With visions of Paella and churros dancing in our minds, we make our way to our favorite Spanish restaurant. Bienvenido Patria! The banquets are already filled early on a Saturday night and the mood is festive. For many, it’s the first night out after cocooning at home for a few years. The Sangria flows, and Estrella Damm, Barcelona’s most popular beer is poured. Go ahead and laugh, but this is the first beer I’ve tasted since I overindulged in high school many decades ago. And you know what, I like the smooth and subtle taste.
Spanish cuisine is about ingredients. It’s not a recipe-driven cuisine like French. And so, when we dine at a Spanish restaurant, we look for Manchego, Iberico ham, marcona almonds, Spanish octopus, and olive oil. The beauty of Spanish cuisine is its simplicity. There is nowhere to hide. The menu can be a bit daunting, but our server knows the flavour nuances of each dish and guides us through to make excellent choices.
When in Spain we enjoy sangria. It means “bloodletting.” One unique variation on this menu is the Sorpresa Cava Sangria, which includes sparkling white wine for a more effervescent iteration, similar to a frizzante. Balanced citric notes are accented with an herbal touch for a refreshing punch.
We quickly order the Paella knowing it takes the longest time to prepare. In the meantime, the Pan Con Manchego is a quintessential tapa. Toasted bread drizzled with oil and spread with crushed tomatoes is layered with aged Manchego for a scrumptious opener.
The most notable wagyu producer in North America is Snake River Farms in Idaho, but the flatiron is not a typical cut. Sliced and lacquered in a rich, savoury port jus, it has the perfect balance of Japanese marbling with a robust beefy flavour for the North American palate.
Jamon Iberico is prized for its sweet notes imbued from its diet of acorns. But it also hides a secret. Do you know what the Iberico Secreto is? The pig’s secret is a marbled, juicy cut hidden by the shoulder blade. This tender portion, gently cooked, is elevated by a vibrant almond romesco with a slight kick.
Costillas de Cordero has a nice ring to it. This rack of Spring lamb has been seasoned with a rub of Sherry and cumin, and sauced with a vibrant dark sauce which is a tango of piquillo peppers, anchovy and mint. A note to Chef Teddy Corrado: You can bottle this sauce and I will be the first of many to buy it. Now, the pieza de resistencia is placed on a rack in all its aromatic glory. The melange of ingredients cooked with special rice has absorbed the flavours of Rock Cornish Hen, quartered and roasted, chorizo, soppresado, piquillo peppers, and the unique bursts of preserved lemon and olives.
At this point, I look around the comfortably lit room for the aesthetics and see an art installation across the entire back wall, of dangerous looking meat cleavers.
Churros are a sweet crunchy closer. Crispy fingers of fried dough accompanied by dips of thick dulce de leche and coffee-infused chocolate. Mmm, deliciosa!
We leave this corner of Spain and venture forth into the cacophony of King Street, humming a few bars of Amapola.
Sara Waxman, OOnt, is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.