Since we didn't begin our tour of Madrid until around Noon, and since I hadn't eaten anything since the airplane breakfast during the wee hours of the morning, our first order of the day was to get lunch. We decided to try a place called Ginger -- it came with strong recommendations from a friend of Amanda's. It was tasty and economical, and the presentation was nice -- a good value and probably a solid standby, but not rave-worthy.
|Vegetable pastry with goat cheese and pesto|
|Seared tuna with green onions and onions with vanilla|
Chocolate con churros at Chocolateria San Gines
The Chocolateria San Gines sits in a tiny alleyway just off the Plaza Mayor. Every guidebook we brought (and we brought several) said it was a must-do for chocolate lovers, so we stopped by after our visit to the plaza. The chocolate was indeed tasty, very dark and thick; almost like pudding. The churros, too, were good (they reminded me of being a kid at the state fair and just wishing -- WISHING -- that my parents would buy me some churros) but we ended up with twelve of them, which was a tad much. We downed as many as we could and then headed back out to the streets.
Dinner at Alboroque
As evening fell and our thoughts turned to dinner, we considered our options: Find a tapas place recommended by one of Amanda's friends, or consult the Michelin guide. After a brief and easy struggle, we cracked open the Michelin and never looked back. Amanda found a place called Alboroque that was open from 9pm - 11pm and had three forks (which apparently are different from stars, but I can't recall the distinction). I called ahead to make a reservation (my first phonecall in Spanish!) and was delighted when the response to my question "Seria posible de reservar para esta noche?" was a cheerful "Si" (when we tried that in Paris last November the response was laughter and something about having to call two months in advance).
We showed up at 9pm and were happy we'd found the place in the Michelin guide -- the place was housed in a building with a bank and a Russian cultural institute. You got to the restaurant by going inside the carriage gate and up a narrow unmarked stairway. The only external indication that the restaurant existed was a small bronze plaque on the facade with the name of the restaurant. Clearly this place felt no need to advertise its existence to the rifraff on the street.
We went inside (hoping that we had, in fact, found the restaurant and not someone's apartment) and were greeted by a chic space full of giant modern art and sparsely dispersed tables. It was essentially dinner in an art gallery. Awesome. The food was delicious and the service excellent.
The ordering process was particularly amusing. The chef came out and introduced himself. We discovered that he didn't understand a word of our English and that I couldn't understand a word of his Spanish (or whatever language he was speaking). He started off by describing the fresh fish options for the day and then beaming expectantly at me while I translated for Amanda. I turned to her and said, "I didn't understand any of that, so I hope you weren't planning to order fish." (I also said a few more things, so that the "translation" was roughly as long as the original description; I added some hand gestures to make it more convincing.) When the chef returned a few minutes later to take our order, we realized that while English-language menus were helpful in making our selection, they were of no use in ordering. I had no idea how to say "grilled squids with duck liver" or "Iberian steak with spinach and mango" in Spanish, and the chef certainly didn't have a clue what we were talkinga bout. So we had to get out the Spanish menu and point to the corresponding line of text, hoping that the menu items were listed in the same order in each language (they were).
|Cream of watermelon soup |
(so delicious I didn't even think to take a photo until it was gone)
|Squid with duck liver and onion|
|Iberian steak with spinach and mango|
|Fondant chocolate cake with raspberry sauce|
|Madeleines, almond brittle, fudge|