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Galicias Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


MiguelCardoso
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Like many old-fashioned Portuguese foodies, I spend a week or two in Galicia every autumn or winter, generally in the lavish but agreeably cheap La Toya Hotel, with daily excursions to nearby O Grove for scallop-munching and shrimp-swallowing purposes. This year, due to professional obstacles, I can only make it mid-February - which is a tad late for this traditional break. So I'd like to stay somewhere different and taste what's new and exciting in Galicia (although I'd still like access to the traditional, fresh winter seafood which is irresistible there). I'll be staying for two weeks. Do any members have suggestions of restaurants I should definitely visit? Or, logistically speaking, of where I should be based, in order to maxiimize our gastronomic pleasure? We have a car and are willing to move about. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thank you.

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As you would know, Galician food is devoted to the product very simply cooked.

Albeit the restaurants mencioned by Victor in the Gastronomic tours around Spain thread:

Galicia: The land of shellfish and boiled turnip greens is finally jumping on the bandwagon of diversity and creativity, without renouncing its terrific raw materials. Key restaurants: Toñi Vicente, Casa Marcelo, Taberna de Rotilio, Alameda de Doña Antonia, Pepe Vieira, La Oca, Casa Alberto.

Here you have another options:

· El Refugio (Oleiros) Fastuous seafood at very high prices.

· Roberto (San Julián de Sales-Vedra) Trying to innovate in the galician traditions

· Casa Pardo (La Coruña) Very good traditional rest.

· Casa Solla (San Salvador de Poio). A classic near Pontevedra.

· El Manjar (La Coruña) A fine restaurant with a superb spanish omelette.

· La Barra (Lugo) A good option if you go to the interior.

My recos: Casa Marcelo in Santiago (Innovative food in a settled menu, there is not other choice) and La taberna de Rotilio in Sanxenxo.

And going in Febrary you have the choice to try Lamprea, a primitive fish cooked like a civet (In its own blood) very hard to find the rest of the year. Casa Pardo is a good option.

Oh, 2004 is a Xacobeo year, this mean that Santiago will be mighty crowded with hungry pilgrims, so make your reservations in advance.

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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I strongly agree with Rogelio for the “Roberto” choice, which is in a tiny small town very close from Santiago de Compostela. You can easily take a taxi to get there if you don’t feel like driving. I would add to the list a place called “Tira do Cordel”, a little and not very fashioned place in Finisterre where you would it one of the best sea bass ever. Very good for seafood.

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Thanks a million, Rogelio - those should keep us busy and happy, I think.

Also, thanks for the vserna heads-up!

P.S. I've already had lamprey this year - last Thursday, in fact. There's a little place called A Tasca do João, two minutes walk from where I live in Lisbon, which serves little else during the season. Everybody gets really edgy around the New Year, knowing the "lampreia" is about to arrive from the Minho. I'm curious about the ways they prepare it in Galicia, though. Here, it's mostly always in the form of "arroz de lampreia" or bordelais-style.

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Actually, Roberto is located in a beautiful old typical Galician house, and it has a couple of comfortable rooms to expend the night if you wish: breakfast there is a complete amazement. That would be a good choice for being close to Santiago. I would also recommend a hotel called “Casa Grande de Cornide”, which is also outside Santiago: very quiet and very nice installations.

I’ve also heard of a hotel called “El Semáfaro” close to Finisterre, which is located in an old lighthouse. I’ve never been able to get a room, as it’s always booked, but it shouldn´t be any problem for that time of the year.

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We were in Galicia in January 1999. That's not quite recent enough to have much to say that's pertinent, but I'll start by adding my recommendation for Restaurante Roberto in San Xulian de Sales (near Santiago). We had rather simple and traditional seafood preparations for our savory dishes, but inventive desserts. There was a Belgian waiter/sommelier at the time and with few diners on winter weekday night, he had a lot of time to devote to talking to us. It's a simple place. When he asked if I would like to see the wine celler, I was rather surprised to be taken to to a residentially sized wine refrigerator in the kitchen where he pointed out a selection of older, rarer and mostly French wines. We drank a recent vintage Albariño, by the way. The lady of the house, who I believe is the wife of the chef was very sweet and gracious.

