Angel Leon—the “Chef of the Sea”—is considered one of Spain’s influential chefs for his passion for the ocean and tireless struggle for sustainable fishing. He is an expert in marine environments and protection and has introduced a unique approach to haute cuisine. His dishes are pure alchemy, based on the study of the sea and experimentation with new products, such as plankton; all are elaborated using novel cooking techniques.
After several years of experimentation, the critics and the public finally understood León’s methodology and praised his style. He has been awarded two Michelin stars and Spain’s National Prize of Gastronomy for Best Chef 2012. The New York Times chose his restaurant, Aponiente, among the ten major restaurants in the world worth a visit.
Since September 2015, Aponiente has a new location in a former mill at Puerto de Santa María in Cádiz, Andalusia, his beloved homeland. It has almost 20,000 square feet of space, and inside there is an open cellar, a bakery, and the kitchen. In the back, the spacious and elegant dining room—with tables dressed in white linen tablecloths—is a tribute to the marine world, featuring chairs, silverware, lamps, sculptures and dishes with stunning designs made to order for the restaurant.
The room has a capacity for 50 guests, and it has a sophisticated lighting system that changes the chromatic intensity according to the meals, creating a mysterious theatrical atmosphere that recalls the seabed. The doorknobs are shaped like sea urchins, and there is a drawbridge that connects the dining room with the marshland.
The restaurant offers two tasting menus: “Gran Menú Molino de Mareas” and “Menú Selección”. Both enhance our senses and entice the palate, breaking the traditional patterns of the culinary seafood culture. The goal is to offer a modern and transgressive understanding of fine dining and seafood cuisine in the 21st century through dishes overflowing with magic and subtlety. The chef prepares exquisite and delicious cuisine with ease and aplomb. Some of his most typical dishes include shrimp omelets, the seaweed cone with sweet plankton, or the canned sea urchin sauce. The fish sausages are León’s specialty, and he mixes paté, sausage, and pastrami made only of seafood.
Some dishes astonish the crowd, as (sopa yódica de berberechos) the iodized cockle soup, or the fish liver emulsion. We should also mention the fantastic desserts made of plankton, hot sauce, or acidic fruits.
Aponiente is a unique restaurant that will please the restless and curious gourmand inside of us seeking to experience a different cuisine—with a personal touch—and the gastronomic prowess of Angel León, a chef who loves the sea above all things. ■