In November 2013, Fernando and I visited Madrid as part of our vacation in Spain. As I typically do before every trip we make, I checked out the best places to eat and drink. Having lived in Madrid in the during my college years, I had a list of old favorites that I wanted to revisit. However, we wanted to treat ourselves to an unforgettable dinner and that we found at Diverxo.
Diverxo started in 2007 when Chef David Muñoz and his wife Angela Montero returned to Madrid after living in London for a few years to fulfill their dream of opening their own business. Chef David’s resume is nothing short of astonishing, he has previously worked at Hakkassan (London), Nobu (London), and Viridiana (Madrid), just to name a few.
Success did not come without heavy personal sacrifices. Both Chef David and his wife Angela had to take multiple loans and invested all their savings to open Diverxo at its original location in the Tetuán District. They even slept at the restaurant for the first six months. It was not until 2009 that Diverxo moved to its actual location in Pensamiento Street.
Reservations are a must at Diverxo. They have to be made a month in advance via their website. After two tries, I was able to get ours! You can’t even begin to imagine my excitement when I received the confirmation email.
A week before we were scheduled for our dinner at Diverxo, the restaurant was awarded its third Michelin star. It is the only restaurant in Madrid to achieve this highly coveted award. Insider tip: Since receiving its third star, the waiting list for Diverxo is now six months.
Be warned, this is not your typical meal. At Diverxo, the plates are converted into canvases and the food into Chef David’s personal pieces of art. The dishes served are constantly evolving since what comes out of the kitchen is finished right before your eyes at your table or the cooks will rush to your table to add ingredients to your dish mid-bite. It is an interactive experience to say the least.
As soon as we arrived at Diverxo, we were immediately greeted by the staff. The first thing you notice as you enter the restaurant is the small kitchen to your left and to your right, the table were the final touches to the dishes are added by Chef David’ small army of cooks. As you enter the main dining area which seats thirty people, you will immediately be transported to a world were pigs have black wings and black butterflies decorate the walls of the restaurant.
We were presented with the choice of two menus. The 7 course short menu for 95 euros or the 11 course long menu for 140 euros. The short menu lasts approximately two and half hours while the long menu lasts for about four hours. If you ask us, these prices are a steal for the quality of the food you are receiving. Considering that this was a once in a lifetime experience, we decided to go with the 11 course menu.
Before beginning our meal, we received a shiny piece of gray paper that stated Diverxo’s manifesto.
What follows is a literal translation of Diverxo’s manifesto:
The Diverxo Experience
“Butterflies in the stomach”
“Pigs that Fly”
“White Canvas Dishes”
The Diverxo world is a magical world. Our world of imagination and fantasy.
Cooking that travels. A vanguard art inspired globally but without a pre-determined direction. Constructed with a traveling character producing unique results without wires, conductors, or any evident starting points… Our world.
Intense sensations. sweet, acid, bitter, spicy, sour, hot and smokey will be in one or more bites within the same canvas. Similar sensations with different products, different uses, different contexts, and the same feeling of the immense infinity of new scenarios.
New uses of animal protein. Animal proteins are not what they seem anymore, acting as a secondary element or as a condiment, they stand together in a single canvas without apparent order or hierarchy but as harmonious and irreverent as conceptual masterpiece.
Ultimate cooking. Straight-up cooking without surrounding elements or distractions. Establishing the canvas as the center of a 360 experience. A 100% intense encounter. A rollercoaster ride downhill without brakes or an end. What is the limit?
Canvases that evolve over themselves length, width and height with ever changing and progressive elaborations, a total interaction… Our show, our world.
By the way, there are no Diverxo desserts; just pigs that fly … Ready to go?
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The manifesto was quickly followed by a piece of white paper consisting of the “menu” for the night. It is important to point out that at Diverxo there is no menu, rather, there is a list of the flavor notes or sensations that you can expect from each dish. The server circles in red the menu items that will be served and assigns them a number right next to each item for the order in which they will be served. At this point I thought to myself “fasten your seatbelts Myriam, because the ride of your life is about to begin.”
To enjoy each “canvas”, you are provided a fork, a knife and a white le creuset spatula. As each canvas arrives on your table, the servers explain in detail your dish and how to use the utensils provided to enjoy it. The staff is very knowledgeable about what they are serving and are prepared to answer any questions that you have regarding the dishes.
Liked playing with your food as a kid? Then you will love Diverxo.
First Course. Canvas 1: Tokyo Olives. Sweet and Umami. It consisted of Edamame with Kalamata Olives and Yuzu served with a side of wasabi soup. The appetizer had high citric notes and the wasabi soup was intensely delicious.
Second Course. Canvas 2: Iodized, Acid-Sweet. Pickled. Sea fat. It consisted of a Young Coconut Soup with White Beans, Scallops, Clams and Caviar. This Thai influenced dish was one of my favorites the night. The best part was scraping the rich white lining of coconut meat and combining it with the flavors of the soup. It was a delight!
