Three nights in the city of Malaga closed our recent 17-day visit to Spain and even though our meanderings were hampered somewhat by dismal weather, we were captivated. The Malaguenos are often lauded for their warmth and hospitality, and based on the welcome we received at the markets and eateries we visited, this reputation is well deserved.
ATARAZANAS MARKET. We chose our hotel partly for its proximity to Malaga’s main food market, and this proved to be a wise idea, as we paid several visits to this architecturally impressive temple of food where, here again, we were struck by the friendliness and the willingness to inform casual visitors about the products on offer. I stocked up on Marcona almonds—both raw and toasted with olive oil and salt—and the D.O. pasas de Malaga, raisins made from sun-dried Moscatel grapes. Belying the proximity of North Africa, and their use in Andaluz cooking, dried fruits were also much in evidence.
( I wish I had brought home a kilo of figs and a few slices of the fig cake, known as Pan de Higo.) My favorite discovery here came from one of several halal butchers: M’semen, known as panuelos, or “handkerchiefs in Spanish, a flaky Moroccan bread lavished with clarified butter, or s’men.
One of many quintessentially Malagueno seafood bars clustered in the pedestrianized city center, this one has garnered good reports on Spanish food sites and a few minutes past the 8:30pm opening, the place was clogged with what appeared to be locals, chowing down on all manner of fried and steamed seafood. My order was minuscule: Tortillita de Camarones, a battered pancake composed of bits of shrimp in a batter of wheat and garbanzo flour that reminded me of a less greasy version of the emblematic Puerto Rican bacalaito, made here with shrimp instead of bacalao. Total for tortillita and a glass of local wine, 3.80e.
Calle Granada, #35.
TAPEO DE CERVANTES
While part of its popularity must stem from its very early opening time—7:30 for dinner—this miniscule place near the teatro de Cervantes in the center, appears to deserve its reputation for creative tapas in a city oriented more toward the traditional. Owners and staff hail from Argentina and there are many Argentine wines on the list. Ten minutes past opening time every one of the perhaps 10 tables, and the few seats at the bar and counter, were filled.
We began with two of the day’s specials; each of our four dishes were tapas, the smallest portion available.
Grilled mushrooms (these looked and tasted like porcini but were listed only as “setas,” the generic name for all mushrooms). Sliced lengthwise, grilled with olive oil and topped with bits of jamon, this deceptively simple dish was a standout and one of the many dishes I still crave, more than a week after that dinner.
Carrillada de Jabalí..Served in a cocotte, this was the tender, braised cheek of the boar, served in a light guisado, or stew. High marks from my partner.
From the main menu:
Sauteed Chipirones (small squid) with balsamic (?)-laced spinach. Excellent rendition of a personal favorite.
Croquetas de Pollo con Mermelada de Pina. My partner ordered the emblematic tapa, every chance he got. These were better than most; served with pineapple marmelade.
We would have remained longer to sample more dishes but the temperature inside the restaurant became very hot, not surprising in such a tiny space. Desserts appear to be a strong point.
Reservations are taken, and diners at reserved tables can order from the tapas menu and are not, as in many places we visited in Seville, confined to raciones or half raciones. The restaurant is open for Sunday dinner; closed Mondays. Calle Carcer, #8.
HERMANOS ROLDAN. Excellent ice cream (smallest size: 2 euro; my personal favorite flavors: dulce de leche and turron) in the city center. Fresh orange juice for 1.50e small; 2e large. Popular gathering spot. Calle Especeria.
More soon, to include Dani Garcia’s Manzanilla Bar, and a fried fish lunch at the beach.