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Madrid in early May, 2010

My wife and I will be traveling to Barcelona and Madrid in early May. This post will deal only with Madrid, where we will spend three days.

First, at the risk of boring respondents, a few words about us. We are seniors; we tire more easily than before and our dining habits are in transition. We expect to eat our main meal in early to mid-afternoon and "snack" with some wine in early evening. We visualize a routine akin to a trip to Venice a few years ago ( main meal early and "chichetti" later).

We prefer to eat traditional dishes, not generally available to us In the U.S., as distinguished from molecular cuisine or other modern interpretations. As for price, we would like to limit our costs for a main meal to around E100, if possible.

1) We would like to enjoy a fine traditional paella without a trip to Valencia. We gather that El Ventorillo Murciano and Samm offer very good paella. Is that right? Do they serve paella in the lunch segment of the day? Are we missing other restaurants in Madrid we should consider? Is Samm too remote from centro or otherwise not suitable for older travelers not from Madrid or Spain?

2) We would like to enjoy roast suckling pig or, preferably, roast suckling lamb, at a traditional asador. We gather that Asador Tierra Aranda and Botin are fine purveyors of these dishes. Are we correct? Are there other asadors we should consider for these dishes? Please note, in this regard, we have no interest in steak or chops, which we understand are the offerings of many fine Basque asadors. Are roasts of the sort we have mentioned available on luncheon menus?

3) We would like to enjoy fine Madrilleno seafood, particularly shellfish, that is not always available in the U. S. Unfortunately, our budget prevents visits to some of the finest seafood restaurants in Madrid. We have in mind the following restaurants: Sirena Verde, El Cantabrico, Ribeira do Mino and El Cucurucho del Mar. We will appreciate any comments on these restaurants or guidance to other quality seafood restaurants in our price range.

4) Our review of this site and other sources has disclosed some recommendations of fine, modestly-priced restaurants offering traditional regional cuisine, These include La Sanabresa, Casa Fidel, Taberna Toscana, and El Mollete. Any comments on these restaurants or other "gems" we have missed will be appreciated.

5) As for tapas, in the evening, we have a long list of wonderful places in the La Latina area (on or near Cava Baja) and a few around Sol or Callao. Recommendations in Chueca would be most welcome.

Thanks in advance for your comments.

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  1. The "mariscada" in Ribeira do Mino is quite cheap, but it is not as fresh as it could be, and tho' it's a great place in many ways, I wouldn't recommend it if you want to enjoy excellent seafood. I've been there twice with huge groups of people - it's popular for birthdays and hen nights.
    We love Xentes, a Galician restaurant, on Calle Humilladero 13, in La Latina, 913664266. They have excellent fresh seafood, and do a wonderful rice with lobster too. Arroz melosa is more risotto-like than paella, although without butter. They open from lunch from 2 -4, and a good meal there will be about 40€ a head - and the really good news? No smoking! Sirena Verde is more expensive, but not as good. El Cantabrico is a marisqueria with a long history, and fresh quality seafood - no rice though, but it does open earlier (12-4)
    Asador de Aranda is the place for lamb, and is open for lunch from 1pm -Calle Preciados,44 - tends to get very full, but if you go at 1 you should be fine.
    For "fine, modestly -priced regional cuisine", I must recommend "La Cazorla" on Calle Castello, 99, telephone 915627194. It's Andalucian, and we adore it. I always take visitors there (it's near my house) and they always leave delighted. Beware - huge portions!! The Cazorla salad is massive for two people, and one "fritura mixta" (mixed fried fish, calamares, baby cuttlefish, egg plant, adobo) would be ample for two. They also have a no smoking section. A great place to enjoy a leisurely lunch. You must book as it is extremely popular with the locals!
    I hope you have a lovely time!

    5 Replies
    1. re: arobmadrid

      Thank you arobmadrid. Ribeira do Mino is off my list (as I suspected it would be). El Cantabrico moves up ahead of La Sirena. Asador de Aranda was on my list, though un-mentioned in my post; it moves up. Thanks for Xentes and La Cazorla. Your suggestions are highly valued. When traveling, we always want to emphasize local cuisine and especially value the recommendations of local residents on places they respect and value. I hope Americans offer advice of equal value to visitors from "abroad" as to value, price and regional interest.

      1. re: sernoff

        I agree about Ribeira do Miño... it's cheap, but the quality is not great. El Cantábrico is a good spot for lunch, just be prepared to wait a bit for a table if you catch it during the rush (there's a bar and a handful of tables off to the left side. My experience: for lamb, Asador Tierra Aranda in Salamanca (it happens to be right across the street from El Cantábrico) is much, much better than Asador Aranda in Callao (c/Preciados).

        El Ventorrillo Murciano is still a good spot for paella--it's the real thing--but you must get a reservation, since it's a tiny spot.

        La Sanabresa is very, very cheap--and popular and touristed. It's sort of typical home-style food--the kind of stuff you'll find on a lunchtime menú del día (roast chicken, sauteed artichokes with jamón, fried eggplant, etc.). El Mollete is cozy and can be good for lunch if you like what they have on the menú.

        To avoid getting worn out, take cabs--they are cheap and plentiful.

        Tapas in Chueca... there are so many spots. I love El Cisne Azul for wild mushrooms. Stop Madrid (c/Hortaleza) and El Bocaíto (at the bar, not sitting down) are two classic old-school spots.

