More than once Puerto Pollença in the Northwest of Mallorca has been deemed a culinary desert, although there is no shortage of places to eat. Restaurants display menus on pedestals with images of Spanish-ish dishes, alongside bangers and mash.
The sandy path at the water’s edge once a romantic moonlit walk, now is a boardwalk lit up day and night, where shops dangle sunhats and sunscreen—late warnings for blistered tourists, shuffling off the beach.
Those in the know tend to veer away from the main strip and gravitate toward the quieter edges of the harbour crescent, where the pines thicken and the crowds do, too.
Incognito, at the southern end of the playa is the fêted flavour of the moment in Mallorca, Argos. Situated in the non-descript La Goleta hotel, Argos restaurant is the home to the region’s only Michelin star, and the kitchen of Chef Alvaro Salazar, voted the best chef in 2018’s prestigious biannual cook-off, the Alimentaria Competition.
The casual atmosphere and generic nautical theme are plain-clothes for this critically acclaimed gem, which specialises in molecular finger food, no utensils, needed.
The friendly maitre’d, Mario Wolgast, runs the informal front of house at Argos. He greets us with a warm smile and a cold crisp glass of Esprit Champagne.
The 3-hour, 16-course menu is a commitment, and Mario doubles as a spirited sommelier and guiding us in our wine pairings through the bite-sized courses of the Argos menu, Travesia.
We started with the exquisite Crab Oroloso — a sip of rich broth served with a diminutive lobster roll on homemade brioche and a glass of Cao Negro’s Chenin Blanc. We move through a few tastings of interesting white vintages and settle on Can Xanet’s CadMo tinto, where we stay for a serious trio; Wagyu beef tartar with fresh truffle cream, alongside artichoke hearts—slightly too done— with salmon roe and a deconstructed Frito Mallorquin. Mazamorra is next; a traditional rich almond or “white” gazpacho where Salazar takes himself a bit too seriously, spiking the already rich soup with predictable gourmet accoutrements of sea urchin and foie of monkfish.
The menu lightens up when a dollop of sopressata ice cream appears, sprinkled with fried pig snout and a spiced carob powder. The balance of flavours is awesome, and Salazar’s wit is revealed. We are giddy, and stick with the earthy CadMo for posterity. An aubergine caviar with sheep cheese, and borage flowers, gives us courage as Salazar forges ahead. There are pitfalls; Eel in Kabayaki sauce, cod swimming in Manteca Iberica, and sweetbreads fail to deliver in texture or visual appeal. The final savoury course, duck served three ways, has us feeling Salazar’s brevity again—we applauded the traditional Mallorcan ensaimada made with duck fat.
Of the dessert trio, the Mahon cheese course was a molecular moment of delight; the Menorcan staple in a sweet and creamy ice cream.
The course of the meal made it difficult to discern Salazar’s direction at times, but his humour carried us through.
We look forward to watching this young Chef develop his act; it is best when it is not trying too hard.