Upon arriving in our hotel on Gran Via in Madrid, I quickly realised that it would be a place where tourist restaurants abound and little gems are hard to dig out of the rubble.
Luckily however, one of the principal dancers in the company has family in Madrid and even more lucky was the fact that two of his cousins own restaurants a little outside the city. The first night, after another slightly streesful travel day, we went out to this restaurant to experience the Spain vs. Portugal game along with good company and good food.
The restaurant's name is 80 Grados, which means 80 degrees (that was a tricky one..haha), but it is so named because all the food is cooked at this temperature.
Upon arrival, we got situated with some beer or tinto verrano, fanta limon and wine...very refreshing.
There was a big projection screen and the game was set to start in a few minutes. As soon as it did, little tastings and hors d'oeuvres began being passed around. These continued from the begining of the match and continued through to the end. Everything was made with top quality ingredients and presented in a very appealing way. We tried three different kind of croquettas, all of which were light on the fried batter and full bodied in taste and filling. We also tried fried shrimp skewers with some soy based diping sauce, calamari with avocado aioli, blue cheese and arugula chicken salad, creamy pate, gazpacho with coconut ice cream, pork bocadillo and patatas bravas in a cup. I know what you are thinking...what a delicious sounding meal! That's what I was thinking throughout the entire experience, the whole set up allowed us to taste everything and enjoy each taste because you didn't have to eat an entire plate of it. The luxury of this kind of eating is that you keep surprising your palate with new and exotic flavors. Each dish was fairly typical, yet they each had there own twists which made them that much more special.
At the end of the game, which Spain won (good thing too or the mood may have been much different), I went around thanking the owner and the whole family and singing praises. This is the point at which someone looked at me with a strange face and said, 'You realise the meal isn't over, we actually haven't even started yet, they have the entire seating area ready for the main meal to begin...'.
And lo and behold, as I turned around to look, a waiter was ushering people into the main dining area where two long tables were set and ready for out party.
I almost fainted.
I was all in a dither, because even though I wasn't full to the brim, I had eaten a lot more than I would have if I had known that an entire meal was about to follow.
Luckily, I was able to put mind over matter and march bravely over to a spot at the table, ready to conquer whatever dish landed in front of me.
This portion of the meal was a three course meal but again in tapas sizes, which really saved us all. We started with a salmon ceviche and two salads, one with tuna, tomatoes and a strange slushy tomato sauce and another with salmon and a smoke salmon iced cream. All very fresh and exquisitely balanced. Then came the risotto topped with froth and the meat with gravy...oh and another onslaught of croquettas. There was also an interesting egg dish consisting of fried egg with crispy noodles on top. A few other dishes are escaping me, but we litterally tried the entire menu.
After all of this was cleared, there was a moment of panic when we all asked ourselves if more food was coming or if they would have mercy on us and just bring the dessert. Luckily it was time for the latter and they presented us with three different desserts. The first was a blackberry sorbet over cheesecake, the second was a chocolate brownie with cinnamon gelato and dark chocolate ganache and the third was a chocolate cookie with chocolate gelato and whipped banana topping. This was really my forte and all the others watched in awe (or horror) as I consumed all three to within an inch of their lives.
I don't think I could use words to describe the feelings of unbounded joy I felt throughout the night. This is unqeustionnably one of the best meal experiences I have yet had. I doubt any other will come along and surpass the fabulous mixture of friends, entertainment, service and inspired food for a long time to come.