October 3, 2018
The interpreter of the high lands
Óscar García is man of the woods of the high lands of Soria; the land where he was born and to which he belongs organically, just like any other species in this particular ecosystem. Perhaps that is why he brims with the only useful quality needed to survive the sub-zero winters: courage. Armed with this – and barely into his twenties – he entered the family business, despite having hardly any knowledge about cooking. Back then, the restaurant was about to go under, but after ten years – having mastered the profession and become an expert on wild mushrooms and truffles, and when the restaurant would fill up on the weekends – he decided to leave this small town and set himself another challenge, another adventure worthy of a conquistador: to open a restaurant in the region’s capital city, Soria, to offer creative food; a truly tough endeavour in a city with a small population not given to spending much.
His cooking finished maturing after being awarded his first Michelin star; a prize he openly shows off via his food, the dining room and the wine list. Any remaining technical traces learned from other chefs he looked up to have vanished from his last few menus, and his cuisine is now fully his own. A personal streamlining of a universe that now looks to local produce from Soria and Castile with a new gaze, without heeding traditional trends, and even less those that ‘infantilise’ by offering pleasant, sweet and indulgent flavours that please the first time around but are boring the third. He has consolidated a clear – yet subtle – use of flavours that are acidic and piquant, elegant combinations in his sauces that enhance and refine the main ingredients, giving pride of place to escabeches and other traditional techniques but not foregoing ingredients from farther afield when truly relevant to a recipe.
His winter dishes attract new diners to Soria; people who are eager to follow the annual ritual of a truffle-inspired menu, although many of the dishes work equally well without this delicacy. One example is his white-headed duck and mushroom stew with fresh pasta, where the humblest of mushrooms offers a second layer of aromas and flavours, and the duck is tender, bold and juicy. García works with the precision of a piano tuner. His cuisine can be rural at times, and at others more refined, yet always with a surprising touch, such as a slightly acidic stock made with game bones served with a fillet of roe deer and a pine-nut and wild-mushroom pâté. He clearly shows that creative cooking can have roots as well as personality without needing to make concessions. His latest work on impregnating ingredients with truffle shows he is at the top of his creative game, and is proof that it is possible to continue finding alternative ways to use local ingredients, although in this case it happens to be one of the noblest.