Photo: Hard Rock Ibiza Hotel
Have you heard about Sublimotion? I hadn’t. Not until I was prepping for my first trip to the magical island of Ibiza, Spain.
My hosts informed me that we were being treated to dinner at the “world’s most expensive restaurant,” and I thought, “Really?” But it only took a quick search to confirm that Sublimotion by Paco Roncero — the one-of-a-kind theatrical dining experience located inside the Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza — costs 1,700 euros ($1,900) per person. My excitement and my expectations immediately skyrocketed.
Apparently, the less I knew about the meal, the more fun it would be. So when we arrived for our reservation, I was as blissfully ignorant as the rest of my fellow 11 diners.
We were greeted with a warning: We could share the mind-blowing details of tonight — if we wanted.“But no one will believe you,” said our hostess.
Here’s what really happened:
Sublimotion-branded Land Rovers escorted us to the restaurant. (Photo: Jackie Strause)
Our 15-course, multi-sensory journey began with a kick-off drink at Estado Puro (the other restaurant by the double Michelin-starred chef at the Hard Rock. Michelin stars at the Hard Rock? Only in Ibiza!). We were only around the corner, but a fleet of Land Rovers escorted us to Sublimotion.
We were soon standing outside a nondescript door, where a woman clandestinely communicated our arrival. We packed into a small reception area that had an old-Hollywood vibe, with a man standing behind a dimly lit desk.
My edible admittance ticket into Sublimotion. (Photo: Jackie Strause)
He handed us personal tickets that were paired with a shot. “The tickets are edible,” he said. After a pause for reassuring looks around the room, we gnawed at the paper and bit into the envelope’s sweet raspberry seal.
I noticed a gold paper inside my envelope. “Ah, you have the golden ticket,” he said with an air of mystery. “Hold on to that for later.”
The fun was already beginning!
He herded us through the next door and into an even smaller room, which — complete with a video intro — doubled as an elevator ride that fittingly blared “Hey, Ho/Let’s Go” by The Ramones.
The doors opened to reveal a futuristic dinner table, with virtual doors functioning as nametags. (Photo: Jackie Strause)
When we reached our stop, it felt like we had traveled through time. The dining room contained a white, communal table with 12 grand chairs and floor-to-ceiling screens that served as walls, giving the space 360-degree projection capability. Our names were in neon lights above our designated seats.
Once in our places, we swallowed our second course, which was a fruity pill (a symbolic precursor?) that melted in my mouth like sorbet. My senses and curiosity heightened, I decided to check my inhibitions at the virtual door.
We were served the remaining courses in our seats, but nothing stood still. Thanks to light installations, projections, props, and virtual reality, we were transported from land to sea and jumped ahead and back in time as the scenery around us changed with each course —we even went skydiving and took a scenic world tour while wearing Samsung Gear VR specs. Each backdrop paired perfectly to the molecular meals being creatively placed before us as technology toyed with gastronomy and our senses.
A seashell stuffed with seafood of different types that were cooked in their own juices. (Photo: Jackie Strause)
With one explosive mouthful of nitrogen-frozen olive oil, we were off! We washed down caviar and oysters with Laurent-Perrier champagne and tonged juicy mouthfuls of fish from a cockleshell as sharks swam around us.
We used tweezers, scissors, and a spoon to harvest our own salads. (Photo: Jackie Strause)
We slurped deconstructed shrimp scampi while riding the Orient Express, and hand-plucked salads from a buffet of vegetable gardens while relaxing in the countryside.
Swirling lights from above introduced a powerful mushroom soup blended with tastes from the forest. (Photo: Jackie Strause)
We spun around in our seats like children for a virtual adventure after eating an inventive meal from 2050 with our Samsung goggles. We sipped on white peach martinis and searched for the magic mushroom soup in a garden of waterfalls.
Halfway through, our hostess re-emerged to ask about the golden ticket. I was so immersed, I had forgotten.
“What do you miss from your childhood?” she asked.
Ferris wheels carrying mini hot dogs and pizzas served as centerpieces. (Photo: Jackie Strause)
With a little help from my friends, we shouted out halcyon feelings from our collective days of youth and, poof! A circus appeared before our eyes. They rolled out Ferris wheels filled with classic treats, handed us balloons toting mini-sandwiches, and constructed a make-your-own dessert bar with cake pops, cotton candy, and popcorn in unrecognizable forms.
Surf ‘n’ turf paired with red wine on the bright beaches of Ibiza. (Photo: Hard Rock Ibiza Hotel)
After a healthy glass of Rioja wine to cleanse our palettes, we then found ourselves back on the Ibiza beaches for a vibrant dance party. Wearing peace-sign glasses as our waitresses danced a choreographed number, we dined on a surf and turf of BBQ steak, shrimp, scallop, and a side of molecularly changed corn.
“I hear there are two courses of dessert,” my neighbor Daniella whispered. I was stuffed, but determined to make room.
Photo: Hard Rock Ibiza Hotel
The first savory number was a gastronomic presentation of art. Our servers painted our placemats with scoops of lemon merengue ice cream and sprinkles of coconut flakes from an easel of ingredients. After placing chocolate lips in the center, the lights above revealed their edible masterpiece: Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.”
Rich chocolate cakes levitate on a spinning record. (Photo: Jackie Strause)
Then came the finale. Our table transformed into personal spinning stations and we were the DJs. The music pumped loudly and our desserts levitated as chocolate cakes spun ’round and ’round the neon turntables.
In the party capital of the world, falling into a food coma after dinner is forbidden. Maybe it was the thoughtful ordering of the courses, or the lightness of the fresh ingredients. Perhaps it was my surroundings and the awesome people who joined me on this journey. It certainly could have been the spirited staff as they paraded around us with glow lights, ending our night with a private techno dance party.
It’s too hard to pinpoint the culprit. All I know for sure is that after a three-hour, seated meal and too many drinks to count, I walked out of Sublimotion feeling energized, very alive, and ready to party well into the Ibiza night. And that’s exactly what we did.
Later, I spoke with Chef Paco Roncero himself to answer a few of my still-burning questions. Like, how he came up with the idea, and what goes into pulling off this kind of meal, night after night?
“There are probably 100 people involved in the creative and production process,” he says about the gastro-show, which changes its menu each season. “Our main space” — or “capsule,” as he calls it —“contains more technological infrastructure than many large-scale music venues.”
Roncero says he came up with the idea while leading a culinary workshop at the Casino de Madrid in 2012. “I recognized that diners were becoming more interested in gastronomy and how it connects all five senses,” he says. Two years later, he brought Sublimotion to the most ideal locale for such a concept and now, his two seatings per night are nearly sold out from June through September.
You have to see it to believe it at Sublimotion. (Video: Vimeo)
“We don’t see ourselves as a restaurant,” he says when I mention the lofty “world’s most expensive restaurant” title that seems to have attached itself to Sublimotion. “We play with emotions, the senses, the set, the aromas, and the taste to be able to create absolutely unique experiences with each scene.”
So how does he describe the experience when people ask him what to expect? “Something you will only understand if you experience it first-hand.”
Now do you believe me?
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