Barcelona and San Sebastian garner most of the attention, but Sevilla is a fantastic eating city! Since my last visit in 2003, a sprinkling of "gastro-tascas" have cropped up on the edges of the Centro. Together with the better known traditional bars, these provide some of the best food value I've found anywhere in Spain in recent years. This is the first time in recent memory that I have arrived in a new city with no restaurant reservations. (I did make one advance booking after arrival; more on that later) In 6 days in the city, we concentrated on tapas bars, most of which do not take reservations. Most restaurants offer the majority of their dishes in several sizes, with tapas being the smallest and raciones being the largest. Many restaurants that will take advance bookings stipulate that diners at reserved tables order dishes in the larger sizes. By arriving shortly after opening time, usually either 8:30 or 9pm, we were always able to snag two counter seats, or a table. Be aware that many restaurants have variable opening times, so it is best to inquire in advance by phone.
I found this blog to be immensely helpful in planning; apart from this one, most of the relevant online sources are in Spanish. (The restaurant that proved to be our favorite on this trip receives barely a mention on any English-language sites.)
Here are the places we ate, and notes on some of the dishes we sampled:
AZOTEA. Owner Juan Gomez speaks fluent English and offers a very warm welcome to diners at the main location, on Calle Jesus de Gran Poder, which we visited twice during our 6-night stay. During our first light dinner at the restaurant, we sat at one of the ten or so small tables, and thus were restricted to the larger serving sizes.
Chipirones, Tierra y Mar. These were small squid, bathed in a sauce of their own ink and topped with bits of jamon Iberico. Simple. So impressive that I ordered them again at a subsequent lunch at the branch restaurant on calle Zaragoza. (10e; half racion)
Croquetas de Morcilla con Mermalada de Tomate. Delicious croquettes (a version of which appear on every menu in the city and beyond) made with blood sausage and potato and served with a marvelous, sweet tomato marmelade scented with thyme. (6.5e)
Costillas Ibericas. These ribs were a special of the day. (9e for a half racion)
Ensaladilla de la Casa. Many diners here gauge a chef's talents by his or her ensaladilla, a potato and mayonnaise-based cold salad. This one was thick with smoked trout, smoked tuna, smoked salmon, and shrimp and spiked with black peppercorns and capers. The sum was far, far greater than the individual parts and a far cry from the insipid "Russian salads" found at mediocre bars throughout Spain. A gift of the house, I would consider this an essential dish.
Coulant de chocolate, a molten chocolate confection scented with orange blossom water and served with terrific house-made vanilla ice cream. (5.50e) Desserts are a strong point here.
Total for this light meal, with two glasses of Castilla de Maetierra "Guerilla" from Rioja, and water: 36.75e. Outstanding value.
We visited this location a few nights later for a few tapas at the bar; on that night, a large basket of porcini just brought in from the countryside had pride of place on the counter.
The rainy weather that we encountered had one benefit: The season was shaping up as a superior one for mushrooms.
Cremoso, a mousse-like preparation, of duck foie, with Pedro Jimenez jelly and shitake mushrooms. 5e for a tapa.
Croquettas de Morcilla, served this time with pineapple marmelade and again outstanding. 3.50 for a tapa.
On yet another day, we sampled the second of the 3 Azotea's, on calle Zaragoza, a bit closer to the tourist center of Sevilla. Lunch here draws a large business crowd and we had to wait some time before being seated at a table (the counter was full). Our lunch was a reprise of the chipirones, and yet another version of croquetas; because we were seated at a table, we were confined to portions larger than tapas size.
I will continue this report as time permits.
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