Luc Lac (rice with shaking beef), and bánh mì sandwiches. I asked them to try the noodle soup Bun Bo Hue (Hue-style pork and beef noodle soup), but they said they were too full,” Bui said.
“We plan to go to BCN, we are friends of Luis Roger,” Josep Roca told us when we inquired about where they planned to dine on their last day in Houston. Before he moved to Houston, Luis Roger, the executive chef of BCN, lived in Costa Brava, Spain, approximately 30 minutes away from Girona.
What did he plan to serve the Rocas? A tasting menu of some of his greatest Spanish hits, including: Empedrat de judías con bacalao, cebolla morada, aceitunas, tomates y pimiento verde (Crudo of cod “Empedrat salad”, white beans, red onions, olives, green bell peppers and tomatoes); Caldereta de gamba con arroz y crema inglesa de su coral (Shrimp bouillabaise with rice); Pulpo a la “Gallega” hecho a la brasas y “papas arrugás” (Grilled Spanish octopus served with potato purée, olive oil and smoked paprika); and Lomo de conejo cocinado a baja temperatura con arroz de ceps y salsa de vermouth (Sous vide rabbit loin, porcini rice with sauteéd artichokes, vermouth and caramelized onion sauce).