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Judith Gebhart

Best Madrid restaurant for Percebes, Baby eels ?

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We would like help in finding one outstanding Madrid restaurant featuring special seafood, shellfish, sea urchins, goose barnacles, and most important baby eels. We know the eels, barnacles and sea urchins are available during January and February. Help ASAP as we understand Galicia sends it's best products to Madrid. True? We leave mid-January, '05. Thanks, Judith Gebhart

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That's an easy one, Judith:

Combarro's thread

Combarro's site

Depending on the number of meals around seafood you want to have, you may also want to consider Rafa, O'Pazo, El Pescador and quite possibly Casa d'a Troya.

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That's an easy one, Judith:

Combarro's thread

Combarro's site

Depending on the number of meals around seafood you want to have, you may also want to consider Rafa, O'Pazo, El Pescador and quite possibly Casa d'a Troya.

Just bring plenty of cash (or credit cards...) :wink:

I thank Pedro for his referred threads about the Galician restaurant, Combarro, apparently Madrid's best Galician fare. I have to applaud both Vedat and Victor for their earlier 2003 and 2004 enlightened reports extolling the quality of Combarro's seafood offerings. This is the joy of being affiliated with eGullet. Thanks again for great options in Madrid.

I must admit our planning for this short Spanish visit began with our intention to revisit Etxebarri, Mugaritz, the Guggenheim and a few others we wanted to explore in the Basque country. Etxebarri, last year, provided us with the finest dish of baby eels we have ever experienced. His a la brasa preparation is without equal in the gastronomic world. We forgot that Etxebarri is closed on the dates we scheduled for this January visit to the Basque country. Our chance to experience this delicious Galician product is now relegated to our Madrid stay.

Thanks for your response, Luis. Unfortunately we are too well aware of the expense of these great items of the sea. The US prohibits the harvesting of any percebes and there is no market for baby eels should they be available in the US. Does anyone have an alternative argument to those Pedro mentioned? Judith Gebhart

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Angulas... Baby eels or elvers. A blast from the past.

In the good old times (say, 25 years ago), you'd go to a basic 'tasca' like De la Riva in Madrid and have your angulas in a copious salad - cold, with some olive oil, vinegar and minced garlic. A bit expensive but not at all prohibitive - something a young journalist could easily afford several times a year on those, then, frequent trips to the quirky, idiosyncratic restaurant in its old digs.

Nowadays, Spaniards settle for 'gulas', an industrial product: angula-shaped surimi. The taste isn't bad, but the texture (which is 95% of the attraction of elvers) is obviously not there.

The Japanese gave us surimi - thanks! - and we have given them most of the angulas, which they buy at impossible prices and ship back home, alive, to become fully grown eels.

How impossible? The kilo of angulas has hit 700 euros this Christmastime in Madrid. That's almost $400 a pound.

For many years now I only have had one, fixed, yearly rendez-vous with angulas: every January 6, at home. (Then if another occasion pops up, particularly if I'm not paying, I'll take it!) It's one of the gifts brought by the three Wise Men.

So today, once again, we had them, just briefly heated (never fried or sautéed!) in individual earthenware 'terrines', with a bit of hot extra virgin olive oil (La Boella, from L'Arboç in southern Catalonia - a 100%varietal of arbosana olives), dried 'guindilla' peppers and minced garlic. Also, steamed blue European lobsters with some homemade mayonnaise and the indispensable Roscón de Reyes for dessert. We drank a 2002 albariño, Veigadares.

¡Salud!

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Eight years ago to the month, I had pibales at the Haut St. James, where Amat used to cook across the river from Bordeaux. I believe these are the same baby eels known as angulas in Spain. I don't recall having the opportunity to have them ever again. They were always seasonal and rare. Now they are very rare even in season. Nowadays, if I see them listed, I either assume they are not the real thing or that I cannot afford them. They were not inexpensive then, but it seems as if the curve has been getting steeper each year. If you find them and can affored them, try them. They will not be cheaper next year.

Amat served his in a small ramekin of warm olive oil with a bit of piment d'Espelette. He had one star at the time, having lost his second star. He eventually lost his restaurant and inn. I thought it was a pity. I thought he was under rated.

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Are these the baby eels that are caught and can be eaten still in Ribadesella (in Asturias)? Perhaps there's a brief moment when the locals get to them before they are snapped up and promptly shipped to Japan...

About percebes... a naive question: I have only had them prepared very simply (boiled in a bit of salted water). Do they prepare them differently at Combarro? It's such a complex little lifeform... (an enigma wrapped in a conundrum!)