In Pontevedra, we ate at Doña Antonia, where I distinctly recall a carpaccio of lubina w/lemon juice & olive oil--Ensalada Lubin on the carte. We asked if it was a new dish and were told it's been on the menu for some ten or fifteen years as I recall, but that only recently have locals been willing to try raw fish. If memory serves, I think Doña Antonia had a star, but I see it doesn't in the current Michelin though it has a Campsa sol. I also believe the chef is a daughter of Toni Vincente who has a very well respected restaurant in Santiago de Compostela and that there's another restaurant in Pontevedra with another famility member in the kitchen. As I recall, it was closed for annual vacation when we were there and our choice was therefore made for us. Toni Vincente is probably an obvious choice and would have been for us, had it not also been closed.

One "find" for us, although of no creative interest, was Reveca, a rather plain family restaurant in A Cañiza, in the province of Pontevedra near the border. It may not be worth recommending to a native or to someone from Portugal, but as foreigners we lucked out by ordering simple food. Bacalao Reveca (olive oli, red peppers & sliced potatoes) and roast Cabrito Lechal. Maybe this is the kind of food that's hard to find poorly prepared anywhere in the vicinity or maybe local connoissseurs would have been less impressed, but we loved the food, and found the portions big enough to share. It was a Sunday lunch and the place was packed in contrast to the empty restaurants we generally enountered in Galica and Castilla-y-León, although I credit the day rather than the food for most of that. I mean the food was excellent, but equally so at places that were empty on other days. The deserts we had were forgetable.

The La Toya Hotel, closed for the season when we were in the area, fascinated us. It seemed very much a place that hasn't changed it's style over the years and a bit of a time capsule, although it seemed as if the island was very developed with modern residences. It seemed like a comfortable and restful place, though perhaps in the summer season if full of families it might seem quite different. Above all, it seemed quite local and we wondered if it got many visitors from northern Europe.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Miguel, where are you staying, at La Toya again? We stayed in Pontevedra at the Parador there which was very nice. The one in Santiago de Compostela is like a movie set for El Cid (Bux's comment) but it is centrally located. Anyway, if you decide to stay at the Paradores, check out their website for specials. You need to become a member. Membership is free. At this time of the year the prices for Galician Paradores must be very reasonable. Just don't eat dinner at any of them :sad:

WorldTable • Our recently reactivated web page. Now interactive and updated regularly.
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Thanks to everyone from myself as well, I am planning to (perhaps) visit Galicia this summer (June).

Which brings me to my question; is June a poor time in the season for seafood?

It is rather out of the way (we are otherwise only going to be near Madrid, Donostia and Barcelona), so if it is not worth going...perhaps the 4 days intended there could be better spent elsewhere. Comments appreciated!

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Thanks to everyone from myself as well, I am planning to (perhaps) visit Galicia this summer (June).

Which brings me to my question; is June a poor time in the season for seafood?

It is rather out of the way (we are otherwise only going to be near Madrid, Donostia and Barcelona), so if it is not worth going...perhaps the 4 days intended there could be better spent elsewhere. Comments appreciated!

I'd say that June is definitely not the best month for seafood. It’s been always said that the months not including the “r” (May, June, July and August) are the worst of all of them, because of the temperature of the water. Seafood needs cold waters. ITOH, you might have nice days on that time of the year, and Galicia is worth a visit.

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Galicia is certainly worth a visit, the only question to be answered is where would you spend the time if you didn't go to Galicia and when would you get as good a chance to take a side trip to Galicia. Our trip took several days to get there and then we spent several days in Galicia. For one thing, my wife traces her family roots to Galica and she had that curiosity going for her. Along the way we got the chance to see some sights in Burgos, Frómista, Palencia, León and Astorga. There's a kind of a gem of an early, really student like, building by Gaudi. It's not at all like his mature work in Barcelona. In June the trip might be more interesting along the coast, however.

