La Tasquita de Enfrente is the type of restaurant that doesn’t need a Michelin star or a fancy entrance. Yet it has a star anyway and the windows are decorated with Juanjo’s neck ties from his previous position as an executive.
Juanjo captains this ship which reaches port every week with the best of the sea, garden, pasture and preserves. His main secret is that he uses a small kitchen where everything is done as if he’s cooking for two. All of the best chefs and most discerning palates of Madrid have been served here. But not only people from the capital, culinary experts and novices from many other locations make the pilgrimage to one of the meccas of cuisine in Spain.
I know you’re a big fan of restaurants like Ibai or Echaurren although I imagine that you also respect others like Mugaritz and El Celler. Would having a bigger kitchen change your style ?
Not at all. I would continue doing the same. The cooking I do, is how I feel, it is my way of conveying what I’ve learned over many years. Space does not affect me .
Is the perfect execution of any dish is as important as dessert or coffee ?
Everything is important. Especially the small details. The dessert and coffee are the culmination of a meal and should be at the same height. Everything from start to finish should be consistent in a restaurant.
What is the role of a Maitre? We know that Abraham is one of the best in Spain.
The Maitre is the host. You enter a magical world based on their degree of sensitivity and knowledge. They should also transport us to another reality and make us feel magical. The Maitre has to make us feel unique and different, and should be able to stop time.
What dishes never disappear from the menu at La Tasquita?
Those which the customer continues to demand. They are the protagonists, and make the decisions.
What dish did you try this year that made you jealous that it isn’t on your menu?
Honestly, nothing. Moreover, jealousy never moved me to do anything.
From your menu, what percentage of dishes remain fixed and what percentage change?
In Tasquita, the products call the shots, what is in season, what my suppliers advise. These are the only variables that influence us in choosing what dishes to offer.
What have been the star dishes this winter and what will be in the summer ?
This winter: vegetables, truffles, and of course casseroles recovered from our recipes and our memory. These will be adapted to the weather: light and lean but tasty and exciting when eating it. Some examples: our chestnut stew, marrow with caviar or “cabecero” with Iberian ham broth. This summer… Ummmm… Hopefully the inspiration and the product will come to us. Meanwhile, we work . You can be sure that we will have something good.
Do you have the ability to expand your business? Where in the world do you like to take it?
Clearly I have the capacity to expand. The tricky thing is to be able to get motivated and excited about it and honestly, those feelings are influenced by many factors that I do not control. Where? Clearly, by culture, weather and empathy, the place has to be Mexico, Peru, or Chile. Who knows where our future lies. The important thing is to want it.
Is each recipe a secret or would you publish them without fear? As it is more important to be a skilled chef?
The recipes are no secret, nor is anything magical. In fact, today it is rare to find a chef who has not published a book of recipes for every type of topic: beginners, professionals, how to succeed in love, for children, and so on. What matters is the soul that is put into each dish and that is not something learned. The heart will always be above any book, however good it may be.
La Tasquita De Enfrente
91 532 54 49
Text: Gonzalo Retenaga
Photos: Jara Varela
Translation: Brett Piron