This has been one of the most anticipated cookbooks of the year, and it does an incredible job of highlighting the food and philosophy of Mugaritz. Rated one of the best restaurants in the world, this Spanish restaurant is quickly becoming the epitome of refinement and perfection. Dishes are not overdone or complex, but limited in components that have been agonized over and brought to a level beyond what most restaurant even attempt.
The first third of this book is a must-read on the history, philosophy, process, and style of Mugaritz. It shows how the restaurant's dishes constantly fluctuate based on seasonality, how ideas form and are developed, and how the restaurant itself functions.
The rest of the book are recipes from the restaurant, and while there are 70-some recipes, one gets the feeling (and rightly so) that this is only a tiny sliver of a glimpse into the food of Mugaritz. The photography is beautiful and simple, with white plates always washed out into a blank white page, leaving just a small simple shot of the food itself in the middle of the page. The dishes are equally simple in presentation; few components with clear focus on the main ingredient.
While this is a stunning and lovely book, I do have a couple qualms about it. This book belongs in the league of the Alinea, Fat Duck, Quay, Noma, and Eleven Madison Park cookbooks. It is lovely and really almost a book of art. However, it seems the least approachable of all of these. In the back of the book, the reader is cautioned that the recipes are best attempted by experienced cooks, but the larger challenge seems to be acquiring the ingredients. There are food science ingredients that one familiar with Alinea and the Fat Duck will be completely unfamiliar with. There are other vegetables and leaves that lovers of Noma will be stumped by. While one could salute Mugaritz for highlighting such obscure and rare ingredients, it does limit its functionality as a "cookbook." While many of the cookbooks in this league are daunting and complex, many still have recipes that are worth attempting (even at home), but even as a professional chef, I found many of the Mugaritz recipes surprisingly complex.
This book is, nonetheless, a must for chefs and foodies who appreciate the art of fine cookbooks.