Madrid, Donostia and Barcelona are quite distant from each other. How are you traveling between them? How would you get to Galicia? If you are going to Barcelona, are you seeing and eating in other places in Catalunya? From Donostia, it might be more reasonable to tour Navarra or La Rioja, than to go all the way to Galicia. Cantabira and Asturias, both of which I have not been to, are probably worth a visit and nearer than Galica.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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No one's mentioned this yet but how has that oil spill affected both the region and the seafood?? It's been about a year and a half since the tanker sank and I'm wondering whether this has had any adverse effects that I, as a tourist, would experience. The most palpable issue I think would be price increases in seafood but I haven't noticed a marked increase in other Spanish cities like Barcelona or Madrid.

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I spent a week in Galicia (Lugo and La Coruña) last August, and concerning to the beaches, it was very clean of fuel already. The oil spill became a big political problem, and everyone did their best to calm things down as soon as possible…

I don’t think there is any kind of seafood restriction at this moment, and the quality of seafood doesn’t seem to have been affected. Prices are quite the same from what they were before the catastrophe.

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I wonder if the temporary shortage of seafood from the region wasn't offset by a public fear of eating seafood from that coast. It's possible that the latter offset the former.

For what it's worth, and that's very little that's relevant to this, my wife knows an engineer who had been working on the clean up and who's now gone on to some project in Sierra Leone. I believe he spent some months at sea on a Norwegian ship and nothing nice to say about the food on board.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 1 month later...

Hey, thanks Pedro! I've been madly jotting down your suggestions for my next excursion.

Because I started working on a new food column for the "Diário de Notícias" I haven't made it to Galicia yet, although my travel diary is now choc-a-bloc with recommendations. This pseudonymous Spanish columnist seems to really know his Galicia - and he's similarly intransigent and old-fashioned. I'm sure you know his work - I discovered it by chance and found it simply outstanding, specially on the Galician stuff.

Another excuse, perhaps more sincere, is that I discovered a brand-new restaurant in Lisbon, called "Tertúlia do Paço", in the Rua Fernando Lopes Graça, 13-A (telephone: 351-21-758-1456, ask for the genial maître d', Senhor Varela) which has a hi-tech salt-water holding tank (meaning it's only to keep the shellfish alive for the 24 hours between reception and serving) and a complex supplier-net, extending all over Portugal, Galicia, Asturias, Navarre and Brittany, which delivers the best live scallops, "lagostins", "percebes", oysters, red shrimp, "gambas", "bruxas" (slipper lobsters, "santiaguinhos" in Galician); "orelhas do mar" (abalones) and "pepinos do mar" (sea cucumbers).

It also has a fantastic variety of fresh, daily fish and - for those who can't afford it - a traditionally roasted suckling pig.

I've only been there 5 times (in the last two weeks) and it's severely ruined my finances, but, you know how it is, I'm in love!

So I'm well consoled! :)

Edited by MiguelCardoso (log)
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  • 2 years later...

One annual attraction every summer in the region of Galicia in Spain is the numerous food festivals which are celebrated in the different towns in Galicia. These fiestas are not very old and a kind of excuse to boost tourism, but they are immensely popular and a fun way to get together and enjoy some good food an drink. Most of the food has to do with typical Galician dishes and drink: A Feira do polbo (octopus) in Carballiño, A feira da empanada (meat pies) in Bandeira; a festa do albariño in Cambados. One I often attend is A festa da Tortilla in Laro (Pontevedra). The tortilla (the spanish potato omelette) is not exclusive to Galicia, but it is common there. Plus the ingredients are especially prized. Galician poatoes are considered the best in Spain. They have good flavor and texture and hold up well to cooking. Galician eggs are quite good too and their darker yellow color of the yoke can give them almost an orange tone.

Laro isn't especially famous for its tortilla either but, what the heck, a fiesta is a fiesta. It's a small town of only a couple of hundred that swells to several thousand. The fiesta is held on the evening of the first Friday in August in a large oak tree grove (called a carballeida). Families and friends spend the day making tortillas which will later placed on a common table for anyone to take and try. They also bring along their own tables and chairs and set up a picnic with steaks, octopus, empanada, red wine (often Mencía). Then there's the dancing and music until dawn!

Galician fiestas gastronomicas are worth considering next time you are in the region during the summer.

Brian Murdock

Madrid, Spain

Teacher/writer

www.murdockmedia.com

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Hello Brian, wellcome to eGullet.

