Friday, September 25, 2009

El Bulli, Roses: 1/3 - Arrival, Snacks

September 1st, 2009. 8 PM.

It's hard to anticipate something for 10 months. It's even harder when it's The Best Restaurant In the World. You know I mean that ironically, right?  But it wasn't too long after Luis Garcia 'found a solution' in December 2008 for my friend Andre that El Bulli was voted into that title again for the 4th consecutive year and the 5th in total (2002). Every year the Top 50 list is peculiar (for example, it's unlikely that the best Japanese restaurant in the world is in New York, or that the list's only restaurant in Japan should be French and get tepid reviews domestically).  But it's still a list, and El Bulli is still #1. Again. And again. No one else has a list, not even Michelin. You have to respect the magazine for being bold enough to do something this silly, and you have to respect the restaurant for doing whatever it's doing to keep being #1. Even if it's just marketing.

Of course, El Bulli has been doing this at the same level for a long time. Many restaurants get tired, bored, old, after this many years. The chef moves on to other things, whether it's a different style or a different venue or an international chain of burger shops that cash in on his good name while providing a franchised version of the service and dishes that made him famous. In other cases, chefs reach fame and simply stop what they're doing - same menu, same dishes, same service, everything petrified (and in the worst case, Bernard Loiseau). Read a good essay about this by someone who knows much better than me here.  This is what was on my mind as we dressed for dinner, overlooking the Mediterranean. Did I mention how much I enjoyed staying in Cadaques? It's a 45-minute drive to El Bulli, but well worth it. No, the road through the national park is not drivable. We hiked some of it it in the morning, and it's a hiking trail.

The drive has distinct parts if you do it this way - back over the hills out of the sheltered Cadaques bay, down the mountain to Roses, a short tour of town that makes you glad you're not staying there, and then up another hill into scrubby brushland, exposed rock faces and pine trees. After twisting through this landscape, you start to see the ocean again, and then this is your first glimpse of the small bay where El Bulli lives. I'm glad it was still twilight so we could really appreciate it. Some reviewers describe the descent along the hills overlooking the bay as 'terrifying' or 'dangerous dirt roads'. They are wrong. It's really beautiful. The road is paved. Although it doesn't have guard rails...

It's quiet and pleasant - the only other things there are a hostel and some beachfront amenities. If you blow up this picture, you'll just be able to see the restaurant sign - the small lit patch in the middle. This sort of modesty can cut two ways - they're certainly under-promising and trying to reset your expectations by not having a more grand approach. But they can't reset you all the way - after 10 months (and maybe some previous failed attempts to get a booking) you come here expecting the Meal of Your Life at The Best Restaurant In the World. I wondered whether they were interested in delivering that experience.

The view from the parking lot is beautiful, no? While we contemplate this, a few points I'd like to mention.

Many people go to El Bulli in the wrong frame of mind. They expect to get bread with the food. They expect to get food with the food. It's not necessarily like that. You have to expect to be fed and surprised, and hopefully delighted, and you'll leave full.

But I say 'not neccessarily' advisedly - the dishes we ended up having are almost completely different from what I saw in reviews from previous years. I saw a TV piece that really decided my view of El Bulli. Anthony Bourdain visited the restaurant and sat at the kitchen table. As they ate together, (chef Ferran) Adria was beside himself with excitement over each dish - he wanted to see Bourdain eat it, and hopefully enjoy it, because he loved them so much. After seeing that, I no longer gave any credence to the idea that El Bulli is making stuff up for the sake of it, or, as other reviewers put it, 'chemistry experiment', 'emperor's new clothes', 'made me gag'. Those reviewers are wrong. I was convinced that the chefs were there to make things that taste good, and they really meant all of what they served. They've got different tongues from me, and I from you, so they might like something I found vile. I also suspect that, as consistently adventurous eaters, they're used to lots of things that freak out other people, but as long as the intention is there, why not give it a fair go? And a fair go is required, since the menu changes all the time and is probably never less than adventurous. If you manage to go, chances of you having any of the dishes that will follow are slim.

I hope that wasn't too pompous. It just pains me when people make confident blanket statements based solely on their own perceptions, like "The food was crap" or "Those reviewers are wrong."

These stairs are just to the right of the front door, but I never found out where they go. The lights you can see at the left are actually the kitchen. They do make food in the kitchen. It's not all chemically grown and brought in on flatbeds.

The greeting at the door was as muted as the sign. I don't actually recall them saying 'Welcome' or 'Hey, it's El Bulli!' or anything. It was more like "We all know why we're here, so let's skip the chitchat and get to work, OK?" Any excitement would be unseemly.

