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Trip Report - Madrid

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Just got back from an 11 day trip to Madrid, San Sebastian, and Barcelona. Here is a summary of some of the places we went in Madrid. On the whole, I did not think the food in Madrid was as good as the other two places we visited, but that may have been a function of the places we visitied, and a lack of preperation on my part (I focused most of my research on the other two cities).

Day 1 - We got a did some basic sightseeing and then had lunch at Casa Mingo. The rotisserie chicken was good, but nothing too special, and the rest of the food was unspectacular. Not great, but not terrible either. Either way, I don't remember what we got. I believe the cider was the best part of the meal. In the evening we met a friend at Lateral in Plaza Santa Ana for drinks and Tapas. We got some standard tapas fare like patas bravas and some pork loin with foie and bree and croquettes. All were very good. Later on that night, we hit Mercato San Miguel and sampled the wares at many of the vendors, all were good, and I would definitely recommend a visit.

Day 2 - Lunch at Restaurante Puerto Rico (a Rick Steve recommendation). Pretty basic Spanish food. We had a veal chop in gravy and some type of pork cutlet. The veal chop was the better of the two. Dinner consisted of a few tapas bars (Arzabal and La Castela) and dinner at Casa Portal. I was pretty disappointed with Arzabal, I thought it was grossly overpriced. We got fried artichoke (15 euros!), sauteed shrimp that were mushy and overcooked a cheese plate and something else that was not memorable and the bill came to 60 Euros. Maybe we didn't order correctly, but I left feeling like there was a great disparity between quality and price, and 15 Euro for an artichoke seems absolutley absurd. Luckily, from there things got better. We had great seafood at La Castela, especially the cockles. Final stop was Casa Portal which is a small, unassuming restuarant that specializes in Asturian fare. I don't believe it gets much tourist traffic, but the Fabada (bean stew) was delicious, and potentially my highlight for Madrid.

Day 3 - Lunch, can't remember. Dinner was at Gabinoteca, a trendy tapas bar with a modern take on some of the classics. The place was packed. I would highly recommend getting there early. We arrived at 10 and had to wait an hour for two seats at the bar. We ordered asparagus, some type of shrimp fritter that was tasty, sauteed shrimp, a paella or seafood risotto and tataki version presa de iberico (pork). Everything was well executed, but nothing blew my socks off.

Day 4 - Lunch, a bakery that did pizza and empanadas in the Malasana neighborhood. Can't remember the name. It was ok. Dinner was a tapas crawl in the La Latina neighborhood centered mostly around Cava Baja. Favorites were Casa Luca, Casa Lucio, Txakolina and the gelato place at the end. Casa Lucas we ordered a variety of small plates and everything was good, although I can't remember what we got. Txakolian was a basque style pinxto bar and everything was great there as well, the highlight for me being the morcillo. Initially, I was skeptical of Cava Baja because it is touristy but we ended up eating pretty well there.

I wouldn't say that I was disappointed with the food in Madrid, but that I may have set my expectations too high, and didn't go to the right places. Admitedly, I spent the majority of my time researching Barcelona and San Sebastian, and probably should have spent some more time on Madrid. Also, my opinion of Madrid may be skewed unfairly by our visits to both San Sebastian and Barcelona which provided some of the best dining experiences of our lifetimes.

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