Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Madrid: Asturianos, Amazing Seafood and Cheese Flan

The other night, sick of packing, we got hungry and decided we were not going to cook. First, we called a Korean restaurant we’d heard good things about (the restaurant is appropriately called Korea); they did not have any tables open for that night. So we decided to go out for some tapas instead. It was raining steadily, but it is hard to park in Madrid, so instead of driving (we’re borrowing a car from a friend who’s out of the country), we took the metro.

The place we went to, Asturianos, is an unassuming little bar with four tables for drinks and tapas and a dining room in the back, out of sight, for more formal dining. We took one of the tables by the bar. As the name implies, most of the food in this restaurant is from the region of Asturias, in the north of Spain. Asturias is a great place to eat, known for abundant fresh seafood, bean stews (such as fabada and fabes con almejes, the former a hearty dish of white beans, chorizo and other goodies and the latter, slightly lighter, made of fava beans and clams), and excellent dairy products including great cheese, such as Cabrales. We took a vacation to Asturias in 2008 and loved it: in addition to the insanely good food (and do you need any more reason to go?), it is green, lush, full of orchards, hills, cows, charming architecture and dramatic cliffs looking out over the Cantabrian sea.

Asturianos has a wine list of over 300 wines, including several by the glass. I ordered a glass of Tres Patas, a young red from the Mentrida region, in the northern part of the Toledo province. This wine was a mix of garnacha and syrah grapes, and it was excellent. Bryan had a caña. With our drinks, they brought us some slices of chorizo, which was pungent and full of pimenton, along with finger-sized bread sticks.

We ordered two raciones: gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic) with piquillo peppers, and berberechos with garlic and parsley. Berberechos are smallish clams with pretty crinkled white and brown shells. The gambas were very tasty, fresh, full of garlic and made with quality olive oil, with pieces of piquillo peppers on the edges of the plate as decoration. We dipped into the sauce with pieces of big country bread they gave us, so there was nothing left at all on the plate. We were too hungry to take the time to photograph the plate. The second dish, the little clams, were even better: each of them meaty and tasting of garlic and the sea. We took a picture of that one.

Perhaps best of all was the dessert, and it took us by surprise because what can be better than seafood with garlic? We shared a flan de queso (cheese flan) which was a little individual flan, perfectly formed, tasting like the best cheesecake you’ve ever had, drizzled with a little caramel. Yes, we should have each gotten our own flan. The check was 43 euros.

c/ Vallehermoso, 94
28003 Madrid, Spain
915 335 947
(metros: Canal or Islas Filipinas)

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