After flying for the majority of a day, sleeping a grand total of four hours, and spending a full afternoon on my feet, all I wanted to do was hit the bed at my hotel (the NH EuroBuilding in Madrid, which is hosting my trip). Instead, I had to go to dinner at the NH Abascal, a sister property to my current dwelling. Normally, any dinner is an exciting one, but I was so tired that I didn’t know if I’d be able to stay awake after I arrived at the restaurant. Luckily, I held it together and made it through six courses that both surprised and enthralled me.
When we first sat down, I didn’t expect much. The room was dominated by single businessmen doing that sad thing where they force themselves to go down to the hotel restaurant but then try to eat as quickly as possible to get back to their room. I say sad because I’ve been there myself and know how isolating it feels to eat alone in a room full of other people eating alone. Anyway… my expectations were far surpassed as soon as the first course arrived.
It was described as “crunchy Iberico cuts” and that’s like calling a juicy ribeye “browned beef on a bone.” Instead of the pork rinds I was expecting, we got Iberico ham served three ways: as a crispy bacon, inside a croquetta (that’s mozzarella stick to the unfancy folks), and raw. It was a wonderful way to showcase Spain’s most precious porky jewel. Take a look:
Why is there a dome there? I have no idea. I was too busy cleaning my plate.
Course two was seafood on top of seafood on top of seafood. Raw monkfish carpaccio was layered in a fan underneath periwinkles — a proud member of the snail family — served both raw and fried. Oddly enough, my favorite part of the dish was a “Sicilian tomato,” which was oven-roasted and intensely flavorful. A nice punch to the more delicate fish. Please note: When I say “punch,” I mean flavor counterpoint. I don’t advocate violence against fish.
The next course continued the seafood theme. Octopus and squid served in between thin slices of artichoke heart. I have no idea how they cooked the octopus, but whatever they did worked (the language barrier was strong enough that questions were hard to ask and get answered). No matter what, I wish I had more of this dish to chow down on today.
Course four: “Lomo de merluza con ajoarriero de chipirones.” They translated it to hake baked with oil, garlic, peppers, and squid. I translated it to “simple and delicious.” The little squid salad underneath the fish brought a nice acidic note to the plate and the fish was a perfect medium-rare — assuming you’re like me and enjoy your fish medium rare.
Finally, we got to some meat and while I don’t usually get excited about filet mignon, this was all kinds of tender and flavorful thanks to a mushroom ragout that layered in some umami. Nothing too exciting, but in my book, steak = good.
Finally, we ended with an interesting tiramisu presentation that was quite good if not sensational. Sadly, I don’t have photos of the last two courses because the combination of my lack of sleep with many glasses of Rioja meant that I was blitzed by the end and totally forgot to photographically record the final courses. Please don’t hold it against me.
Overall, a great meal for my first night in Spain. More to come…