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Nov 13, 2012 10:19 AM

MALAGA...Malaga city and province of Malaga (environs of Gaucin)

Three nights in the city of Malaga closed our recent 17-day visit to Spain and even though our meanderings were hampered somewhat by dismal weather, we were captivated. The Malaguenos are often lauded for their warmth and hospitality, and based on the welcome we received at the markets and eateries we visited, this reputation is well deserved.

ATARAZANAS MARKET. We chose our hotel partly for its proximity to Malaga’s main food market, and this proved to be a wise idea, as we paid several visits to this architecturally impressive temple of food where, here again, we were struck by the friendliness and the willingness to inform casual visitors about the products on offer. I stocked up on Marcona almonds—both raw and toasted with olive oil and salt—and the D.O. pasas de Malaga, raisins made from sun-dried Moscatel grapes. Belying the proximity of North Africa, and their use in Andaluz cooking, dried fruits were also much in evidence.
( I wish I had brought home a kilo of figs and a few slices of the fig cake, known as Pan de Higo.) My favorite discovery here came from one of several halal butchers: M’semen, known as panuelos, or “handkerchiefs in Spanish, a flaky Moroccan bread lavished with clarified butter, or s’men.


One of many quintessentially Malagueno seafood bars clustered in the pedestrianized city center, this one has garnered good reports on Spanish food sites and a few minutes past the 8:30pm opening, the place was clogged with what appeared to be locals, chowing down on all manner of fried and steamed seafood. My order was minuscule: Tortillita de Camarones, a battered pancake composed of bits of shrimp in a batter of wheat and garbanzo flour that reminded me of a less greasy version of the emblematic Puerto Rican bacalaito, made here with shrimp instead of bacalao. Total for tortillita and a glass of local wine, 3.80e.
Calle Granada, #35.


While part of its popularity must stem from its very early opening time—7:30 for dinner—this miniscule place near the teatro de Cervantes in the center, appears to deserve its reputation for creative tapas in a city oriented more toward the traditional. Owners and staff hail from Argentina and there are many Argentine wines on the list. Ten minutes past opening time every one of the perhaps 10 tables, and the few seats at the bar and counter, were filled.

We began with two of the day’s specials; each of our four dishes were tapas, the smallest portion available.

Grilled mushrooms (these looked and tasted like porcini but were listed only as “setas,” the generic name for all mushrooms). Sliced lengthwise, grilled with olive oil and topped with bits of jamon, this deceptively simple dish was a standout and one of the many dishes I still crave, more than a week after that dinner.

Carrillada de Jabalí..Served in a cocotte, this was the tender, braised cheek of the boar, served in a light guisado, or stew. High marks from my partner.

From the main menu:

Sauteed Chipirones (small squid) with balsamic (?)-laced spinach. Excellent rendition of a personal favorite.

Croquetas de Pollo con Mermelada de Pina. My partner ordered the emblematic tapa, every chance he got. These were better than most; served with pineapple marmelade.

We would have remained longer to sample more dishes but the temperature inside the restaurant became very hot, not surprising in such a tiny space. Desserts appear to be a strong point.

Reservations are taken, and diners at reserved tables can order from the tapas menu and are not, as in many places we visited in Seville, confined to raciones or half raciones. The restaurant is open for Sunday dinner; closed Mondays. Calle Carcer, #8.

HERMANOS ROLDAN. Excellent ice cream (smallest size: 2 euro; my personal favorite flavors: dulce de leche and turron) in the city center. Fresh orange juice for 1.50e small; 2e large. Popular gathering spot. Calle Especeria.

More soon, to include Dani Garcia’s Manzanilla Bar, and a fried fish lunch at the beach.

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  1. Mil gracias to the moderators for restoring my accidentally deleted post!!

    Corrections and additions to the post above: The price for the meal described at Tapeo de Cervantes was 15.40e. I neglected to edit in full and many Spanish punctuation marks have been omitted,, particularly the ñ's.

