Sunday, March 28, 2010

Freixa Tradicio, Barcelona

It's funny what's happening in the dining scene in Barcelona lately. Many have grown quite tired of all the fancy creative, molecular, cocina de autor type of food, and many are going back to basics, or back to their roots. One of Them is Freixa, who had a cutting edge restaurant in the 90's called Raco D'en Freixa. a modern, creative restaurant, then decided to convert it into a traditional Catalan Restaurant, with food
'de toda la vida' and typical Catalan Ingredients.

The place though is quite modern looking, but the food, basic traditional Catalan cooking. For starters, I had some Fino, which they served with some cold cuts: Fuet, Corizo Iberic, Butifarra Negra and Butifarra Blanca

For our starters, I decided on ordering tapas style, since I knew the main courses would be heavy dishes. We had Croquetas de Jamon, Bunuelos de Bacalao, Anchoas and Escalivada (of Pimientos only)

For main course, 2 very traditional Catalan Dishes: Bacalao amd Samfaina and Peus de Porc amb Datils i Pinons. Bacalao with Samfaina sauce, a tomato based sauce, with lots of garlic, Piquillo peppers and Eggplant. The Pork was Pig's feet, in a very thick semi sweetish sauce with dates and Pine nuts.

I had the Bacalao so with this and my meal. I had an Albarino Called Lusco, a very light and refreshing Albarino, perfect match for my Bacalao and Anchovies.

A good meal and a place to go if you are looking for home style cooking,

San Sebastian (Donostia) Day 2

After my first day in San Sebastian, I was really excited to see what food I was going to get to try the next day. Our first stop was for lunch. I had chosen to try another classic Basque restaurant (Gandarias) but unfortunately it was closed 2 days for minor reservations. So we decide to try a new creative Pintxos restaurant: A Fuego Negro. They had several degustation choices, so we went for the medium one, with 8 different dishes.

For starters, Aceitunas Gordal with Vermouth Jello. A classic Spanish appetizer, with a twist. This was original and tasted good.

Next, Tomatito Cherry con Salmorejo y Migas Ibericas. Salmorejo is the Andalusian version of Gazpacho, much thicker because of the bread. In this case, it's a de constructed Salmorejo, with the Tomato, Cream inside and Migas Ibericas (Iberian Chicharron) on the outside. Very Creative.

Then we had a refreshing green Salad. Nothing really special about this one except the olive oil was so fragrant and the tomatoes were incredibly crispy and fresh. They then served us the Txiquihuerta con Ketchupa Casero y All i Oli. Basically this is mixed vegetables tempura with beer batter, home made Ketchup and All i Oli made with potatoes instead of Egg. The Home made Ketchup was really really good.

Next was our fish dish: Bacalao confitado en Aceite de Oliva Extra Virgen, patatas y Curry. The Bacalao was again incredibly fresh and perfectly cooked. I really wish we could source out Fresh Bacalao here..this was delicious.

After a quick break, they served us the first of our meat dishes: Papada de Basquecherri, Aire de Limon y Patata Avainillada (Pigs neck, Lemon Air and Mashed Potato with Vanilla). The Pork was so soft and tender I thought it was all fat, but looking closely, I saw that it was in fact meat. Basquecherri is a type of Iberian Pig (pata negra) that has a 350 square meter parcel of land all to himself to roam around freely, so that is what makes this Pig so Special.

Last, Mini Burger de Wagyu, Pan de Ketchup y Patata Macho de Ecuador. Wagyu Burger, Ketchup Bread and Potato which was quite sweet. This was ok but nothing really special. I must say though it was very well cooked, charred on the outside and rare inside.

Our dessert was their own version of Arroz Con Leche, but served Breakfast Style. It was good but again maybe i would have preferred something else.

This was a very creative way of serving Tapas/Pintxos but what I really enjoyed were the regular Pintxos I had the night before and what we had for dinner. At around 8 Pm, we started again in the same Bar we started the night before: Bar Txepetxa. I just can't get enough of this place and wanted to try his other specialties on Anchovies. We stopped by for a couple of Beers, Gildas and 2 Pintxos of Anchovy with Cream of Centollo, and new one made with Huevas de Merluza (Fish Roe). It seems so basic but believe me once you try this, you will be craving for more.

