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  • The Anonymous Hungry Hippopotamus

Madrid Part 2: Platos Perfectos

My culinary tour of Madrid was a little different than my usual, food tours in a new city. Like part of my Chicago visit, rather than sit down at any one restaurant for multiple courses, I visited multiple restaurants to try just one amazing dish from their menu. In Chicago, I called them "one dish wonders," and in Madrid, I am calling them "platos perfectos" or "perfect plates."

Mercado de San Miguel

I started my journey in search of los platos perfectos at the Mercado de San Miguel. Over seven million people a year visit this market in the heart of Madrid, with its cast-iron architecture, ornate glass, and ceramic crest. Mercado de San Miguel opened in 1916 as a local, food market. Today, it still sells fresh produce, seafood and meats, as well as gourmet foods, some made by Michelin-starred chefs.


(If you are starting to think that I love food markets, you are not wrong. Whether in Seattle, Lisbon, Barcelona or elsewhere, food markets are where I go for local treasures of superb variety and quality.)


Jamón Ibérico

Strolling up and down the aisles, you will find over 30 stalls filled with delights, like Spain's famous, jamón ibérico ...


Shrimp and Squid Ink Paella

... a variety of paellas ...


Fried Squid, Shrimp and Octopus

... fried seafood ...


... fresh seafood ...


... cheeses to go and cheese served tapas-style, in all kinds of combinations ...


... bao bun tacos with Spanish fillings, if you are in the mood for Chinese-Spanish fusion ...


... and plenty of options to indulge your sweet tooth. If you are looking for one place to find multiple platos perfectos, Mercado de San Miguel is a sure bet.


Restaurante Sobrino de Botín

Restaurante Sobrino de Botín is the world's oldest, continuously operating restaurant, and they have a Guinness Book of World Records certificate to prove it. Visiting the restaurant is like stepping back in time indeed. I could almost imagine myself dining adjacent Spanish painter, Francisco Goya, or American writer, Ernest Hemingway, both of whom ate here regularly. But that is not the reason to visit Sobrino de Botín, in my opinion.


What is the reason? Two words (or three in English): conchinillo asado or roast suckling pig. These famed, Segovia suckling pigs are delivered fresh, several times a day from farms in nearby Sepúlveda, Aranda, and Riaza. The pigs are slow roasted in the restaurant's original oven from 1725. There is even a legend that the fire in that oven has never gone out.


Conchinillo Asado

And here it is, my plato perfecto. This meat was so, so tender and the skin, perfectly crispy. You could hear the crunch as diners across the restaurant cut into and enjoyed their suckling pig. If you can get a reservation, I suggest coming to Sobrino de Botín for the main meal of the day, which in Spain, is lunch. Enjoy hours of leisurely dining and conversation and partake in the Spanish, cultural tradition known as "sobremesa." It will be an afternoon, you won't forget.


La Casa de Abuelo

La Casa del Abuelo, which means, "The House of My Grandfather," opened in 1906. Eating here is indeed like going to your grandparent's house in that, nothing changes. From the food, to the warmth and the decor, I was told by locals, that this place is as authentic to its Spanish roots today, as when it opened.


Gambas al Ajillo

La Casa del Abuelo specializes in gambas (shrimp). Upon the recommendation of Andrew Zimmern, the American, celebrity chef and food writer who said, "Grab a high top table next to the window, order a glass of sweet house wine or vermouth, and the gambas al ajillo," I did just that. The shrimp came to me sizzling in a ceramic dish, served with a side of crusty bread and vermouth.


Arallo Taberna

Arallo Taberna is an innovative tapas bar with an Asian twist. The chef blends both Spanish and Asian cuisines to create new, bold and daring dishes.


Cocida Dumplings

The Michelin review read, "Don't miss the dumplings!" So, I didn't. There were several options, but I chose the cocida dumplings, stuffed with ropa vieja, which came alongside kale and croutons.

Ropa vieja literally means "old clothes," but I assure you that the dumplings were not stuffed with cloth. Ropa vieja is actually a beef stew made with tomatoes and a sofrito base. The dish gets its name from the shredded nature of the beef, which resembles long, cloth fibers.


Barracuda MX

Barracuda MX is a Mexican restaurant that transports the flavors of Mexico's Pacific Coast to Spain.


Tuetano a la Brasa

What does one find on the Pacific Coast? Fresh fish, of course, which is exactly what I ordered in the form of these wonderful, tuna tostadas. In addition to the tuna, the tostadas came with smashed avocado, pico de gallo, and roasted red and green chili salsas. The fish was served raw and lightly marinated to really showcase its freshness and natural flavors.


Bambubox

If you are looking for authentic, Thai food in Spain, look no further than Bambubox. Moreover, if you are looking for spicy food in Spain, Bambubox is the place to go as well. My palate was suffering spice withdrawals as the result of eating Spanish foods registering close to 0 on the Scoville scale.

Did I surface this issue yet? Maybe I was too diplomatic when I mentioned it in my post about tapas in Barcelona. I'll say it clearly here: spicy food is non-existent in traditional Spanish cuisine, or at least any that I have ever tasted, or heard of!


Pad Krapow Gai

Given that, I cannot tell you how elated my taste buds were to encounter the excitement of Thai chilis in this dish made of ground chicken, bell peppers, onions, fish sauce and Thai basil.


Cerveceria Alemana

Cerveceria Alemana

Cerveceria Alemana was founded by a group of Germans in 1904 and remains one of the most popular breweries and tapas spots in Madrid. In addition to locals, this restaurant was a favorite of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner.


The most frequent of its famous guests however, was the late, great, American author, Ernest Hemingway. In his article entitled "The Dangerous Summer, Part I," published in the September 1960 issue of Life magazine, Hemingway wrote that Cerveceria Alemana is "a good place to drink beer and coffee." And so, sitting in one of the favorite restaurants of one of my favorite authors, I toasted him, and did just that.


Chocolatería San Ginés

Chocolatería San Ginés

Chocolatería San Ginés, founded in 1894, is one of the oldest, chocolate shops in Madrid. It was once known as "the hidden one" due to its location in the San Ginés passageway, which is an alley off of the main thoroughfare.


Do not let that lead you to believe that this place is still hidden. In fact, it is known by just about everybody. Lining the walls are photographs of famous people including George Clooney, Antonio Banderas, Richard Gere, Sir Roger Moore, Stevie Wonder and Michael Douglas, all of whom have stopped in at Chocolatería San Ginés. What are they all stopping by for?


Chocolate Con Churros

Chocolate and churros. Both the churros and the chocolate come to you piping hot; the churros are straight from the fryer and the chocolate from the stove. The chocolate was dark and thick and creamy. The churros were crunchy and soft and chewy.


Together, as they were meant to be enjoyed, they were bliss. Chocolatería San Ginés is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. (I found this out late in my trip, which is a good thing.) I think this place is to Madrid, what Café du Monde is to New Orleans, but, it's...well,...better. Yup, I said it! You can decide for yourself though, and when you do, let me know your verdict.


Well, that's it for my time in Madrid, but it's not yet a wrap for my time in Spain. Next up is a city that is so special, it even smelled heavenly.

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