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Restaurants & Bars 1

Spain report, Part 1 - Leon, Burgos, Santiago de Compostela

rrems | Nov 20, 201407:42 AM

My partner and I just got back from Spain, where we ate very well. We began our tour in the Northwest. I found little information on CH, so mainly relied on Michelin and Tripadvisor, and for the most part it was a success. I hope my experiences will be of help to future visitors.

A full report on our trip, with photos, is on my blog:

http://robertrems.com

Arriving in Leon, we had lunch in the restaurant in our hotel, the Posada Regia. The restaurant, Botega Regia, is a traditional restaurant obviously popular with local businesspeople, and it was busy that afternoon, though not filled to capacity. We had garlic soup and smoked tongue to start, then tripe stew and stewed pigeons (2) for mains. Both came with delicious fried potato cubes (even I, not normally a fan of potatoes, was impressed). A nice bottle of 2013 Bierzo red, the wine of this region, was only 13 euros. Total bill was 73 euros. Charming atmosphere and attentive service made this a great meal.

Dinner was at Cocinandos, a Michelin starred restaurant on the edge of the city center. This was absolutely incredible. Ten tables, simple but elegant, the chef/owner and a couple of cooks, one server, and obviously a lot of passion for food and wine. The only choice is a tasting menu consisting of 6 courses, for 40 euros, and we chose to have the wine pairings, which were a mere 16 euros apiece. The cooking is innovative and beautifully plated. The wines were all from the region (Bierzo), and included a white, a rose, and a red, perfectly matched to the food, and a muscatel dessert wine. This was a truly memorable meal. It is incredible that all of this cost only 113 euros.

The next day we took a day trip to Burgos. After visiting the cathedral, we strolled around the town with our trusty Guide Michelin and checked out various restaurants, and settled on Casa Ojeda, which has a bar and delicatessen on the ground floor and a formal restaurant one flight up. The decor is charming and traditional, as is the food. We both started with the pickled partridge salad, a regional specialty seen on many menus. Their version was top-notch. I then had the roast suckling lamb and Stanley the confitado of suckling lamb cutlets. Both were superb, as were the scalloped potatoes served alongside. A bottle of Ribeira del Duero 2010 was only 18 euros, and my coffee came with delicious mignardises.

Back in Leon, we had dinner reservations at Pablo, a very new restaurant that, like Cocinandos, offers an impressive looking tasting menu, in a similarly spare and modern setting. The food turned out to be comparable in quality with what we had the previous night. They do not offer wine pairings, but we were very happy with the one shown below, a local wine (note that it is a 2004 Prieto Picudo reserva) for less than 20 euros. The entire bill, including water and one coffee, was 99 euros.

After Leon, we drove to Santiago de Compostela, where we spent the next two days. We walked a short distance away from the tourist center to the tapas bar Casa Marcelo. This used to be a Michelin-starred restaurant, but I’m assuming the economy made it more advantageous to convert it to a tapas bar (didn’t confirm the reason). The food, a combination of Spanish and Japanese, was delicious. We had croquetas of mozzarella and bacalao, spicy tuna tartare over rice, carnitas, and veal shu mai. For dessert we had a berry mixture with clotted cream. With a bottle of Ribeira Sacra, the bill came to 61 euros, higher than most tapas bars, but the food was superior and we were quite satisfied.

Dinner was at Acio, a lovely place on the ring road not far from the Cathedral, but out of the tourist zone, and appears to be frequented by locals. The menu is more interesting than the typical traditional ones. The amuse-bouche of mushroom creme was heavenly. Then we started with Galician beef tartare, prepared tableside, and squid with cabbage and sweetbreads and a squid ink sauce. These were just astounding, but the piece de resistance was the grouse. This is something one rarely sees on menus anywhere, and the chef knows how to do it perfectly. It was suitably gamey and served with an intense sauce, and with roasted chestnuts, chestnut puree and quince. For dessert we had the specialty, pumpkin souffle topped with vanilla ice cream. A wonderful, intense Ribeira del Duero 2012 was the perfect accompaniment. The blll for all this? 113 euros. Also, I should mention that the service was exceptional. A wonderful and memorable experience.

The next day was Sunday, which means most restaurants were closed. For lunch we tried Caney, a tapas bar that is one of the few places open. It looked promising as it was recommended in Michelin and Tripadvisor, but alas it was totally forgettable. with a dull menu and uninspired food.

Dinner at Dos Reis in the Parador, while not exceptional, was really quite good, and the setting in this historic building is grand and elegant. We had Jamon Iberico with pan con tomate, octopus pressed and sliced very thin, served with a fish pate and herring caviar, hake in green sauce with small clams, and turbot with asparagus and tomato. The fish dishes were perfectly cooked, i.e. not overcooked. For dessert we shared the Saint James cake (almond cake) that comes with a glass of sweet wine. With a bottle of 2011 Ribeira del Duero and water, the bill was 135 euros, pretty good for this caliber of restaurant.

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