Tuna tongue, marrow and eyes: a new era at the Ricardo Fuentes – La Cabaña R&D+i Lab

- Chefs

A logbook by Sensei Hiroshi Umi.

According to the dictionary, to which I always turn with curiosity and often amazement, a laboratory is defined as a place equipped with the required means to conduct research, experimentation and work of a scientific or technical nature. The etymology of the term emphasises the definition as a mere workplace, but when it comes to the culinary world, there is so much more to be said. This all follows on from my (pen)ultimate visit to the venue of investigation, know-how, trial and error that is the Laboratory (Ricardo Fuentes –La Cabaña R&D+i Lab) concealed in the backroom of La Cabaña Buenavista (two Michelin Stars, three Repsol Suns), with Pablo González-Conejero at the helm.

Pablo González-Conejero, chef de Cabaña-Buenavista
Pablo González-Conejero, chef at La Cabaña-Buenavista.

The R&D laboratory was promoted by the Ricardo Fuentes Group just before the pandemic turned our planet on its head. It is now updating itself. “We are at a stage where we have consolidated those beginnings, our founding in 2019. We still retain the essence, as a place to create, to think, innovate and reflect not only on gastronomy itself, but the final staging of these dishes, and how they are expressed in the restaurant,” the Ricardo Fuentes Group explains.

Adrián Costa, in charge of the Ricardo Fuentes –La Cabaña R&D+i Lab

One of the fundamental factors inspiring the creation of the R&D Laboratory was to revive local talent. And since 2019 this dazzling workshop, brimful of audacity, has been headed by Adrián Costa, who hails from nearby Cartagena. The chef, who has forged an outstanding career for himself alongside such illustrious names as Paco Pérez and Iván Cerdeño, keeps a firm hand on the tiller of the Laboratory, relying on calm, introspection, measured discourse, talent and creativity.

Pablo González Conejero himself grants him full authority to play around and experiment. His hands are adding a skilled touch to new cuts and unaccustomed parts of the bluefin tuna, given new twists and unprecedented flashes through his personal perspective, the product of inspired temperatures and cooking methods, and the most innovative technologies.

Investigating unknown cuts of the bluefin tuna

While never losing sight of the local angle on all he orchestrates. “We are focusing this new stage on the eye, the skin, the marrow and the tongue of the tuna. As well as a nod towards our nearby surroundings. For example, we make a kind of chiquillo murciano with the skin. Chiquillo is a traditional cured meat made from our local chato breed of pig, which is in danger of extinction. It’s made from the pig’s skin, prepared with cinnamon, oregano, black pepper and cloves. In this case we spice the fish skin, roll it in nori seaweed, and water and gold dust, which gives it the colour of chiquillo. We vacuum cook it for two hours at 90 degrees, and are left with this spiral. Steamed to temper it properly. We prepare it in front of the diners on a hot plate. Taking this same chiquillo, we cut it into thin slices, dry it and puff it up, to give it this crunch and golden colour. The sauce that tops it all is powerful, but really fresh. The real chiquillo serves as the base, with a powerful sauce which has plenty of collagen, but is also really fresh,” Costa explains.

Next, tuna tongue prepared with onions, an outstanding new tuna offal discovery, rounded off with a magnificent tuna cheekbone, a pioneering toro tartar which is the foretaste of a new era (and new fellow travellers), along with the huge expectations generated by the long string of marrow. The part surrounding the eyeball proves a tasty and daring discovery, full of nuance, and likewise raising new challenges and prospects.

The Ricardo Fuentes Group have further news as a finishing touch: “It will be opening to the public. We have set ourselves the goal of continued excellence in the kitchens and in the experience of visitors to La Cabaña, as the reason behind these R&D efforts. We don’t lose sight of the vision and soul which inspired us at the outset. For people to come here and be amazed, to say ‘what a hidden treasure you had tucked away for us here!'”.