    MANZANILLA BAR (soon to open a branch on Park Avenue in Manhattan)

    This is the casual tapas bar under the helm of two-star Michelin chef, Dani Garcia. It lacked the personal touch of the best of the “gastro-tascas” that we visited on this trip (including Tapeo de Cervantes in Malaga and Azotea and PuraTasca in Sevilla), and was rather more slick and polished than those spots. Many of the tapas had been prepared in advance; there was a slight darkening atop the ensaladilla, for example.
    Prices here were also more expensive than at most of the city's tapas bars. The concept here is “tapas from Malaga to New York, and return,” that proposes to present Andaluz tapas with a New York City touch, and vice versa. A branch in Manhattan, on Park Avenue South, is planned for later this month.

    We began with two orders of croquetas from the Malagueño side of the menu: The classic pringa, (2e), here dominated by chicken, was first rate, and the Croquetas de Choco Guisado, (2.90e)squid with its ink, served with a yuzu mayoinnaise, were near divine. Probably the best croquetas of the 17-day croqueta-laden visit.

    Yogur de Foie (4e) arrived next. This was a mousse of duck foie sitting atop a gelee of Port and topped with a hefty dollop of Parmesan cream. The original appeared on the menu of Chef Garcia’s flagship Marbella restaurant, Calima, in 2011.
    Although this is a signature dish here, I did not love the combination of flavors—the cheese with the foie.

    From the “New York” side of the menu, we chose the Taco de Costilla de Cerdo Iberico con Salsa de Barbacoa, (3.50e)which turned out to be a tasty tostada of shredded pork in a “barbacue” sauce. (spell check needed on their menu)

    Finally: How would the Dani Garcia version of a New York burger, made with rabo de toro, or bull’s tail, (4.80e) stack up against Shake Shack? Not very well, it turns out. The coarsely ground patty was just fine, the roll fairly terrible.
    Needs improvement before the NYC debut!

    With a glass of PX sherry, and a small caña, the bill totalled 21.40e.

    Most of the seats line the counter along two sides of the bar; there are four tables in a dining area at the rear. These can be reserved in advance. Calle Fresca, 12, on a narrow, crooked, and somewhat tricky-to-find street in the city center.

    7 Replies
    1. re: erica


      As our visit to Malaga spanned a Sunday, when many restaurants are closed, we were advised to make lunch the main meal of the day, and to head to one of the city’s beaches, where what once were beachside shacks, famous for grilled sardines, have morphed into full-fledged restaurants famous for those sardines, as well as for the frituras de pescaito that are the city’s main claim to culinary fame.

      We taxied the short distance (about a 6 euro cab ride) from the center to Playa Misericordia, where we had booked a table at Guitierrez Playa, which had been recommended as “the” place to go for a seafood meal on a weekend afternoon by several locals. (Note that there are two Guitierrez restaurants along this coastal strip; this is the one furthest from the center; the other is named Pedro Guitierrez).

      I had high hopes, but we ended up with a meal that, while good enough, did not live up to my expectations. Part of the trouble was the dreariness of this part of the beachfront, which had a rather forlorn and shabby air on this dreary November afternoon. The restaurant was only about a quarter full; the economy and the weather not doubt affecting the turnout.
      I chose an order of fried chopitos, or baby squid with their ink, (14e) which were lightly fried and served in tremendous quantity. My partner, requesting a plain, fried white fish, was steered toward the Rosado. (10e; ask for ailoli) I thought this was rather tasty, but I did not notice much evidence of the vaunted frying techniques that we had read so much about. The long menu features fish and shellfish in every form and description.A shared order of Fritura Malaguena, at about 29e, might have been a better choice, in retrospect.

      1. re: erica

        CASERIO ANANDA (edited and reposted from another thread)

        A highlight of our recent two weeks-plus visit to Spain was lunch at Caserio Ananda. This restaurant occupies a former cargo building virtually astride the tracks of the Gaucin station, which is not in Gaucin but in El Colmenar, about a 20-minute descent along a narrow mountain road from Gaucin, or about a 45 minute drive from Cortes de la Frontera on a pisto forestal that cuts through gorgeous cork forest. The drive from Ronda would take about 45 minutes or so, taking the Ronda-Gaucin road until the turnoff to El Colmenar, just south of Gaucin itself.