Another piece of evidence in Adria's favor - he's in the kitchen every night. Wearing an apron. I'll always remember how I went to Charlie Trotter in 1997 and Chef was there, stopping by our table to say a tweed jacket and obviously on his way out the door. I don't require a chef to be sweating it out every night, but I certainly appreciate the passion or obsessiveness of one who does. On this night, when we walked through the kitchen (as everyone is required to do before eating; it's part of the ritual), he was right there (on the right), looking pensive and a bit distracted. We shook hands. As everyone is required to do.

And here, the view from the first table. As with the other elements of service, I felt like there wasn't much interactivity. We weren't going to say no to taking our aperitifs and snacks on the terrace, overlooking the Mediterranean, but there wasn't really an option. Like the greeting, like the kitchen tour, it's a bit perfunctory. Maybe Basques are like that. Maybe you shouldn't expect to have the Best Meal of Your Life anywhere, just be happy if you get it. (I should say up front that I really enjoyed the experience, so any grumpiness is minor in the overall picture.)

Another thing, I didn't take any notes. I take too many pictures as it is, so I resolved early in the trip that I'd just take the pictures, and if a dish wasn't memorable enough for me to remember what was in it, that would be fine.

Everyone starts with cocktails. Previous years have included much more dramatic things, like carved ice blocks filled with margarita foam onto which rock salt is freshly grated. Ours was pleasantly understated - mojitos and caipirinhas. In stick form. These are made by soaking fresh sugarcane in the appropriate liquor; you bite and suck, then discard the pulp. I think it's a play on the fact that sugarcane becomes sugar, and then rum, and then mojitos, but I don't like reading that much into things. Good.

And snacks started at the same time. This 'handkerchief' was an eat-with-your-hands sheet of corn-flavored paper. Sweet, nutty and delicious, a favorite of everyone. Very good.

Did I say nutty? One of the oddest surprises of this meal was the way the menu revolved around nuts. I haven't noticed this single-theme bias in other people's reviews, so I can conclude only that we were a little unlucky in what happened to be on offer this year. This month. Today.

The second batch of cocktails was a gin fizz, I believe. It was really another quick burst of surprise, since the gin mixture was topped by a hot foam.

Which had the consistency of real shaving cream, if you've ever had a shave from a barber who uses a foam dispenser. Hot foam on top of a cold drink was neat. There was too much happening on the table as the snacks below arrived, so it was lukewarm by the time I got close to the bottom. Part of the difficulty is that they serve so many things so quickly here; if you're OK snacking on them, it's cool, but I suspect many people try to eat everything as it comes, which is tough. You're all keyed up for the meal of Your Life, it's natural to gobble a little.

With little ado, they serve what may be El Bulli's signature dish - olives. There were actually people at our table who had not read about these, and I think that's great. Makes it all the more surprising. Also a good introduction to the 'specific eating techniques' portion of the evening - you'll be in serious trouble if you try to nibble.

Because they're not olives, they're gelatinous spheres filled with olive oil and concentrated olive flavor. They're good. Many people think they're a-MAZ-ing. I DO think the concept and execution are excellent, and a perfect illustration of the restaurant's philosophy. I love how they serve them in jars filled with oil and herbs, and they look mostly like the olives you expect, but they're different and in some ways better. They're not olives, they're their own great thing. If you were to say "I had olives at Cal Pep for 1 Euro that blew these away!", you'd be stating your preference for traditionally-constituted things, not invalidating the existence of El Bulli. Don't lay your trip on them, maaaaaan.

These peanuts were another technical dish, since they were thin, frozen shells filled with peanut butter. Clever, nutty (did someone say nutty?), eat-in-two-seconds-or-else...I tried and failed to perform the necessary, and ended up with peanut butter on my hands when the shell flash-melted and sort of exploded. Fortunately not on my pants.

Someone said 'nuts' again. These are sesame with sesame. I don't remember the technical details or texture; they weren't outstanding, but were a nice snack.

And this is vanilla film. The play between salty and sweet continues throughout the night, and is a bit unsettling for normal eaters (including me). Come to think of it, this may not actually have been sweet, and I may just be confused in memoriam by the fact that it was vanilla.

This was the first of several 'Asian moments', most of which were slightly disappointing to those at our table who are or who live in Asia. Which was everyone. Thankfully the course was not the unmitigated Japanese-fest of some prior years, and these nuggets were also a good idea. They're actually cherries, pickled like umeboshi. More sweet, less sour, refreshing (it was actually getting a bit hot on the terrace already)...would be worth trying at home if you could get ready access to a lot of cherries. And these cool bent-metal plates.

So that's it for the 'approach shots'. I'm not counting courses, but I think those were about 35% nut-oriented. Most people who are expecting the Meal of Their Life start keeping score around this point; the corn paper handkerchief was a terrific combination of flavor and technique, while the drinks were fun and the cherries were a neat twist. I didn't like the vanilla film, but others did. And that's fine - those are the expectations you should have.

