MADRID TRIP REPORT, OR 'JUST THE FOOD, MA'AM'
I just came back from Spain. This is from scribbled notes...All places are around the area between Callao, the Puerta del Sol and Plaza Santa Ana. The first night we ate at the Mesón El Botero. The Menu del día, (a pre-set menu required by law of all restaurants) was 1,000 pesetas ($6.75) and included your choice of an appetizer (I had fish soup, mom had Consomé, sis had a chickpea potage). the soup and potage were excellent, the consomé was good, but a little greasy. For the entree, mom and sis opted for the Navarra Trout (trout baked with Serrano ham) and I had something described as a book of veal (Librito de Ternera), which was thin slices of veal stuffed with cheese, breaded and fried. It tasted great, until I discovered the cheese, which meant I couldn't eat it (I try to keep Kosher). The meal included wine (a Pe¤asol), which our waiter, Pl cido, promptly refilled when the first bottle was empty; bread (hard crust), water (bottled), dessert, and tax. For dessert, I had a huge orange, while sis got natillas (a sort of cream) and my mother ordered bread pudding. The place was filled with locals...no tourists (except us, but we were in disguise!)...I highly recommend it.
Next day was designated as Tapas night, since we were over our jet-lag. We started at the Museo del Jam¢n, where a sandwich (Chiquito) is 95 ptas. (65 cents) and filled with Serrano Ham, chorizo, boiled ham (Lacón) or cheese (Manchego). One of those, along with a 100 ptas. (68 cents) glass of tinto (red Rioja wine) was enough to whet our appetites for more. They sell bottles of their Valdepeñas wine for 225 ptas. ($1.50)! Next stop, La Casa del Abuelo, known for their Gambas a la plancha (shrimp sauteed on a flat grill). The shrimp were pronounced wonderful by mom and sis, but the wine served there was on the sweet side. They sell bottles of their wine for 700 ptas. ($4.75). Down the street we went to Las Bravas, where we had Patatas a la Brava (potatoes in spicy sauce). These were delicious (and I don't like potatoes!) From there, we went to another Tasca (tapas bar), which unfortunately I don't remember the name, where mom and sis had tortilla (potato and onion omelet) which they raved over, and I had fried bacalao (cod) which was also worthy of raves. The bartender was very sweet and even refused a tip. We went on to La Trucha, a favorite of ours from years past, where we had boquerones fritos (fried small fish) A huge platter for 600 ptas. ($4). On the way home, we stopped at El Jamonál, and ordered a platter of anchovies and boquerones in vinegar, which I adored.
Another day, we had lunch at another mesón, Urugallo, for 700 pts ($4.75), where the first dish for mom and sis was paella (they were umm-umming too much to give me a comment) and I had to content myself with a salad (very nice) since everything else had pork or shellfish. For the second dish, mom and sis had the merluza (hake), which was an enormous portion (especially for the price!) and I had a roast veal in a wine sauce that finger-licking (or, in this case, bread dipping) good. Dessert was a baked appled I could have done without. The wine was a Viña Ribeiro (Galician) and very good. This place was on the Calle de Victoria.
We spent a day in Toledo, and tried the local specialty, Carcamusas, at the Restaurante & Tapas bar El Porche (down the street from the Sinagoga del Transito). This for me was the highlight of the trip...a veal and tomato stew that was out of this world. If we had been hungry, we would have ordered more, but we were looking for a seafood place, La Ría, that someone had recommended to us. It took a bit of searching, but we found it, and ordered the mixed fish and seafood platter, which had boquerones, baby octopus, calamari and other stuff I couldn't name. Everything was very good.
Back in Madrid, we went to another tasca, Gerva, where we had patatas con alioli (potatoes in garlic mayo), ensaladilla rusa (a sort of mayo-based salad with potatoes, peas, tuna and who knows what else) and fried squid rings.
No notes were needed on where we ate on my mother's 75th birthday: Casa Paco. That's our family's favorite restaurant in the world. It's near the Plaza Mayor and you order the beef (solomillo) by the weight. I've never had a better steak, and it's been excellent everytime we have been there. (Saw Bridgitte Bardot there once when I was eight). The owner was around, came to congratulate my mother, and convinced her to celebrate her 80th there. It's a little on the expensive side, but definitely worth it!.