        Following complimentary croquetas de bacalao, which were some of the best croquetas of a croqueta-laden vacation, my partner had an excellent risotto de setas (14 euro) (generous portions here) with seasonal mushrooms; I just received word that the restaurant is now featuring niscalos, with an abundance of porcini and chanterelles expected soon. (The recent rainy weather has brought an abundance of setas to the table in this area)

        My lamb shanks (tremendous portion again, with two large shanks, 25 euro), tender and crisped on the outside, were the best I've had in Spain outside Pedraza and Sepulveda. This is a dish that I will be remembering, and longing for, for a long time. Accompanied by excellent grilled red peppers with a hefty dose of char.

        Excellent wine list, although we did not indulge due to the somewhat arduous drive ahead of us. On a Thursday afternoon in early November, the place was filed with family groups.

        With water, one tinto de verano, and bread charge, the bill for two of us totalled 46Euro. Open Thursday through Sunday. Tel: 636-13-69-24.

        1. re: erica

          Sad to report that this restaurant seems to have closed! Found out while doing some research for an upcoming Andalucia trip.

          1. re: shipshape

            Yes, I had read that and thought it was a real loss. We did have lunch at another country restaurant, on the train line from Bobadilla to the coast, passing near Gaucin, but I have my notes at any case, not nearly as good as Ananda....let me see what I can find in the area. In general I was not wowed by the places in Gaucin itself.

      2. re: erica

        Just read in the NYTimes that Manzanilla has opened the long-awaited NYC branch, partnering with the Boquería group.

        1. re: erica

          4 of us just returned recently from a sherry trip in Jerez and we had spent 2 nights in Malaga. We did try Manzanilla but must admit that we were underwhelmed. I am not bashing the restaurant and in fact, I laud them for their concept of international "fusion" tapas, but the tapas there would not impress those 'hounders who are experienced tapa-isters.

          Of the 3 soups, Dani Garcia's signature cherry tomato gazpacho was simply outstanding, full of tomato flavor with a great balance of sweetness and acidity and rounded out by the olive oil. The garlic almond soup, on the other hand, was pretty disgusting, without significant garlic flavor and the almond soup essentially being a bland Mexican horchata with a slick nongreasy texture that was not palatable. We tried about 15 of the tapas, and they were for the most part, pretty well executed.

          For those who have eaten well executed foie (which I presume most 'hounders would have), the foie combinations were well executed but nothing truly distinguishing.

          Most dishes were coated with thick dollops of some variation of a mayonnaise sauce that ended up hiding the flavors of the ingredients, thus making a dish such a patata brava more like a dish of mayonnaise with a side of potatoes. The yuzu mayonnaise mentioned above had no flavor of the yuzu at all. The Taco de Costilla de Cerdo Iberico con Salsa de Barbacoa was very very heavy on the very sweet barbeque sauce and the tortilla was offensive to even Taco Bell.

          I do think that the restaurant has a very cool vibe and ambiance but most of the patrons there were of the older crowd. Hopefully, chef Garcia will iron out the kinks with some of the dishes and someone else who reviews it can give it a glowing recommendation in the future.

          1. re: echoboy

            Thanks everyone for the reviews!

            I am now planning a trip to Malaga (we are actually going on a motorcycle tour starting in Malaga and going to Morocco).
            Thus, we are not going to spend too much time in Malaga - perhaps a couple of days - and I want to make the best of it!
            Will post my reviews after my trip :)

        2. My cousin says Bodegas Quitapenas and Tapeo de Cervantes is owned by the same group. I was also shocked at how El Pimpi has expanded (also runs Bodegas Campos in Cordoba). Lastly, we have been going to Ataranzas for our meals the past 15 years and our local cousins always wondered why we would grab a bite there (now they go there too!).