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Virbonus

Madrid and Toledo Restaurant Experiences

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We've just come from 4 days in Madrid and an evening in Toledo. In Madrid we ate at Casa Salvador where my wife's oxtails were superb but I can only rate the flavor of my tripe as good, though it was cooked perfectly. I thought Barbara was going to swoon over the roasted marrow bone and beef at Sacha. She started with a fresh tomato salad in a very light balsamic vinaigrette that was perfection. I had the fried artichokes - paper thin slices of baby artichokes fried in olive oil that had the texture of potato chips but were pure artichoke flavor. I followed that with brains that were superb - lightly battered and fried, slightly crunchy on the outside, milky soft inside. Barbara had a chocolate thing for desert and she flipped. I had something akin to creme caramel, but I have no idea what it was, other than outrageously good. I think it had cielo in the name, but since I asked the maitre d' to just pick out deserts for us I'm not sure what we had.

Then on Tuesday we went to David Muñoz's Diverxo. Extraordinary. And that's saying something because we got off to a really bad start. Twenty minutes to get a glass of wine ordered from the time we were seated. Then, when asked if I'd like chopsticks to which I replied in the affirmative, none ever arrived, but the food transcended all. An amuse bouche of edamame seasoned, perhaps with sumac and something else with a buttermilk-like garlic dipping sauce. Then we both had the seven course tasting menu (the other choice being the thirteen course menu). The seven courses were actually around eleven since a course would often be divided into two halves served sequentially, like the poached prawn (it was called something else) that arrived followed by the grilled, seasoned, head and body with the juices from the body drizzled over the poached tail. Somewhere in the middle were white asparagus wrapped in the skin of red mullet - actually the meal involved parts of red mullet in several of the dishes, such as a pate of red mullet liver on a thin crisp. The courses that I sort of remember include the soup served in a young coconut shell where eating the coconut meat was a desired part of the experience, a steamed roll with a quail's egg yolk barely poached on top, an extraordinary piece of tuna cheek that tasted like a sous-vide cooked short rib, and a piece of ox cheek that had been slow roasted for 112 hours, a small piece of hake served sauced accompanied by a horseradish cream and spherified lime, and a desert which I no longer remember. Very, very highly recommended.

Yesterday, we made our way to Toledo, where completely by chance we went for lunch to Adolfo. It turns out that the chef, Adolfo Muñoz, is David Muñoz's uncle. And he cooks like it. Not modernist, but brilliantly. Barbara had a simple "small" salad ordered off the menu which was beautiful and then a scallops and artichokes starter with fresh baby artichokes and incredibly dense scallops barely accented with maldon salt flakes that were perfect. I had a risotto of black rice cooked with squid ink and baby calamari and manchego cheese that was off the charts followed by red partridge that was excellent, but paled in comparison to the risotto. Excellent.

Now we're off to Lisbon.

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