Restaurants & Bars

Trip Report: Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian

kathryn | Jul 10, 200902:39 PM     27


DAY 1, Museo de Jamon, Chocolateria San Gines, Casa Lucas, Giangrossi:

After wandering around Gran Via, Plaza del Sol, and the Plaza Mayor, my stomach was calling to me. We accidentally stumbled upon one of the Museo de Jamon locations. Of course, a bocadillo de jamon was required. How can you pass it up, with all those hams hanging in the window?

Ate standing up at the counter, across from the retail area, with some Spaniards on their lunch break (love how these fellows stand up drinking beers and eating jamon sandwiches while in three piece suits in the 80 degree weather).

The bread was not that great, but our first real meal in Madrid being a jamon sandwich? Not too shabby. The bread was better on subsequent visits. The price was right and it was extraordinarily convenient to the some of the main tourist attractions.

What next? I not to subtly steered us towards the famous Chocolateria San Gines for some churros and hot chocolate. My preference is for the ridged churros and these did not disappoint. The hot chocolate is hot, thick, and barely sweetened (they provide a packet of sugar if you like yours sweeter). The churros were obviously made fresh, because they were too hot to touch when placed upon the table. Delicious, and a great destination, popular with locals and tourists, for sure. (Many places do not make their churros to order, and they sit around, becoming heavy grease bombs by mid-day.) We returned to San Gines multiple times during our stay.

After some more wandering around and sightseeing in the hot sun, dinner was on the Calle Cava Baja in the La Latina neighborhood, a short walk from our hotel. The first stop was Casa Lucas, a place I'd read about on some blogs. We lucked out and scored a table towards the back. The server gave us an English version of the menu, and recommended about one pincho and one racion per person.

Our dinner consisted of started with some very good chorizo on toast (complimentary if you order a drink I think). Next up were some "pinchos caliente" that looked good on the menu. Essentially we ordered a bunch of meat and onions on toast. The Madrid pincho consisted of scrambled egg, blood sausage, onion, and sweet tomato jam with pine nuts -- sweet, meaty, savory, and delicious, but heavy. The Alella pincho was described as chicken in soy sauce with red onion, and corn mousse with sesame oil. The chicken was served as one big piece (probably breast meat), and a bit dry and bland in the middle, but the combination of chicken and onion was very good, if a little heavy on the onion.

Croquettas of Jamon Serrano were excellent and freshly fried. They were delicately crisp on the outside, the breading wasn't too thick, and they were moist and creamy on the inside. Definitely one of the better specimens of croquetta we tried (the best probably being Paco Meralgo in Barcelona and the worst probably being the thickly breaded grease bombs from La Cepa in San Sebastian -- though their other food was excellent). They also included 6 croquettas per order (quite generous) and shoestring fries on top.

Creamy rice with wild mushroom, foie, and poached egg was also excellent, and from the raciones portion of the menu. The portion was a bit too large for us, but I loved the combination of mushroom, egg, and foie together with the rice. Nice meaty chunks of mushroom were scattered throughout, and who doesn't like a poached egg or some foie gras? This dish would have been wonderfully satisfying in the winter, but felt a bit out of place in the hot Spanish summer (this would soon become a common theme).

Dessert was a scoop of dulce de leche at Argentinean ice cream shop Giangrossi. It boasts free wireless Internet, air conditioning, a modern interior, and was set up more like a cocktail bar with a counter and lounge than what we would consider to be a typical ice cream parlor in the USA. The dulce de leche was good and they had both regular dulce de leche and "homemade" dulce de leche, which was a little bit chunkier and sweeter. We stuck with the regular. Not the best ice cream ever but it certainly hit the spot.

DAY 2, Chocolateria Valor, Cafe Prado, La Camarilla:

Breakfast at Chocolateria Valor: churros and chocolate, again. Valor is a Spanish chocolatier whose bars and bonbons that I spotted in supermarkets and other places during our trip. Their hot chocolate was very good: thick, creamy. Their hot chocolate is a little bit sweeter than San Gines' version, which I appreciated since that's my preference. But their churros were only so-so. Thick round tubes that appeared to have been fried and sat around for a while. Oh, well. The chocolate made up for it.

Lunch was a simple bocadillo of jamon iberico at the museum cafe at the Prado. Simple, tasty, good. The jamon was excellent and the bread was definitely better than what Museo de Jamon served. Oh, the many bocadillos of jamon we would eat on this trip.

Dinner: back to La Latina. This time to La Camarilla. Our aching feet warranted table service, yet again, although the bar area did have some people enjoying drinks and bites. We chose to order from the tapas menu, instead of the regular menu.

The croquettas de jamon were good, although a less generous portion than Casa Lucas. My husband was craving fish, so we ordered salmon tartare with avocado on toast. The salmon was soft and silky, as was the avocado. This was tasty but didn't feel especially Spanish to me. The beef carpaccio served with parmesan and baby arugula was unbalanced. It seemed excessively citrus-y, so much that it overwhelmed the other flavors on the plate. We didn't finish it, and instead focused on the excellent cheese plate served with warm goat cheese, a nicely stinky blue cheese, and what I think were Majon and Manchego, and accompanied by walnuts and golden raisins. Simple but really satisfying. A less successful meal than Casa Lucas but reminded me how good Spanish cheese can be.

Coming up: lunch at Casa Lucio, more tapas at Tempranillo and Txirmimi, a partially disappointing meal at Cerveceria Cervantes, cocktails at Del Diego and Makita, and more churros with chocolate.

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