StreetXo, our experience and a recipe from David Muñoz
A money-maker machine! That was my first idea when I got off the lift taking me to the 7th floor of the Serrano Street El Corte Ingles store where StreetXo is located: at sight a queue of almost 30 people waiting for a table. I was told that opening was at 14pm, no booking allowed and you had to queue at the entrance. We got there at 13:20 and obviously we weren’t the first!. And during the next 20 minutes other 40 people came after us even!
For sure there have been many improvements since the time StreetXo was at the Plaza de Callao El Corte Inglés store, where there wasn’t any waiting area thus allowing cheeky people to jump the line. Back then, once the bar was full, you had to stand behind waiting for a seat to get free. I never ever bother to wait as, in my opinion, fighting for eating at such a price level (StreetXo is not as expensive as DiverXo –the 1st David Muñoz restaurant- but is not cheap at all) and then bearing the pressure of those waiting for their turn it’s too much –at least for me-. Fortunately this is not happening any more. The new premises extend more than 200 square meters and the waiting zone is properly designed, cordoned-off, slightly reminding the line in an airport boarding deck.
At 13:40 the line started to move. A waiter came to each group (the privileged first ones) ask about the group size and solemnly opened the cordon and let them in. Every few minutes the operation was repeated in front of the patient (or inpatient) customers until the dining room was complete. Those not chosen for the first turn were allowed to wait for the second turn, and almost everybody waited…
Once you are in, the first thing drawing your attention is the noise in the dining room. It’s not by chance: Nothing is left to chance in David Muñoz’s places –as I could read in different blogs and interviews to the chef, the creator of the DiverXo restaurant-, he controls every element of the experience. His intention in StreetXo is to recreate the street markets found in Far East countries as Singapur. StreetXo’s name is a combination of the words in this concept: Street Experience (Xo). These food courts are council-controlled closed places including many stands to eat in or to take away thus providing some hygienic warrantee (opposite to the scattered stands in the streets).
These are the tricks to complete the food-court experience:
- Open theater kitchen: The main dining place is a U-shaped bar with a red-Ferrari countertop surrounding the kitchen. Customers sit in high stools around the bar in front on the kitchen’s frantic activity. 15 cooks cooking non-stop. Steam and flames rising from the stove and the grill. Cooks reply all at once to the chef’s commands. Cooks come and go wielding frying pans and other utensils. A nice smell of food and spices. The customer feels inside the kitchen and you can even see (depending on where you were seated) how your food is being prepared.
- No plates, no cutlery: you can help yourself plastic spoons, forks and knives from pots in the bar. Food is served on waxed paper (fiberglass) rolled and dispones once you are done. All resembles what is found on street stands where dishwashing is not an option. The only non-disposable flatware are the glasses were your beverage or cocktail is served (more on this will follow).
- Fast-food feeling: You are given a label with a number, your order is placed close to you and they cross-out each item you are served. Once you finish, you take the order to the cash register counter to pay. Food is served (and explained) by the cooks. Many cooks, few waiters. Waiters just welcome you, take you to your “seat” and serve drinks (prepared away from the kitchen).
- Noise and racket: Loud rock music, pans crashing, the chef shouting the orders and cooks replying, smoke, flames, red color everywhere, a lot of neon on the ceiling. All reminding the Asian street courts (and all at once rushing you so next customer can take your place and eat!)
The author behind the idea is the chef David Muñoz whose restaurant DiverXo was awarded 3 Michelin stars. StreetXo differs from the flagship restaurant (who takes him more than 16 hours a day as shown in the reports), his main project. StreetXo leverages on the DiverXo brand and re-uses some original ideas (as the waxed papers) yet combining new ideas (street food, Asian-Iberian food fusion) in order to create a profitable business. As flagship restaurant DiverXo has huge operating expenses (you can read in Internet that their monthly fish budget is approx. 25.000€ and there are 35 cooks working in the kitchen) so despite the 250€ average expense per customer, its profitability is not so high.
You can see in StreetXo many details of the universe David Muñoz tries to recreate in their restaurants. For example I noticed that the jacket in the cooks uniforms resemble… a straitjacket!!!. So for me David is creating a sensation of craziness!: red colors, noise, loud music, frantic work, the straitjackets, some cyberpunk… Craziness for food and for the spectacle as David says in the interviews that StreetXo is not really a restaurant. He started in El Corte Inglés store in Callao, but it outgrew its small footprint and now in El Corte Inglés store in Serrano, with a much bigger dinner room and 2 months after opening, the place is full. Next steps are London, New York and Asia. The money maker machine is at full speed. And I’m stating this with well-meaning envy and full admiration: when you are enjoying your work and working hard (David was not an outstanding student at school but he discovered his vocation as a cook) and you melt in the same pot effort, creativity and perfectionism you can make real a profitable business.
