Madrid and Toledo - long
Some notes from my recent trip-its not that detailed, because Im getting too old to eat and drink that late at night and still remember specifics.
La Broche-a wonderfully inventive restaurant. Starting with the bread, flavored salts (coconut salt!) and choice of olive oils, and tapas amuses. A series of courses including a caviar-filled crepe with frozen olive oil, a few slices of perfect beef, olive gnocchi with prawns in an almond soup, sweetbreads in caper cream and a frozen mojito of kumquat that I could eat everyday. A quiet, very white space (many patrons were dressed in black and white, I noticed) with very good, unfussy service. I had a great deal of fun here-it would be my pick for a splurge in Madrid. Oh, and no smoking.
Arola Dia-the latest outpost of La Broche at the Reina Sofia-a good introduction. Some terrific shrimp skewers, mussels in a pepper sauce, espresso flan the tables showed reserved at lunch, but we were early (1:00) and we got a table with no problem.
Arce-a warm, full room. The chef talks with you to determine what you eat (he speaks English if you are language challenged), making suggestions of courses. We appeared to be the only first-timers in the place. An asparagus plate, white and green, Im still dreaming about, perfectly prepared sardines, a crisp potato slice with poached egg, rice with mixed mushrooms, skate a mixed plate of desserts.
This is the kind of place that makes you want to be a regular. Also-they have a really good ventilation system, so its not smoke filled. On the way out, we saw the chef, across the street, talking to another chef-he noticed us and gave a big wave.
Santceloni. This is a very high concept restaurant, and I cant really fault it but I didnt really love it. Maybe its too Michelin, but it seemed too fussy and not that inventive. They do have a magnificent cheese table. But for the price, it just wasnt worth it-at least for this visiting New Yorker.
Viridiana-very low key. The waiter warned us we were ordering too much, but then checked back to make sure we didnt want more after all everything was good-basic-nothing special, except for the strawberries in balsamic we had at the end. I liked it, but it seems more a neighborhood place than a destination.
Taberna Los Lucio Cava Baja. Flor de agua salad was very tasty, even if I dont really know what I was eating, croquetas, which seemed to be breaded, fried gravy, a huge plate of beef. The lovely owner/manager recommended a cheaper wine than what I had chosen (totally at random) which was quite nice. Very crowded and noisy after the opera (thanks again butterfly and Jef for the Cava Baja suggestion.), and lots of smoke, if that bothers you.
La Finca Susana-Yes, we did. And we were on line at 8:20 with a bunch of other people. I liked it-its a pretty good restaurant if you want to eat early and not spend too much. And they are open Sunday night. I liked the canelones a la Madrile and the albondigas.
Fast-Good on Juan Bravo well, if you cant make it to El Bulli you can get a salad thats mostly salad, rather than mostly meat and cheese (not cheap-E 5.90), little sandwiches we liked the chicken with cous-cous. Its open 12-12 every day, and was packed at lunchtime, and has a Jetsons kind of look to it.
Giuseppe Ricci Gelato on Calle Huertas-I found this to be the best gelato Ive had since I was in Italy. They change flavors frequently (and how do I know that?)
Muniz for churros (thanks again, butterfly)-its a pleasure to watch a man at his craft, making them fresh (I couldnt help thinking of Dominick DeMarco at DiFaras, for you New Yorkers) I think two orders to one hot chocolate followed by a coffee is the right choice. By the way, very nearby (on Humilladero, I think?) there were people lined up on a Saturday morning at a bakeryalas, I didnt have time to stop, and never got back-what did I miss?
Toledo. Restaurant Hierbabuena. This is a lovely space for lunch, but we ate too much as the portions were huge. I especially liked the tortitas gaditanas, but everything was good. Just be sure you have a good map-its a bit of a challenge to find. And could someone ban cars from central Toledo, just for me?
so little time, so much to eat. Next time I hope I have more time for tapas.
Thank you for a wonderful post. It is so welcoming to read a report rather than just recommendations.
Last October, I also had terrific meals at both La Broche and Arce.
Because of recent mixed reviews, I was a little apprehensive about La Broche. Except for one lackluster tapa, the meal was excellent, more earthy and full flavor than many restaurants of this type: mousse of foie gras with apricot jam, cold beef with Cabrales cheese, cauliflower foam over wild mushrooms, smoked sardine with a fried pasta encased quail egg, sauté sea bass, braised ox with more wild mushrooms (it was wild mushroom season) and two wonderful desserts. I found the all-white décor very soothing. The service couldnt have been better, though the tight leather jacket that the female staff wore made them look every uncomfortable.
Except the fact that both serve excellent food, Arce couldnt have been more different. The warmth of the chef owner is reflected by the eclectic and cluttered décor. When the chef chatted with me in English and French, his enthusiasm made me say yes to all his suggestions. Excellent combination of tradition and modern cooking: sauté foie gras, salmon tartar salad, seafood croquetas, beef with wild mushrooms and a homey dessert platter. Although the service was not as fine-tuned as La Broche, the warmth of the chef and his staff made up for the minor lapses.
I had the same reaction about Santceloni in Madrid. It was good but something was missing. It didn't measure up to Chef Santi Santamarias flagship restaurant, Can Fabes, in Sant Celoni.