I've been to some of this gastronomic fiestas, but have never heard about the tortillas in Laro. I've always heard about the famous Betanzos ommelettes in La Coruña. Are they following the same style with lots of eggs and few and crunchy potatoes?

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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Thanks Rogelio! I look forward to participating in this forum whenever I can. Funny you should mention Betanzos. I "discovered" that beautiful town last spring and fell in love with it. Well worth the visit. I didn't know of tortilla de Betanzos, but when I was there I learned about two other food specialties it has. One is its cheese. Apparently there is a fiesta del quexio de Betanzos (I think in March). Betanzos is also famous for its local red wine (vino de Betanzos) which the locals call a kind of viño do pais. It's a light-bodied wine (and low-alcohol) and comes in both red and white, but I think the red is more common.

What I found interesting was the custom they have there regarding the wine. Apparently when the wine is ready for consumption, the bars and homes which offer it will hang a laurel branch on their doors so that the customer will know it's available. The branch remains on the door while stocks last. And I get the feeling that isn't very long! The fiesta del vino de Betanzos is in May.

Brian Murdock

Madrid, Spain

Teacher/writer

www.murdockmedia.com

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I would love to hear more about the various festivals. Brian, do you live in Spain?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Yes, I do live in Spain. In Madrid. Glad to hear you are interested in those festivals. They are very fun and agat way to get to know Spanish cuisine surrounded by thousands of Spaniards! The gastronomic fiestas are all over the place, but Galicia seems to lead the way these days. I will try to mention some from time to time, like for example the the Octopus (pulpo) Festival in Carballiño (province of Ourense), which is held in mid-August (soory you just missed it!). Octopus is one of the most typical dishes of Galicia and contrary to popular belief it is not a coastline fare. As many Galicians will tell you, if you want good pulpo, you have to go inland. The town of Carballiño is an hour from the shore. The process is fairly straightforward. They boil it, slice up the tentacles with a pair of scissors and place the pieces on a wooden plate. Then they smother the octopus bits with chunky salt, olive oil and paprika, sometimes add a potato or two, and serve it. Usually it's placed in the middle of the table for all to share. Galicians prefer to use a toothpick to pluck the octopus, not a fork. They take a piece of bread and use it as a kind of saucer as they bring the octopus to their mouth. That way, any dripping olive oil will be caught and soaked up. Then they'll eat the bread later. Pulpo is often accompanied by Galician mencia red wine.

By the way, one of the most important factors to successful pulpo is making sure it's tender enough. Nothing worse than the chewy stuff. One of the most common ways of ensuring that is by freezing it before cooking.

Brian Murdock

Madrid, Spain

Teacher/writer

www.murdockmedia.com

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Yes, I do live in Spain.  In Madrid.  Glad to hear you are interested in those festivals.  They are very fun and agat way to get to know Spanish cuisine surrounded by thousands of Spaniards!  The gastronomic fiestas are all over the place, but Galicia seems to lead the way these days.  I will try to mention some from time to time, like for example the the Octopus (pulpo) Festival in Carballiño (province of Ourense), which is held in mid-August (soory you just missed it!).  Octopus is one of the most typical dishes of Galicia and contrary to popular belief it is not a coastline fare.  As many Galicians will tell you, if you want good pulpo, you have to go inland.  The town of Carballiño is an hour from the shore.  The process is fairly straightforward.  They boil it, slice up the tentacles with a pair of scissors and place the pieces on a wooden plate.  Then they smother the octopus bits with chunky salt, olive oil and paprika, sometimes add a potato or two, and serve it.  Usually it's placed in the middle of the table for all to share.  Galicians prefer to use a toothpick to pluck the octopus, not a fork.  They take a piece of bread and use it as a kind of saucer as they bring the octopus to their mouth.  That way, any dripping olive oil will be caught and soaked up.  Then they'll eat the bread later.  Pulpo is often accompanied by Galician mencia red wine.

By the way, one of the most important factors to successful pulpo is making sure it's tender enough.  Nothing worse than the chewy stuff.  One of the most common ways of ensuring that is by freezing it before cooking.

I find it very interesting and antiintuitive that "the best octopus" is to be found inland. Not being able to confirm or dispute this statement, but taking it at face value, can anyone provide any insight as to why this would be?

On another note, how long is the octopus boiled for and in what?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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