Clockwise: Luis Roger; grilled tuna with demi-glaze sauce, green onions, and cherries; BCN Taste & Tradition
No exaggeration: BCN Taste & Tradition is one of the most exciting fine-dining restaurants to open in this city in years. Foodies in the know recall that the pre-launch chatter was rather under the radar until late this summer, when word spread of Barcelona-born chef Luis Roger’s stateside arrival. Whispers of “Have you heard?” reached a fevered pitch this fall the first patrons (including Mexico City magnate Carlos Slim) to the understated Spanish restaurant in a 1920s Victorian house left positively gobsmacked. Roger, a classically trained chef who spent his formative years cooking his way through the most lauded kitchens in Spain, boasts a post-grad internship at El Bulli, where master of molecular gastronomy Ferran Adrià left him inspired to preserve the fundamental techniques and ingredients of his homeland and make his mark on modern Spanish cuisine. Roger’s life fortuitously changed when he met Barcelona-born, Houston-based commodity trader Ignacio Torras at the Spanish resort Mas Anglada on the Costa Brava, where Roger served for a decade as executive chef. Talk quickly turned to a partnership in Houston to bring a taste of their beloved country to American shores. They lured elegant GM Paco Calza, who managed RDG and Café Annie for decades, to the front-of-the-house, while San Antonio-based architect Augustin Orozco re-envisioned the two-story abode with its grand white-plaster entry and calm, tranquil interiors with gleaming white walls hung with works by Joan Miró and ceramics by Pablo Picasso. This is a destination to leisurely dine, opening your mind and palate to new experiences. Roger’s complex dishes are thoughtfully built compilations such as stewed pork cheeks in a merlot ragout with prawns and sautéed artichokes ($35) and wild-caught branzino with a crumb coating of panko, pistachio and almonds over a bed of sautéed spinach dressed in butter ($48). The wines are imported from Spain, along with much of the seafood and the famed Iberico de Bellota ham, cured from the meat of free-range pigs that subsist on a diet of acorns. We’d also like to steer you to the dishes with roots grown in Spanish terra fi rma, such as cod jowls in a Basque country sauce ($14) to anchovies fi shed from the Cantabrico Sea ($17).) Impressively, this studious chef made a point during his illustrious career to learn the tenets of pastry, too. Evidently Roger was a stellar student, because his lemon tart ($10) with a pleasant pucker of lemon curd topped with sweet, glossy Italian meringue, layered in a crisp tuile cookie shell, is simply perfection.