Our next stop was a place called La Cuchara de San Telmo. Quite popular in the old part of town, this is not really a traditional Pintxos Bar but more a bar serving small plates. They do not have a fixed menu and all they have is a blackboard with their daily specials and some best sellers. Look at the Prices!! incredible value for money!

This is what we ordered: Foie "Cuchara" con Compota de Manzana, Bacalao en Tempura a la Cerveza and Vieira Toro envuelta de Tocineta de Bellota.

As you can see, very simple no frills dishes, but top quality Ingredients. The Foie was huge seared with apple compote, fresh Bacalao with a light Tempura beer batter and a Huge Scallop wrapped with Iberian Bacon. These 3 dishes and 4 glasses of wine..15 euros..Incredibly cheap!

Our next stop, Bar Ganbara, a more traditional style Pintxos Bar, where it is normally quite full and all the food is exposed in the bar. You just get what you want to eat and eat it...when you ask for your bill, they asked you what you had. Honor system. I had a hard time remembering how many Txakolis I had and how many pintxos I had...and really they trust what you tell them. It;s quite a struggle to order and get your food, but it's fun and that's what makes this places so original

So this is what we had...of course now I remember after seeing the Photos...

Pulpo a la Vinagreta
Chistorra wrapped in a light, Criossant like dough
More anchovies....
Tartita de Txangurro (Crab Cake)

Sakchichon Iberico and Queso De Zamora.

We had much more than this(Salmon, Jamon Iberico, Olives, etc...) but they were not photographed since I was too excited to eat them. All of this of course washed down with some Txakoli and Rioja wine by the glass.

What an incredible food experience I had in San Sebastian. For me this is truly the mecca of food in Spain. I plan to return this year with my wife and try some 'starred' restaurants (incidentally I think San Sebastian is the City with most Michelin Stars in Spain) like Arzak, Mugaritz, Akelarre, etc....

Agur!! (this means good bye in Basque language)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

San Sebastian (Donostia) Day 1

I'm back from my 3 week long trip and finally have some time to post some of the great food I had while i was travelling. I have several updates and will just update randomly depending on what I remember most.

San Sebastian, for me, is the mecca of food in Spain. I have always wanted to go to San Sebastian and fortunately, I had some business to do in the North of Spain so it was perfect. I arrived at around 6 pm, after a 600 Km drive from Barcelona (stopping by Santander on our way).

After dropping the bags at the Hotel, a quick walk by the Playa de la Concha was the first thing I did. Concha means Shell and the reason it is called this way is because the beach has the form a Shell. It was a nice 3 kilometer walk just enough to open my appetite just in time for some Pintxos and dinner.

Donostia is known for their Pintxos (similar to tapas), small bite sized dishes or food on bread. We decided to have dinner in a traditional Basque restaurant the first night, and reserve the second night for the Pintxos. on our way to the restaurant though, I happen to pass by Bar Txepetxa, highly recommended by Chef Javi Lecumberri of La Tienda. They specialize in Pintxos de Anchoas(Anchovy), so a quick stop before dinner was in order. To start, Gildas (combination of pickled Guindillas(Peppers), Anchoas, and Aceitunas Gordal (Large Olives) and their 2 best sellers: Pintxo de Anchoa con Crema de Centollo (Cream of Spider Crab) and Pintxo de Anchoa con Erizos de Mar (Uni)

Toasted bread, Incredibly fresh Anchovies (Anchoas del Cantabrico), topped with Cream of Spider Crab, a very typical Crab from the region, was a perfect combo. The Anchovy was perfectly complemented by the creamy richness of the Crab. All this washed down with the typical white wine of the region (Txakoli). I loved this place so much that I returned the next day again....

Our next stop was Casa Urola, for our dinner proper. Casa Urola is a traditional Basques Restaurant, serving traditional food. It has been open for many years and also highly recommended by several locals that we asked. We were quite full from our pre-dinner pintxos and wines, so we only had 1 first plate and one main course for dinner (to be shared by 2 people)..

For starters, Txangurro au gratin, another very typical and I'd say probably the national dish of the Basque region. Basically it is Blue Crab, mixed with onions, Garlic and a little cream, then baked au gratin. Even if very simple, I love this dish so typical of the region. Again, I had this with a glass of Txakoli, a perfect combination.