Third Course. Canvas 6: Maximum Creamy, Spicy Vegetable. It consisted of a Hake “cococha” with foie al pil pil, water mushrooms, and horseradish foam. Pure decadence!
Fourth Course. Unlisted in the menu and on purpose. It consisted of a Partridge Broth with Cod, Sea Urchin, and Bacon. It was to die for!
Fifth Course. Canvas 4. “Nothing is what it seems”. 100% Rich. Basil and Sansho Pepper. It consisted of Tuna Cheek with Black Truffles and Canarian Potato dim sum. From the looks of the dish you would have thought that the protein was beef, but in reality it was Tuna Cheek. The Tuna Cheek was buttery soft, beautifully seared and wonderfully rich in flavor. Halfway through our dish, our server brought us a Bone Marrow Dumpling with Scallop. Can you say orgasm on a plate!
Sixth Course: Canvas 5. Hannibal Lecter. Sweet and Sour. Sharp and Intense. It consisted of a Duck Dim Sum with Carrot Foam and tomatillo ketchup. Once we finished our dish, we understood why it was called the Hannibal Lecter, it just looks like a crime scene right out of Dexter.
Halfway through the dish, the server brought us fried duck tongues on a black stick. I had never tried duck tongue before in my life so I was pretty excited and believe me they did not disappoint! I could have those babies as a snack every day!
Seventh Course: Canvas 7. Pata Negra (Iberico Ham) Unctuous and Sticky. Sweet Acid Chlorophyl Rain. Rabbit and Eel. This course consisted of three different canvases. The first canvas consisted of a tiny rabbit sandwich topped with eel. I was so immersed in the experience that I forgot to take a picture of the dish. Sorry guys!
The second canvas consisted of Turtle Dove with a Mushroom salad. I had never eaten turtle dove before so I was pleasantly surprised by its taste. It was tender and juicy and a bit more gamey than chicken. It was my first time but it sure won’t be the last.
The third canvas consisted of a Chinese Muffin stuffed with Spiced Oxtail and Quail Egg. YUM! This was another one of my favorite dishes. I could eat that every day for the rest of my life! So good!
Eight Course. Canvas 10: From Celeiro to Bangkok passing through “La Vera”. Smoked. Liquid Yolk. The dish consisted of a Paprika Curried Hake and Egg Yolk. It was an explosion of flavor!
Ninth Course. Canvas 8: Mily and Vegetable Creaminess. Female Deer and Red Mullet. Surrounded by Citric. This dish was also two-parter. The canvas consisted of a White Asparagus with Noisette Black Butter and Sheep Milk Emulsion. Hare and Red Mullet on the side. The dish is not only delicious but particularly interesting since the White Asparagus and not the accompanying protein is main focus of the dish.
Then halfway through the dish, our server placed Red Mullet Liver Pate over Bread with Tomato Crisp on the canvas. Delightful!
Tenth Course. Canvas 9: “Food Porn.” Sweet Saline Potency. The canvas consisted of a Glazed Red Mullet served with the juice of a Carabinero Prawn. This was another one of my favorite dishes. That head juice is addictive! It was served with a side of a Carabinero prawn (NOM NOM!).
Eleventh Course. Canvas 13: Japan and Couscous. Marocco and Black Garlic. The dish consisted of Veal Sweetbread, Yuzu Sorbet, and Cauliflower Couscous. At first glance, the veal sweetbread looked like pork belly. The tender delicacy was mild in flavor and had a nice velvety texture. It just melted in your mouth! Halfway through the dish we were served a Shrimp Nigiri with Black Garlic Rice. All I can say is YUM!
Twelfth Course. Canvas 14: Salad!!! Clorofile, Pinneaple, and Olive Oil. The dish consisted of a Pineapple, green grape and apple salad with lime citrus cream and small bite like pieces of tuna. The dish was a refreshing delight.
Thirteenth Course. Canvas 15. Petit Suisse and White Velvet. Jazmin and Spicy Sweet and Sour. This is the closest you will get to dessert at Diverxo. The dish consisted of Wild Strawberries, Sour Chile, White Chocolate and Coconut Powder among other goodies. The best part is that the dish came with a surprise. When you dig below the white chocolate and coconut powder you will find hidden pockets filled with something that resembled strawberry mousse. Amazing!
Our experience at Diverxo can be best summed up in one word: unforgettable. The imaginative and daring dishes were flawlessly presented. Each canvas exhibited Chef David’s exceptional creativity and innovative culinary techniques.
Throughout our meal, we could see Chef David carefully observing the preparation of the dishes and his diners’ reaction to the food. His gaze was intense. You could tell that he is extremely passionate about his work and seeks perfection. After our meal, Chef David was gracious enough to take a picture with us and exchange a few words. I will treasure that moment forever.
If you are planning on visiting Diverxo I have just one piece of advice for you: go there with an open mind and an adventurous palate. Get ready for a world were nothing is what it seems. Welcome to Diverxo.