January 14, 2013

A little Russian roulette

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There's been a spate of tapas joints popping up around town like shrooms after the rain.  With the exception of one - which I was curious about because of the partnership with a New York chain - I had managed to stay away from this fad.  I've always been skeptical of restaurant and food fads, and steering clear of them in the past has usually proven to be the prudent course of action.

In the middle of this crowd was a new outpost from another famous chef from abroad.  Jason Atherton, he of 1-macaron Pollen Street Social fame, established a beachhead on Ship Street in the form of 22 Ships.  The foodie crowd had been buzzing about this place for months, but as usual I took my sweet old time for my first visit.  There were people complaining about the establishment's refusal to take bookings, so people have to actually just walk in and take their chances… ¡Qué Horror!  To think that they'd run it the way that a tapas bar in Spain would be… where you actually stand or sit on bar stools and just nibble on little bites of bar food, then go hopping from one bar to the next… without reservations at any of them!  What on earth were the owners thinking?!

I finally got my chance tonight to check out the place when a friend suggested it.  We decided to get there earlier than we normally would eat dinner, to increase our chances of securing seats quickly.  The place was doing good business, but fortunately the turnover seemed to be reasonably quick, too.  We got seated in no time, although my friend got pushed up against the wall at the end of the counter.  The upside is that we got to see pretty much everything that was happening in the kitchen…

My dining companion "wasn't very hungry"… and ended up nibbling most of the evening.  This meant that the burden of polishing off the dishes fell on my shoulders.  Oh well, there are worse things in this world!

Fried egg, black pudding, capers and anchovy - a pretty classic combo, and I certainly wasn't gonna pass up a chance to have morcilla!  As usual it's nice to have the acidity of the capers to balance out the rich, fatty flavors.  This was pretty decent.

Scallop ceviche, yuzu dressing, soy, cucumber and apple - definitely tasted the soy, there was citrus but really couldn't be sure that it was yuzu… Scallops were nice.  Another decent dish.

Salt cod brandade, Ortiz anchovy and herb paste - I have a hard time passing up anything made with bacalao, and this was definitely pretty good and interesting.

The thin and crunchy toast had lots of large holes in them, so the brandade would start dripping through the holes if one didn't eat fast enough…  Thoroughly enjoyable.

Roasted Padrón peppers, green chill, garlic and sea salt - I have never had pimientos de Padrón before, and thought it was reasonably tasty but not that special… until my friend commented about how spicy the pepper was.  Say what?!  My first pepper wasn't spicy at all… and neither was my second… nor third…  It was then that the chef told us about how special these are - about 1 in 10 of these come spicy, and it's pure chance whether you get one of these or not.  One plays a bit of Russian roulette with these peppers…  I guess my friend was real lucky tonight… she got the only spicy one on her first try!

Baked smoked bone marrow, onion jam and sourdough, Gentlemen's Relish butter - no points for guessing that I was gonna order this dish… This was a no-brainer.

We were advised to spread the dollop of butter on the toast before putting the marrow on top.  I then loaded the onion confit on one side.  Yummy.  But somehow I think there's too much going on here, what with the anchovies in the Gentlemen's Relish, the sweetness from the onion, the herbs on the top… I miss the purity and singularity of the richness of the marrow, with just a bit of herb crust to impart some additional flavors.

Suckling pig, roasted apple with spices, piquillo pepper jus - again, no points for guessing that I was gonna order this dish… how does one come to a Spanish establishment and pass up lechón?!  That would have been unthinkable…  This was VERY tasty.  Crispy crackling, succulent flesh, delicious spiced apple sauce on the side.  Apparently this is roasted in 3 stages, with the longer second stage using a lower temperature compared to the first and last stage.  The end result is clear, and the fact that so many orders of this came out of the kitchen tonight speaks volumes.  Oh and the roasted pineapple with pink peppercorns was pretty delish, too…

Char grilled Ibérico pork and foie gras burgers, avocado and pickled cucumber - definitely pretty tasty, with pork patties and pulled pork in the same burger.  But where the hell was the foie?!

I started the evening with a glass of fino Sherry, whose identity I forgot to record… A pretty good way to start of Spanish meal, naturally…

I then tried the house sangria, which was also very yummy.  I especially enjoyed the generous sprinkle of berry powder on top, with the lovely fruity flavors of raspberries.  Yum.

Needless to say, I was pretty full by the end of the evening, but a generally pretty happy camper.  I think I need to come back and try some of the other stuff on the menu… especially since I didn't get to have any dessert tonight!  But next time I'll be sure to come with someone who actually brings their appetite to dinner, instead of hanging me out to dry...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bring moi next time!
I will bring appetite.


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