Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I’M IN MADRID, I’M HUNGRY AND DAMMIT, I JUST DON’T FEEL LIKE COOKING.

I would be the world’s worst food critic. I like almost everything that I eat. Who, in their right minds, would read a dining column in which every restaurant is awarded four stars. I suppose that’s why Gourmet magazine won’t return my calls.

Although I do like everything, I like some stuff more than others. So…for the info-tainment of my loyal virtual tapas bar patrons, I list below (in no particular order) my restaurant recommendations for Madrid, Spain. Before running out and requesting a table, please remember one important factoid: People START eating dinner at 9:30pm in Madrid. Any earlier, and the restaurant will probably not accept you (unless it is a tourist trap). No, Toto, you ain’t in Kansas anymore.

La Bola Taberna
Bola, 5
Tel: 91 547 69 30
Metro : Santo Domingo
*Does NOT accept credit cards.

La Castela
Doctor Castelo, 22.
Tels: 91 573 55 90
91 574 00 15
Metro: Ibiza
This place has a bar in front that serves some of the best tapas in Madrid. The restaurant is behind the bar (i.e., go through the doorway that is on the left-hand side of the bar), and it’s outstanding.

La Hoja
c/ Doctor Castelo, 48
Tel.: 91 409 25 22
http://www.lahoja.es/
This is an Asturian (northern Spain) restaurant. Everything here is great. The house specialty is Fabes Asturianas. They also have some interesting game dishes.

Casa Pello
c/Doctor Castelo, 2
Tel: 91-574-0103
Order the Cocido Madrileño. It’s the house specialty.

Asador Velate
Jorge Juan, 91
Tel: 91-435-1024
A Basque restaurant specializing in roasted meats. I highly recommend filet mignon with foie.

Al-Jaima
c/ Barbieri, 1
Metro: Gran Via & Chueca
Tel: 91-523-1142
Our favorite Morroccan restaurant. Not pricey. You will need a reservation.

Buen Gusto
Pº Santa María de la Cabeza, 60
28045 Madrid
Tel: 915-30-50-62
Our favorite Chinese restaurant. Confirmed authentic by the friend of a friend who lived in China.

Entre Suspiro y Suspiro
Caños del Peral, 3 (Semiesquina Pza. Isabel II)
28013 Madrid
Tel: 91-542-06-44
Perhaps the only great Mexican restaurant in Spain. At least, the only one that I’ve found.

Tandoori Station
José Ortega y Gasset, 89
Madrid
Tel: 91 401 22 28
My favorite Indian restaurant. Vibrant flavors abound. Serves a Chicken Vindaloo that set me adrift on waves of eye-watering, nose-dribbling, tongue-throbbing ecstasy.


Other notes:

Central Spain is known for roast meats. Try “cochinillo” (roasted milk-fed baby pig) or “cordero lechal” (roasted milk-fed baby lamb). Madrid has two specialty dishes: Cocido Madrileño (multi-course stew of garbanzo beans and other stuff), and “Callos Madrileños” (tripe stew). Casa Pello has a great Cocido.

Spain is also known for its sherry. You can order a glass in any bar. There are various categories. From lightest/dryest to darkest/sweetest, they are: Fino; Manzanilla; Amontillado; Oloroso; Pedro Ximenez.

Do not, under any circumstances, order sangria. You will get the cheapest, most vile, low-quality wine in stock…flavored with enough juice, fruit, and other additives to make it barely palatable. If you want sangria, come to my house and I will make it for you.

Wines are typically categorized by aging. This varies by region, but is generally true. Categories are:

Joven (youngest)
Crianza (aged longer in barrel and bottle)
Reserva (aged longer still)
Gran Reserva (aged longest)

Stick with Crianza or Reserva, if you have the choice.

Spain has a ton of different wine regions, but my favorites are: Somotano (My favorite region…great wines at reasonable prices); Priorato (strong, dense wines…also expensive); Ribera del Duero (Spain’s second largest wine region…with unique smell); Rioja (Spain’s largest and most famous…great stuff, but you can find it anywhere in the world); Toro (powerful, purple wines that are becoming trendy…but are still quite reasonable).

6 Comments:

At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Miguel said...

Hi, Sal. Thanks for the list. I concur regarding La Castela, both the bar and the restaurant. Overall, that neighborhood is pretty good for tapas. I have a colleague at work who raves about Mey Khana but I haven't been yet.

I noticed there was no Chinese on your list and, frankly, until this weekend I wouldn't have suggested any but that's changed. I tried a place called Don Lay on Paseo de Extremadura, 30. Strict Cantonese. Given it's Madrid, it's the first and only decent substitute I've found for the great Chinese I used to eat in NYC. The kitchen is clean, everything is fresh, dim sum is tops, and the price is reasonable. Only disappointment for me was they didn't have Tsingtao.

The neighborhood is a bit funky, not bad but definitely funky. Awful parking if you go by car but the Puerta del Angel subway station is next door.

 
At 12:48 AM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hola Miguel:

Thanks for the recommendation on Don Lay. I'm there asap! It's so hard to find a good Chinese restaurant (in any city), but once you find it...WOW!

BTW...I did list a good Madrid Chinese restaurant in a January 2005 post. It is called "Buen Gusto" and the details can be found here:

http://saldetraglia.blogspot.com/2005/01/after-months-of-heartbreak-and.html#comments

As for Mey Khana (which I assure you was as good as your work colleague claimed), it's no longer at there. It's management moved to a larger storefront and changed its name to "Tandoori Station." I haven't been there yet, but assume that the food is just as good. Another Indian restaurant that I like very much is Taj (near Banco de España). Not quite as flavorful as Mey Khana was, but clearly the next best Indian restaurant that I've found in Madrid.

Thanks again. I will definitely try Don Lay.

Sal

 
At 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi sal,
buen gusto and don lay are the best chinese restaurants in madrid. tandoori station and taj are very good too but you should try bombay palace, ave maría 26, you won't be dissapointed.
regards,
ricardo

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

... and for mexican food give a chance to "la taquería del alamillo", plaza del alamillo 8 or "el chile verde", hilarión eslava 33.
regards,
ricardo

 
At 7:14 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Ricardo:

I haven't tried Bombay Palace, but I definitely will. Indian food is my favoriate of all cuisines.

But most importantly, thanks for the two Mexican restaurant recommendations. It is Spain's lack of good Mexican food that has tortured me most over the past six years. I am from Chicago, and was very spoiled. Chicago has an enormous Mexican population, and an enormous populatoin of good Mexican restaurants. I hope that more Mexicans will immigrate to Spain in the future. But in the meantime, I will try your two suggestions.

Thanks very much.

Sal

 
At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sal:
it's allways good to find weblogs like yours. i find it great. if i go to chicago sometime i'll ask you for the city spots and restaurants recommendations if you don't mind. taj and el buen gusto were recommendations of abraham garcia (chef of viridiana, one of the best chefs in madrid for me), and found the others thanks to fernando point (el mundo's restaurant critic), the critic that i allways follow. you can check his critics in el mundo's web page -the metropoli magazine part- or buying the paper with the magazine on friday. i think you'll like it.
ah, for "la taquería del alamillo" allways book first because is full most of the time.
regards,
ricardo

 

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