Hi there --
I'm still glowing from my five-day trip to Madrid and Barcelona. I got so many helpful tips here on Chowhound that I thought I'd come back and post a report. I fell in love with Spain and now crave tapas incessantly!
We were with friends most of the time, so didn't get to profit much from CH recs. A few standouts that I haven't seen mentioned much here:
Estay (calle Hermosilla 46, tel: 91 578 0470, Tapas for three, including three glasses of rioja, water and coffee: €48.55)
An elegant bar in the swish Salamanca district that’s a favorite of my friend. At 4pm on a Saturday, the place was packed with Madrilenos sipping wine or beer, smoking, and tucking into tiny bites of food. We had pimientos txang, red peppers stuffed with tuna (I think?) in a creamy sauce, taco buey, like bruschetta topped with a savory pimiento sauce and tender chunk of beef, croqeutas jamon, with a crunchy shell and creamy, smooth center of minced ham and bechamel sauce. Also, boqueron anchoa, the center, white fish was tangy and tart, the other, darker two were salty, strong anchovies. And, calabacin relleño, a hollowed courgette stuffed with minced shrimp and squid, and cooked until meltingly tender in a delicate sauce of courgette.
Cacao Sampaka (Cacao Sampaka, calle Orellana 4, tel: 91 319 5840, Breakfast for two: under €10 (lost receipt — sorry)
Ideal for brekkie, the hot chocolate like a warm pudding, all milky-chocolaty, soothing and not too sweet (honestly!). We dipped in cookies that were soft like ladyfingers, and came attached to a strip of parchment paper. We also enjoyed one tiny cheese sandwich and another of the ever-present ham on a soft corn roll studded with sunflower seeds.
Taberneros (Taberneros, calle Santiago 9, tel: 91 542 2160, Dinner for 5-6 (including lots of delicious wine): €250)
Finally, in Madrid, one last rec , we enjoyed a festive and fun tapas meal in the historic center at Taberneros. Within spitting distance of the royal palace, this cozy wine bar offers superb food — highlights included the warm cheese salad with its tangy-sweet dressing, a casserole of meltingly tender squid and white beans, grilled steak sizzling to order on a hot plate, perfectly rare within, and a very thoughtful list of Spanish wines. Sitting here at our table in the window, eating, drinking and chatting with old and new friends, we almost felt like Spaniards (though we started our dinner at the early hour of 9pm).
Coming soon: Tapas in Barcelona!
Pictures on my blog here: http://annmah.net/2009/02/06/dining-o...