        If you are looking for a big meal in the middle of the day, you might check out La Copita Asturiana (c/Tabernillas in La Latina). It's a tiny hole in the wall--nothing fancy (but reservations essential). Excellent fabes con almejas (white beans with clams) and lubina a la plancha (grilled sea bass).

        1. re: butterfly

          Thanks very much Butterfly. I'm sure you noticed that the restaurants I listed included many of your prior recommendations. Now I will add some more spots. I appreciate your comment on cabs. I have become so obsessed with Madrid's metro system, I hadn't given them much thought. Getting worn out is, unfortunately, more of a concern these days than in yesteryear. I also appreciated your comment on some modestly-priced restaurants. A not-very-good meal at a very good price is no bargain in the end.

          I had planned on making reservations at the restaurants we plan to patronize on the day before we visit them. Is that sufficient notice?

          1. re: sernoff

            This place looks great - I'll be checking it out soon. Maybe Butterfly knows it?
            www.elchiscon.com.
            Rabo de toro is a Madrid classic, and the fish with callos (tripe) and garbanzos sound like an interesting twist.

            1. re: arobmadrid

              I've walked by it a bunch of times, but never made it inside. Please report back if you go... tiene buena pinta.

              Sernoff--a day before is probably fine for a weeknight. On weekends, you might need to call with a bit more advance notice. If you are staying at a hotel, I'm sure they could help out. I think it goes without saying, but tapas bars don't do reservations, but don't despair if they are crowded, there's almost always room for a few more and people tend to come and go quickly.

    2. My recs are:

      DANTXARI (Calle Ventura Rodriguez 8). Traditional Basque cuisine. Around 40 Euro. Good value for money. Recs: Alubias de Tolosa (Black beans stew with chorizo and black pudding), Bacalao al pil-pil (de-salted fishcod cooked in olive oil, garlic and a bit of chilli). Dessert: arroz con leche (rice with milk pudding)

      EL QUINTO VINO (Calle Hernani 48). My fav tapas restaurant. Recs: Ortiguillas (anemones), croquetas, empanadillas de puerros (leek pasty), anchoas en salazón (salt anchovies), berenjenas con salmorejo y bacalao ahumado (battered eggplant with tomate sauce and smoked codfish)

      EL BOCHO (Calle San Roque 18). Authentic home-style cooking. Recs: Lentejas (lentils stew), Chipirones en su tinta (squid cooked in their ink).

      6 Replies
      1. re: JuanDoe

        Thanks again to arobmadrid and butterfly for additional input and thanks to JuanDoe for bringing three additional spots to our attention (and recommending particular dishes).

        1. re: sernoff

          Hi sernoff,

          Could you let me know which restaurants you actually went to for paella and roast suckling pig? We'll be traveling to Madrid soon and would like to find out about your experience. Thanks.

          1. re: symba

            We wisely followed the recommendations of knowledegable Madrillenos posting on this board.

            Our seafood paella at El Ventorillo Murciano was memorable. Together with a delightful and unsusual ensalada murciano and a bottle of wine the meal for two was under E100.

            We had excellent roast suckling lamb at El Asador del Aranda on C/ Preciados, right across the street from our hotel. We had originally targeted Asador Tierra Aranda in Salamanca, but fatigue/ convenience ended up the decisive factor. No regrets. Both restaurants offer only suckling lamb. If you want suckling pig, my research suggests Botin may be the most reliable spot.

            The one culinary regret we had from our short stay in Madrid was that we visited the newly restored mercato next to Plaza Mayor just after gorging on paella. Thus, we had no room to sample the spectacular oysters at the Ostres Sorlut booth. You are bound to visit Plaza Mayor. If you love oysters leave space in your stomach for a sampler at the mercato.

            1. re: lsernoff

              We just ate at El Ventorillo Murciano for lunch today. Service was pleasant and the wine was good. But our rice dish was so salty, it was like eating a salt lick. And the clams were not fresh. We could not, in good conscience, recommend for people to eat there.

              On the other hand, two nights ago we ate at Barril de Recoletos, and the food was superb. I had a Fideuá of Solomillo and vegetables that was wonderful, and she had an order of garlic clams -- very fresh and delicious -- and grilled squid that she absolutely loved. About the same price point (about 87 Euros for 2 people, with glasses of wine), and a much more memorable meal. They also have several rice dishes (which non-Spaniards refer to as Paella) that looked quite good.

              1. re: Hoc

                I am sorry your experience at Ventorillo Murciano was not up to snuff. Can't account for it. We--my wife especially--are repelled by excessive saltiness..............as well as less than fresh seafood. Didn't happen at our lunch. Glad you enjoyed the other restaurant.

        2. re: JuanDoe

          Went to Dantxari earlier this month and it was excellent. We started with an appetizer of squid and onion and lightly cooked sardines. I don't remember much about them except that they were great. We followed this up with 2 meat dishes. The first was filet with salt, pepper and oil. I've never had this simple garnish on meat before but it was superb. The meat was soft and flavorful and came out rare. The second was their beef for two (but they gave it to us for 1) which was done Peter Luger's style except with salt and no butter. I'm not a huge Luger's fan so understand that when I say that I liked this meat better. Came out rare with fat on it and was perfect for me. Overall great food and great hospitality for a fair price. Thanks for the rec!