Some people will be puzzled...
While others will be overjoyed.
At any rate, we were having plenty of fun, and more than ready to get into the serious food.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rosa Azul, Cadaques

September 1st, 2009. 1 PM.

Attempting to learn our lesson from the previous day, when the massive lunch had provoked several hours of nap and a relative lack of interest in dinner, we swore to keep things light before The Best Restaurant In the World. As usual, there were some minor problems with the ordering. Guilty as charged, Your Honor.

But you almost don't need to eat, do you, when this is the view over your table and out to sea? I had eyed this place every time we drove or walked by, and it seemed like just the casual, light thing to do of an afternoon even if the weather was a bit overcast.

A bit of stucco, some tables facing the bay, cheap tapas...Rosa Azul has a good location and trades on it. The inside is cave-like and populated with British working holiday-makers. But we would have sat outside unless threatened with bodily harm.

Just normal food here, done normally. This is Spanish omelette, or tortilla as it's known in my country. Actually, it would be nice to know how tortilla became tortilla chips, which are related in almost no way I can think of - totally different ingredients (excepting maybe water) and preparation method. If anything, the color of the sliced and cooked products are similar. That's pretty thin. Another pretty thin thing was the taste of the tomato bread here; the Spanish do seem to delight in using cheap bread and cheap tomatoes and pretending that putting them together makes them better overall.

Canned tuna on tomato bread. I love canned tuna.

Manchego cheese. Really ticking boxes here, aren't we? After a couple days in Spain these were the first tortilla, tuna and Manchego we had eaten. These did not enrich our lives in any perceptible way. 

This ham sort of did though - it was definitely a different experience then you may be used to. The slices were thick, as was the flavor - dark and a bit harsh, with a side-order of chewiness. I guess the value of this lunch was in seeing what more normal people eat, or at least people on holidays going to cheap restaurants (though if you were on a budget you probably wouldn't want to go here. Or anywhere else in Cadaques. You'd go to the supermarket and buy this stuff, then eat just across the street, actually on the beach.).

Did I mention the view? That was the real value of this lunch. While we ate, the weather cleared up a bit, making it perfect for parking in front of a beer, looking at the water and passerby. This would be an everyday thing if you summered in Cadaques, and such a consommation is devoutly to be wished. It might take a few days to slump into the swing of things, downshifting to the proper speed, but then you'd be reclined by the water, beer in hand (I'd pardon you for choosing sangria), grunting occasionally in pale imitation of conversation.

Did I mention the view? The other value in this lunch was in putting us in just the right frame of mind to sit for a few minutes on the balcony back at the hotel, admiring the yachts and the distant lighthouse, before falling asleep to the distant sound of waves on the pebbled beach. And then of course getting up and dressed for dinner.

Casa Nun, Cadaques

August 31, 2009. 9 PM.

Massive fooding fail. That was all I kept thinking as we walked back to town for dinner after having a short walk and a long sleep to work off the colossal pasta lunch. Pictures don't do justice to how much we ate at Els Pescadors...but still, there were things to do. Walks to be walked. Dinners to be dined. Practice to stay in shape for the next night's extravaganza at the Best Restaurant In the World.

Under the guise of a random walk, we eventually found ourselves in front of Casa Nun, which I confess was recommended by some online forums. But seriously, we did walk around the waterfront and old town quite completely, and I don't think there's a better-looking place to be had. The main square in particular is a bit bereft of interesting options facing the packed-earth petanques area. It's as if everyone wants to eat exotic food on vacations, and exotic food for the French and Spanish people who vacation in Cadaques consists mainly of pizza.

Here's the House of Nun - flowery print half-wall paper, green moldings, cane's a quaint mix of seaside and turn-of-the-last century parlor. Lovely! It's also tucked into the northwest corner of the harbor and set back a bit from the road, behind a large olive tree. Somehow, there was a table outside on the terrace, and all that was just too good to refuse. I loved the service as well; throughout dinner we wondered about the family relationships and even countries of origin, but the basic fact is that the woman who served us was really lovely. When we attempted a further fooding fail, she proactively saved us.

Just something light, OK? Settle the stomach, stay healthy and tip-top, all that rot, what. Perhaps this is how gazpacho is done in Spain. Both times I saw it during the week, the presentation followed this two-stage approach. A big bowl of tomato soup comes first...

...followed by a plate of condiments. The interactivity is nice, but do they really think you're not going to eat some of these? My favorite bit is the quail eggs in the background. Nothing too exciting here, but pleasant and soothing, with a few croutons and fresh peppers for textural interest .

This is where we realized we were in danger if a larger fail - early signs of stomach rejection ocurred at the sight of just one of these bowls, nay tureens, of tomato soup. We started discussing among ourselves that we were in trouble, and the waitress heard us and came back to ask if there was any problem with the food (Mr. Nun had taken our order in mixed languages). She talked us back through our order and let us cancel the whole fish that we had ordered, which was a real blessing.

