The devil is often in the details. The pursuit of technical perfection, of going one step further, easily leads to disaster, falling short and not living up to expectations. That is why naturalness, although sometimes linked to imperfection, is sometimes the place where surprises await.

Tohqa is not a round restaurant. There are probably issues related to the space, with the tone that it gives to the diner’s experience, that make its entry in the guides cost a little more. Its format does not adapt to the canons and that can make things, in terms of recognition, go a little slower.

But that is precisely what makes it worth visiting this restaurant. It is the fringes, the edges, which make the place something special; is the personality of Edu Pérez, a chef with a recognized career who finds here the place to express himself with total freedom, outside of predefined schemes, going beyond any label, which is denied, like the space in which they carry out their work, to the corsets and restraints. And that is what shapes a universe that is as personal as it is attractive.

The Pérez brothers’ proposal is local to the core. It is from its very name, a phonetic transcription in the local accent of tosca, the soft base rock of the albarizas of the Jerez framework, and it is from clichés, references that are often overly hackneyed, impostures and easy resources; it is based on a personal way of interpreting the gastronomic baggage of the place, approaching small orchards in its immediate surroundings, the inshore fleet, reviewing the nearest marine recipe book and making it his own.

Albero, vinyl records that the cook plays during the service and that he comments on when, from time to time, he brings a dish to the table; Shady corners and bougainvillea shape a perfect space to host the brothers’ proposal -Edu in the kitchen, Juan directing the service with a style as free, personal and close as his brother’s- and to fully include the diner in the experience from the moment you walk through the door and step onto the patio.

In Tohqa’s culinary proposal there are few foreseeable ideas. Vegetables and sea alternate from the first bites in a journey that traces its own way beyond clichés and that begins with a skewer of tuna heart slices, almost a meaty sashimi with the slight aroma of mint, which is a homage, according to the chef, to the boar pintxo that Edorta Lamo cooks in Arrea! in Kanpezu.

Tuna milk roe cubes in a smoked horse mackerel broth. Oyster in an orange blossom pickle and marigold petals. Humble products to which unprecedented nuances are added. Ayamonte prawns, barely warm on the grill, and painted with a chop fat that, without diminishing their prominence, gives them succulence.

Kohlrabi in a pickled herbal granita. Acidity, which will be a constant throughout the tour, in an unusual and highly appetizing vegetable dish. The next one, fennel / goat / fig, continues in the same vein, although there is already greater complexity, an emulsion of goat’s milk from the El Bucarito cheese factory, in Rota and dehydrated fig leaf. Subtle aromas and tenuous bitterness that make vegetables the protagonist.

Moray eel and grapefruit, a Lorca name for a memorable dish that reformulates the cuisine of this fish: loins and skins of moray eel in brine in a broth made from its tails. Innovative textures, those skins that are almost reminiscent of boiled pig skin, perhaps a suckling pig’s ear, gelatinous but with a certain dente. And, once again, the bitter and the citric, through the grapefruit, providing a contrast. What a great memory.

Old wheat / new wheat: Pyrenean wheat (despite its name, it is a wild shoot related to wild asparagus: ornithogalum pyrenaicum) from the Sierra de Cazorla, wheat milk inoculated with koji, bread made from an ancient grain from the Sierra de Ronda recovered. Another essential snack with a complexity that is found little by little in the fermented notes, in the vegetal bitterness of the sprouts, in the dry tone of the cereal.

Moray eel roe in brine with a nasturtium caper. A bite that explodes loaded with iodized in the mouth. Once again the kitchen of the minimum expression, once again humble products elevated to a gastronomic category. Leek, almond and lemon: a cod cream, whipped like a pilpil, which surrounds the young leeks; pickled lemon strands, almonds, burnt lemon peel powder.

Asparagus barely “touched by the fire”, in Juan’s words, yeast quenelle, grated tuna heart in brine. Less is more. Subtle counterpoints: the green and the cured; the bitter and the iodized, the fresh and the fermented, the vegetal and the saline, the earthy and the umami. All in just three gestures.

Next comes a stew of a piece of the head of the tuna for which it is difficult to find a name, between the dewlap and the operculum, slightly gelatinous, honeyed, almost meaty, stewed with rancid wine and accompanied with a pickled garlic leek that refreshes it. and lightens it.

Old beetroot cooked 30 days after harvesting, so that it loses moisture and concentrates flavors and sugars, accompanied by a fermented strawberry. It’s not exactly a dessert, nor a pre-dessert. It is definitely not a salty dish but a proposal that moves in that uncertain terrain in which the cook seems to be so comfortable.

Goat, quina, olive, pepper. Another dessert that refuses to follow the canons, that flees from the easy sweet. Fresh goat cheese ice cream, dried black olives, quinado wine. Rancid, the slightly animal touch of goat’s milk, the preserved olive, the spicy nuance that refreshes and reduces heaviness.

When one thinks that a more conventional sweet will arrive to close, at that moment in which so many menus end with a proposal of chocolate that is often excessively sweet and that ends with a sensation of heaviness, Edu proposes an onion with salty praline of almonds in reduced onion juice, accompanied by a Juan Piñero amontillado. The onion (slightly smoked?) brings a natural sweetness to an intense, concentrated and unexpected set.

And the rare sensation of having enjoyed something that is unlike anything, that does not imitate, that goes its own way; the feeling that Edu cooks what he wants to cook, less concerned with perfection than with transmitting his own imagery, and that Juan understands it, he makes it his own and covers it with his wine proposal.

Tohqa’s is a free proposal, a way of cooking from the margins, of vindicating the humble and reformulating it; a radical kitchen, from the roots, that cooks the difference, that reinterprets its surroundings and that only makes sense there, with its feet in the albero, with the historical weight of the wineries surrounding the space, with the Guadalete opening onto the bay at the restaurant door.

There are so few cases in which a kitchen goes so completely on its own, taking a path that is neither predictable nor much less the easiest, that the best thing to do is to forget prejudices, put yourself in the hands of the cook and let yourself go. And come back, whenever possible. Because there are places, weirdos, that justify a trip. And Tohqa is one of them.