April 14, 2009

More tapas, this time in Sevilla

I think my favorite thing about tapas is the seemingly unending variety. For our stay in Sevilla, I did a little "research" (Chowhound/eGullet/Rick Steves/blogs) on tapas taverns. A few posts on Chowhound lamented that Sevilla was home to an unfortunately high number of disappointing tapas bars. Most sources agreed, however, in the quality of Restaurante Enrique Becerra, a small tavern just off the Plaza Nueva with a nondescript exterior--giving no hint at the treasure inside--where local food fanatics supposedly flocked...

What we ended up finding inside this terrific little tavern was some truly outstanding food and easily the nicest server we've met so far--a classy gentleman who made his way from behind the bar, through the crowd, and up to our little corner to assist us.

Ensalada de aguacate y gambas: A salad of super-ripe avocado and fresh, sweet shrimp, tossed with onions and tomatoes. Simple, creamy and delicious.

Bocaditos de mejillon: Mussels stuffed with a bit of caramelized onion and jamon and fried with a bread crumb coating. Not a delicate dish, this was a total flavor bomb. In a good way.

Pinchito de cordero y datiles con cuscus: Lamb and dates grilled on a skewer, served with couscous. This was an eye opener... the robust, roasted flavor of the lamb was paired perfectly with the practically caramelized dates, all served with the natural juices rendered from the grilled meat.

Revuelto de cola de toro deshuesada y patatas: A racione of oxtail with scrambled eggs and potatoes. Not the prettiest dish to look at, but absolutely delicious, particularly with the gelatin from the oxtail making the dish just that much richer.

In addition to the fantastic tapas, I also enjoyed a perfumed, tropical-scented Rueda and an almost Napa Cabernet-like Rioja for 2 euros per glass. Incredible quality for the price.

After an evening paseo and before some late night flamenco, we decided to throw the research and the guidebooks to the wind and found ourselves at Taberna La Sal, tucked away in a little romantic alley off the main foot traffic of the square.

The meal started with a complementary tapa: tuna mixed with a puree of roasted red pepper and fantastic Spanish olive oil. The Spanish have a magical way with roasting peppers to extract the maximum sweetness and flavor.

Panuelitos de morcilla andalusi: Filo fritters filled with Andalusian blood sausage and caramelized onions. My favorite of the evening. Mouthwateringly delicious, rich, savory flavor. Everything I love about blood sausage... makes you forget what it's made of. Each bite makes you want another. The shatteringly crispy fried exterior contrasts perfectly with the filling. A home run.

Carrilleras de atun guisaditas con patatitas: a rich, slow-braised stew of tuna and fried potatoes in a tomato-based broth. I never would have thought I'd enjoy a "tuna stew," but this dish had terrific body and depth of flavor... amplifying the richness of the tuna.

Fideos caldosos en amarillo con Pez Espada: A simple, clean-flavored seafood broth with short cut noodles. Enjoyable, but a bit bland. Too bad, since this was our priciest item.

Leche frita: Literally, "fried milk", this was a dessert of sweetened cooked custard, lightly fried, and dusted with cinnamon and sugar. I'll admit it, I only ordered this because I wanted to find out what "fried milk" was. It's actually a fairly traditional Spanish dessert made of slices of thickened flan that are pan fried to add a crisp exterior. Dense and filling.

So many different creations and flavors in so little time... I love this.

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