I enjoyed the percebes that I had at El Cantabrico (in Salamanca). This is a really simple lunch-counter spot (with a handfull of tables) that only serves shellfish. Very fresh stuff in my experience.

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Angulas... Baby eels or elvers. A blast from the past.

In the good old times (say, 25 years ago), you'd go to a basic 'tasca' like De la Riva in Madrid and have your angulas in a copious salad - cold, with some olive oil, vinegar and minced garlic. A bit expensive but not at all prohibitive - something a young journalist could easily afford several times a year on those, then, frequent trips to the quirky, idiosyncratic restaurant in its old digs.

Nowadays, Spaniards settle for 'gulas', an industrial product: angula-shaped surimi. The taste isn't bad, but the texture (which is 95% of the attraction of elvers) is obviously not there.

The Japanese gave us surimi - thanks! - and we have given them most of the angulas, which they buy at impossible prices and ship back home, alive, to become fully grown eels.

How impossible? The kilo of angulas has hit 700 euros this Christmastime in Madrid. That's almost $400 a pound.

For many years now I only have had one, fixed, yearly rendez-vous with angulas: every January 6, at home. (Then if another occasion pops up, particularly if I'm not paying, I'll take it!) It's one of the gifts brought by the three Wise Men.

So today, once again, we had them, just briefly heated (never fried or sautéed!) in individual earthenware 'terrines', with a bit of hot extra virgin olive oil (La Boella, from L'Arboç in southern Catalonia - a 100%varietal of arbosana olives), dried 'guindilla' peppers and minced garlic. Also, steamed blue European lobsters with some homemade mayonnaise and the indispensable Roscón de Reyes for dessert. We drank a 2002 albariño, Veigadares.

¡Salud!

Victor I am enjoying every bite you describe. When does Casa Serna offer reservations?? The Basque country serves the real deal. Does anyone in Madrid?? That is the question??

My husband pulled up an old San Sebastien restaurant we have never visited: Rekondo, reputed to serve all these exotic sea items we adore. Maybe we will have our 'fix' of angulas, elvers, baby eels before we zoom into Madrid

at the end of the month.

Victor, if you have never tasted Etxebarri's a la brasa baby eel preparation, you have a culinary first to experience. Did you use wooden spoons today for your January 6th annual repast? You really had to rub it in to those of us who cannot enjoy the delicacy you so aptly describe. I am a little green---with envy. Judith Gebhart

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Eight years ago to the month, I had pibales at the Haut St. James, where Amat used to cook across the river from Bordeaux. I believe these are the same baby eels known as angulas in Spain. I don't recall having the opportunity to have them ever again. They were always seasonal and rare. Now they are very rare even in season. Nowadays, if I see them listed, I either assume they are not the real thing or that I cannot afford them. They were not inexpensive then, but it seems as if the curve has been getting steeper each year. If you find them and can affored them, try them. They will not be cheaper next year.

Amat served his in a small ramekin of warm olive oil with a bit of piment d'Espelette. He had one star at the time, having lost his second star. He eventually lost his restaurant and inn. I thought it was a pity. I thought he was under rated.

Bux you certainly bring back memories of times in Bordeaux that no longer exist today. We were also supporters of Amat and thought he was a stellar chef in the area. We never had the tiny eels you describe. We were illiterate about anything Spain offered at the time.

We are no longer so uninformed and every area of Spain is challenging for different reasons. For this short trip to the Basque area, Valencia, Fuentespalda, and Madrid we want to experience the best of each area. The food, culture, architecture, museums excite us and we will always be energized. I am still waiting for Casa Serna's invite but I suspect it is not forthcoming. JGebhart

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About percebes... a naive question: I have only had them prepared very simply (boiled in a bit of salted water). Do they prepare them differently at Combarro? It's such a complex little lifeform... (an enigma wrapped in a conundrum!)

That's the commonest way of cooking percebes (goose barnacles), which adheres to the principle of "don't mess with the product!", principle that is The Law in many marisquerías (seafood restaurants.)

Being Galicia considered by many the epitome of these products and their associated cuisine, for many years Galician cuisine has neglected, even rejected, change and innovation. Things are changing, while preserving tradition:

Best of both worlds, or Galicia clicking on all cylinders.

Casa Marcelo

My husband pulled up an old San Sebastien restaurant we have never visited: Rekondo, reputed to serve all these exotic sea items we adore. Maybe we will have our 'fix' of angulas, elvers, baby eels before we zoom into Madrid

at the end of the month.

Judith, remember that angulas de Aguinaga (baby eels from Aguinaga) are among the most renowned in the country, and Aguinaga is just a few miles from San Sebastián. I'm not sure if there's still a significant angulas fishing activity in Aguinaga, but my point is that the Basque Country is one of the best places, if not the best, to sample angulas.