Let’s get to the point!. In StreetXo you can find Iberian-Asiatic fusion food, covering several countries. As a sample of the menu, these were the courses we had in our first raid: dumplings with pig-ears, razor shells smoked with olive oil and ponzu and coconut sauce, grilled bacon naam, ray ribs with Indonesian sambal and salmorejo (and Spanish thick tomato sauce), etc. A mixture of sauces, spices and ingredients from Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, China and Spain (of course!). Every course has a clear, unique and well defined taste, a combination of citric, spicy or sweet and sour. You need to be skilled with the chopsticks, the cutlery and even eating with your fingers to get the most of it!, and of course be willing to get splashed with the sauce as typically happens in an street stand. And or course a lot of try, share and entertainment!
Our selection was based on mixture of well-known StreetXo genuine courses (dating from the first StreetXo at Callao) and some new additions. We tried to pick those with the more exotic and unusual ingredients:
Razor shells smoked with olive oil and carbon, shisho’s ponzu and coconut cream: Carbon grilled razor shells, with some olive oil and two tasty sauces: Ponzu is a Japanese sauce made with mirin, rice vinegar, katsuobushi (thin slices of dried tuna fish) and konbu seaweed, all simmered. Once it’s cooked the sauce is cooled and tamed and some yuzu juice (a yellow or green Japanese citric resembling a mandarin) is added. The resulting brown sauce is used as decoration on top of the razor shells. The second sauce is the coconut cream, in fact we were told that in was coconut-ajoblanco, an emulsion typical in the South of Spain (Granada and Málaga) made with almond, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and sauce and coconut oil.
Beijing’s dumpling with pig-ears confit, strawberry hoisin, ali-oli and pickles: Dumplings are these small pieces of filled dough boiled or fried typical from China. StreetXo’s innovation is adding to the dough basic ingredients (flour, salt and water) crusty roarst pieces of confit pig-ears. The dumplings are served with small pieces of the pig-ears and strawberry hoisin sauce. The sauce is made with soybean oil, sugar, garlic, chili pepper and strawberry –an acid touch in the taste-. The sauce is used as decoration of the waxed canvas used as dish (resembling a picture from Pollock). The decoration is finished with some drops of ali-oli sauce (a Spanish mayonnaise made of olive oil and garlic) and some pickle slices.
Steamed sandwich of ricotta, quail fried eggs sichimi-togarashi: This (as the two previous courses) is a classic from the original StreetXo. It’s a master mixture of tastes and textures and one of the preferred choices. David Muñoz, in a publicity campaign for a known Beer brand published the recipe in Internet (you can find the link at the end of the post). The bread is made in Chinese style (boiled, not baked). But it’s not made of regular dough, but it has a lot of additives: sugar, sheep milk, chicken broth so taste is improved. The sandwich filling is made of Iberian pork jowl, shiitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, fermented shrimp and leek. Finally as decoration a lot of ingredients are used: chives, ricotta cheese, basil, a quail fried egg, mayonnaise and chili peppers. The preparation is complex based on several stages including time for settling. Taste is impressive but you’ll never say it takes so much time and so many ingredients to prepare it.
Ray ribs with on banana leaves + Indonesian sambal made of seafood sauce. Spicy creamy salmorejo. Shrimp bread. This was a little cumbersome to take, as ray is full of spines. We include a picture of the plate as it was served and the leftovers so you can make an idea. Sambal is a condiment typical in China, Indonesia, Singapore and Sri-Lanka, made of peppers and chili. The plate included loafs of shrimp bread spicy with sambal. The main sauce was a salmorejo (Spanish thick tomato soup) also spicy. Ray, covered in seafood cream (difficult to notice) was wrapped in banana leaves grilled with coal.
Grilled Iberian bacon “naam” with marinade mussels and salted shiitakes. Sriracha sauce and “XO” tartar sauce. Naam is a flat bread typical in India whose dough is made with yoghurt and baked. No real naam is found in the plate as the grilled bacon was in the place of the naam, supporting the rest of the ingredients. The plate is taken in the Vietnamese way: the meat is rolled in a lettuce leaf together with a lot of aromatic spices (basil, mint and coriander). Additionally 3 sauces were served with the meat: sriracha sauce, tartar sauce and salted shiitakes all in little plastic bowls. The plate was super-tasty. Sriracha sauce is made of vinegar, chili pepper, sugar and salt, typical from Thailand. It wasn’t especially spicy-hot and I felt a taste of tomato.
And that was it!. Well for the beverages David Muñoz hired a Carlos Moreno, a great cocktail artist, responsible of the design of the cocktails fitting with the menu and with the StreetXO philosophy: the mixture of Asian flavors. The waiter asks you about your preferences: citric, sweet, fruits… and he picks the cocktail for you. We were given a “Raquelita” a cocktail made of vodka with coconut, lime and passion fruit merengue.
Notice that cocktails are not cheap and may be 20% of the bill. Wine is even more dangerous…
StreetXO provides you with a complete experience: not only because of the food, but for the full staging: StreetXO is in style. We missed were a desserts and coffees section in the menu but, there is an ice-cream shop near—by StreetXO in the El Corte Ingles store gourmet area, so maybe there is a non-aggression agreement in place…