Our main, of course had to be no other than: Chuletón selección “Luismi Premium” a la parrilla. This one was 1.2 kilos (with Bone) and perfect for 2 people. Simply grilled, rare, served with Maldon Sea Salt, fries and a a green salad. We had this with a medium bodied Rioja.

For dessert, a cheese platter, combination of Idiazabal, Roquefort, Torta del Casar and Cabrales with some Membrillo and Walnuts. With this, we had another typical liquor from the north: Pacaharan, a liquor made with Endrinas, a type of Sloe-Berry. This drink is more typical of the Navarra Region, but still drank widely all over Spain.

Will continue with my Day 2 in San Sebastian in another post, until then, Agur!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sushi Kappo Kobikicho

Lunch this week was at Sushi Kappo, considered by many as the best Japanese restaurant in Manila. Be prepared though to pay Tokyo prices if you have dinner. They do have set lunches which is what we had.

I arrived the first so while waiting for the others, I had a chance to observe how the Chef (Shintaro Hino) meticulously prepared all the food, with such precision that it seemed like he was working for one of those Swiss watch companies. Not a single detail left out, from the millimetrical cuts of tuna, to the exact amounts of soy sauce, etc.. Incidentally all ingredients in this restaurant are flown in from Japan twice a week, from the Soy sauce, to the fresh wasabi and obviously the fresh fish, from the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo.

The set of 'swords' they use to cut the fish...impressive

Preparing the fresh Wasabi, by rubbing in on dried Shark skin

Fresh Wasabi

Precision cutting by the chef of Squid, the first of our sushi dishes

Before I continue with the other types of Sushi we had, I would just like to say that as I said earlier, this is the best I have ever tried in Manila (Hopefully when I go to Tokyo in May I will try even better thank this) period.

We had the sushi menu, which consisted of an appetizer of Daiso (some sort of nut with a sweet sauce) and different kinds of Sushi prepare din front of you and served one by one. As we were in a traditional Japanese Restaurant, I decided to eat the way the Japanese eat their Sushi. The Sushi is held by hand, turned upside down and slowly dipped in soy sauce. The rice is never dipped in the soy sauce. I know this is hard to do since I love doing this, but I wanted to taste the freshness of the fish and not the taste of Soy sauce with Wasabi. Note that they do not give you any extra Wasabi for the sushi, since they already put some between the rice and the fish..


Red Snapper

O-Toro and Hamachi

Uni (note how bright orange this is) compared to other Uni I have tried in other restaurants

Toro Maki being rolled with onions...

Toro Maki and Tamago


Maezawa Beef, a Wagyu steak from a champion breed line of Japan

Just a short note on the Tempura - again one of the best I've tried. Not oily at all, from the freshest Prawn and very light batter. This was lovely! The Wagyu was served slightly seared (medium rare) with a light sauce and with Mustard and Wasabi. Obviously I ate mine with Wasabi. Very tender, melt in your mouth good.

For wines, we had 2 different kinds of Sake, a bottle of Champagne, 3 reds and 2 whites.

Kubota Manju (Daigin-jo)

Kokuryu Tokusen Ginjo
Jojo's Champagne Comte Audoin de Dampierre Family Reserve Cuvée 2000, quite refreshing and still very vibrant, despite being a 2000. This Champagne was excellent, and a good paring with the sushi.

My Bottle of 2008 Laxas Albarino and Keiichi's 1999 Jean Noel Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Maltroie 1er Cru. My Albarino was a good pairing with the fish but Keiichi's Montrachet was not really for me a good paring with Sushi. I liked the wine though, and mentioned to Noel i could smell burnt Pop Corn. He said it was the smell of Toasted Oak.

Greg's 2000 Chateau Larcis Ducasse, a Saint Emillion Grand Cru. a medium bodied wine which went very well paired with our steak.

and last, Jojo's 2008 Red Car Pinot Noir. This was a sample he had which did not have a label yet. I liked this Pinot, very correct and also good with the Steak. Rene had also brought a 2000 Chateau Le Bon Pasteur, which unfortunately was corked, so we did not drink it. This bottle he purchased in Vinfolio and after emailing them, it seems that they may replace the bottle. Let's see what happens...

Our usual suspects group shot, after all the great food and wine. We did not stay too long because we had no more wines to drink. A great lunch and great company. Food was excellent and service spot on. KAMPAI!!