Rekondo, which has appeared in this forum a number of times, is a terrific restaurant with a more than terrific wine list.

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Did you use wooden spoons?

No: we used wooden forks, of course. Not for local color: only wooden forks will hold the little elvers; they would slide down any silver spoon, fork or any other silver utensil.

I haven't been to Etxebarri in angula season, only in summer. Or does Arguinzoniz serve them year-round? I'd really like to taste them, even if I'm a bit wary of the concept of applying the heat from embers to angulas. But I guess he knows what he's doing - he's a talented grill chef!

Rekondo is a good traditional place, and as Pedro mentions it has one of the most amazing wine lists in Spain (particularly for older Spanish and French vintages).

But it's hard to surpass the Madrid quality for raw materials - after all, many top restaurants in Spain, including those in San Sebastián, buy significant amounts of the fish they offer from Pescaderías Coruñesas, the fish emporium and 'redistribution center' in Madrid.

BTW, the other great place in Madrid for simply prepared, top-notch fish and shellfish is O'Pazo (same owners as Coruñesas). Best oven-baked wild turbot in the world, as Egon Ronay once emphatically told me. (Cooked with just a drop of vinegar and its own juices.) And the angulas are real (and fresh - no mixing with defrozen ones, a frequent scam these days.)

Chez De la Serna will happily offer reservations - for Jan. 6, 2006! :cool:

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Did you use wooden spoons?

No: we used wooden forks, of course. Not for local color: only wooden forks will hold the little elvers; they would slide down any silver spoon, fork or any other silver utensil.

I haven't been to Etxebarri in angula season, only in summer. Or does Arguinzoniz serve them year-round? I'd really like to taste them, even if I'm a bit wary of the concept of applying the heat from embers to angulas. But I guess he knows what he's doing - he's a talented grill chef!

Rekondo is a good traditional place, and as Pedro mentions it has one of the most amazing wine lists in Spain (particularly for older Spanish and French vintages).

But it's hard to surpass the Madrid quality for raw materials - after all, many top restaurants in Spain, including those in San Sebastián, buy significant amounts of the fish they offer from Pescaderías Coruñesas, the fish emporium and 'redistribution center' in Madrid.

BTW, the other great place in Madrid for simply prepared, top-notch fish and shellfish is O'Pazo (same owners as Coruñesas). Best oven-baked wild turbot in the world, as Egon Ronay once emphatically told me. (Cooked with just a drop of vinegar and its own juices.) And the angulas are real (and fresh - no mixing with defrozen ones, a frequent scam these days.)

Chez De la Serna will happily offer reservations - for Jan. 6, 2006! :cool:

Thanks Victor. You truly came through with the answer to my original question, where do I get angulas, percebes and sea urchins in Madrid? BTW what is Spanish for uni, sea urchins or oursins? O' Pazo IS THE ANSWER to our Madrid choice for superb fish or seafood restaurant! That's where we will go. The wild turbot sounds like a heavenly dish.

That was a long journey to get a good answer to my original question. The journey was worth the trip to have learned from everyone. Thanks again.

Forgive the spoon comment; I was thinking fork and wrote spoon. We always saved our wooden forks. About 5 years ago, it dawned on me that you couldn't eat angulas any other way.

I have the wooden forks but no fresh angulas in Chicago. So I will have to visit Chez de la Serna next January 6th and bring our wooden forks to defray the expense!? Happily answered at last, Judith Gebhart

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BTW what is Spanish for uni, sea urchins or oursins?

It's erizos de mar, or, in Asturias (the region where they're the most prized), oricios.

Re O'Pazo vs. Combarro (the Ortega y Gasset branch is more attractive in its showy seafood palace style): don't get me wrong, these two are equally brilliant seafood restaurants, and the angulas are the real thing in either one!

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The Week of January the 10th, 2005

Top Metrópoli goes for the best restaurants preparing Sea Urchins.

Just in case anyone is looking for erizos in Madrid, here are nine suggestions from Metropoli as reported in Rogelio's DIGEST this week.

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The Week of January the 10th, 2005

Top Metrópoli goes for the best restaurants preparing Sea Urchins.

Just in case anyone is looking for erizos in Madrid, here are nine suggestions from Metropoli as reported in Rogelio's DIGEST this week.

When we talk about erizos I cannot help to think about La Gastroteca de Stéphane y Arturo, one of the places I really miss in Madrid. They used to grill them in the oven with some cayenne and a quail's egg. Together with an aged trocken riesling... it was heaven!

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