Saturday, December 18, 2010

Madrid: La Taqueria del Alamillo and Wakathai

One of the motivations for our travel is the thrill of the next meal. We enjoy eating. A great meal is the highest peak of public pleasure. It is to be relished and enjoyed, not just as it is happening, but for days and weeks and months afterward. When we can, we go out for a meal here in Madrid. When we have Ricky with us, this can be quite challenging. Ricky actually is just fine in restaurants now - when he was a tiny thing we used to have to take turns sitting at the table, one of us eating while the other walked around with him. Now, though, the difficulty arises because the dining hours are so late here. Most restaurants don't open for dinner until 9 p.m., and when you get there at 9, the restaurant is slowly waking from its slumber, and not operating crisply. Meals in Spain are leisurely affairs (which I like very much) but when you've got a boy who usually goes to bed around 8 p.m., and you're trying to keep him up and out and cheerful after 10 p.m., it often does not work out well.

Fortunately, Ricky spends most weekends here in Spain with his grandparents, leaving Ana and I free to have one or two nights out. Last night, it was very, very cold here in Madrid. A friend is out of town and has left us her car, so we decided to drive. One of our favorite restaurants is a little Mexican place in the La Latina district. It is called La Taqueria del Alamillo. The food is great, the service is friendly, and they give you tequila when they bring you the check. They are always booked up way in advance. Ana called them in November, and found that the weekend nights were booked for the rest of the year. Usually, though, we show up early in the evening, near 9 p.m., and they find us a table. She called them, and asked about being put on a waitlist for the evening. They were so busy last night, they refused even to do this, saying there were already too many people on the waitlist. So we decided to just go over there and see what happened. The traffic in the city is particularly bad right now, as the holiday shopping season has exploded around us. Not having a car usually, we had not taken this into account. We drove out there, eventually got there, and then found it was absolutely impossible to park. The large signs on the highway warning that all downtown parking lots were full seemed to be accurate. So, not having a parking space or a spot in the restaurant, we opted for an alternative venue.

We headed to Wakathai. It was our third visit to this restaurant, a Peruvian - Asian combination, offering food which is, for Spain, spicy. As a general rule, Spanish food is not spicy at all, and Spaniards are averse to hot flavors. Maybe that is why there was room for us at this restaurant last night.

It is a great place. It's located a bit outside of the main downtown area of the city, so we were able to find some parking. The staff is efficient and courteous, and you never have to wait long for your food. The location is comfortable and rather minimalist. There is enough space between tables so that you don't feel crowded. We ordered the tasting menu. I like ordering tasting menus, especially when I don't know a restaurant well. I feel like it gives the place a chance to show you what they are proud of, and they should know their own food better than anyone else.

It was a great meal. We had ceviche, we had nems (little rolls of rice paper stuffed with shrimp and pork), we had Vietnamese salad, we had a nice hot and spicy soup with wontons stuffed with corvina, we had a curry with duck, and then we had dessert. We ate well. Then we braved the cold again for the walk back to the car, and drove home.

Oh, a little more about the food. The ceviche they have is absolutely the best I've ever eaten. It has a great texture (important for me) and is very flavorful with many interesting elements and unexpected points of taste. It can be quite spicy in one spot, but it is always as part of the flavor. The worst part about it is that when you finish, there is no more of it to eat. They always have a curry of the day. It varies in its content. This time it was duck with lychees in a green curry, which was excellent. I actually preferred the curries we had previously, though, which were carrillada de iberico with greeen curry. The carrillada is a cut of pork from the side of the head, which is very tender. According to the Spanish labeling laws, pork can be called iberico if it is at least 75 percent black Iberian pig. Much of the great Spanish cured ham is iberico. Good eating.

Desserts were exceptional. We had one small coconut flan topped with dulce de leche and also a panna cotta. The panna cotta was so creamy and rich and topped with some orange marmalade and all I can say about it is that if it had been served in a bucket, I would have eaten it all. The flan was delicious as well.

Now it's time for coffee and a new day.

La Taqueria del Alamillo is located at Calle Alamillo, 8, Madrid. Reservations are a must. Phone: 91 3642088.

Wakathai,, Calle Conde Duque, 13, Madrid. Phone: 91 5417876.


  1. Bryan, can you tell us more about the ceviche at Wakathai? Specifically, what sort of fish did they use (if you could tell)? Did they include slices of peppers, olives, etc.? I've actually tried making ceviche a few times, but with modest success. (I think I used shark.)

  2. At Wakathai they used wild sea bass (corvina) in the ceviche. They add lime juice, cilantro, slices of spicy peppers, thin slices of red onion, salt, and pepper. On the side they had a slice of cooked sweet potato and a slice of regular potato. There was also a chunk of corn on the cobb, but the corn had enormous, hominy-style kernels. It was great.

  3. Great ceviche also at an unexpected location: Van Nuys. A small Peruvian place called Puro Sabor. Incredible ceviche there.