Because there was this plate of squids to be attacked. Perhaps not quite the equal of the ones at Cervesaria Catalana, but it's difficult to go wrong with a freshly-grilled cuttlefish and his good friend Mr. Lemon.

And even harder to do so with good-quality ham. If you keep following this blog through the massive dinners coming up and then into the bits after, you'll see The World's Best Ham, but until then, please be content with this. It had a very deep and rich flavor but was a bit too salty for all of us; I'm sorry that I wasn't yet sufficiently-versed in ham to enquire about the salting method, or the hanging time, or which part of the leg they cut these soft, whispery slices from. We just kept working on it until it was done, drinking white wine from plain, flat tumblers. These slices of bread, rubbed with tomato, are of course a very normal thing in Spain but not something that has appeared here yet.

Suitably relieved at not attempting to eat a fish on top of the above, we decided that we might as well dessert (the verb). This was some type of airy lemon tart, not overly memorable. But big. No one will accuse Mr. Nun of having "terrible food...and such small portions."

This was a chocolate-nut cake - foreshadowing, perhaps, the nut-dependent dinner at The Best Restaurant In the World. More on that shortly.

Another funny feature of the Cadaques waterfront at night is the street performers. It's either quaint or irritating depending on who's doing it. While we were at Casa Nun, we were first treated to a long-haired guy doing Bob Dylan covers in a heavy Spanish accent (this was not the quaint part) and then instrumental favorites from a West African guy who lives in France and spends the summers in Cadaques. His music was nice to listen to, and he was forthcoming with the loan of his guitar, which finished off dinner perfectly and left us ready to brave the dark, quiet walk back along the water to the hotel.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Els Pescadors, Cadaques

August 31st, 2009. 2 PM

Thanks to providence, we survived a day of tourism and eating in Barcelona. That afternoon may even have included a visit to Sagrada Familia, but my memories are hazy. Something that was also hazy was the sky the next morning. We suffered through a mediocre breakfast of bread and coffee at a cafe (when in Europe...) on the edge of the Barri Gothic near the water where the other patrons were of indeterminate status - up early or still up late? -  and were playing Europop on a boombox. After that we went to Europcar, rented our Europeancar, and, pausing only for a short freestyle detour through the gridless one-way streets of the Barcelona waterfront, we were on the highway to The Beach. The sky was no longer hazy when we got there. Hellz Bellz!
You've been to Europe more than me, no doubt. And you've probably visited the Amalfi Coast, or Greece, or Croatia or somewhere equally picturesque with vibrant blue ocean, similar sky, and white houses on overlooking cliffs. If so, lucky you, and feel free to tune out to your own memories. As for me, I was really looking forward to seeing Cadaques. Based on a few grainy blowups on the worldwidenetz, it seemed to deserve its reputation as the quaintest of towns on the Costa Brava as well as the one closest to France. After all, this was the place where Picasso and Dali chose to vacation (which makes you wonder if there's something in the water). It wasn't the most convenient way to get to El Bulli, but the nearest town for that is the dull-looking Roses, and we were taken with the idea of a hotel with balconies overlooking our own Mediterranean bay. As a result I had agitated for a schedule that involved leaving Barcelona early, getting to Cadaques by lunch, and spending most of two days there.

Staying at a hotel on the outskirts provided a nice opportunity to walk a bit - a pleasant 10 minutes each way, through the residential road and then along the tiny coves and shops of the waterfront (pictured above) until you reached the old casino and then the town square. We drove out to the hotel, checked in, got amazed by the views, and started walking back for lunch. We didn't make it all the way back to town; there are a few seafood restaurants in the last cove before the center, and we looked at each other and called dibs on the one open table at Els Pescadors.

For obvious reasons, no? As a newbie American in Europe, I was shamelessly excited about eating in a setting like this - the only thing that could be slightly better would be to perch the restaurant on a rocky cliff. But that might be different, not better. These French people were there before us and there after us, enjoying a view that was 2 metres closer to the water and all the better for not having themselves in it. During our time at table, they handled two bottles of wine between them with aplomb. And they seemed pretty excited about the view too. Tell me, does one get tired of this? I prefer to hope that Samuel Johnson was correct in saying, "When a man is tired of eating seafood and drinking wine by the sea, he is tired of life."

I envied the vinous capability of our French neighbors. Also I was, as usual, stunned by the low low prices of very drinkable sparkling wine in Spain, so we started with an attractively-necked bottle from the near-Barcelona Penedes region that went down our own necks just as nicely. This pretty little fellow was the same price as one glass of his French cousin who we drank at Le Cinq. It's cava. Don't call it recession champagne or they get very annoyed. And then we began le fooding.

Si, si, I was still distraught at not having had octopus for any of three meals the day before. This fellow was small, tender, salty, sliced in pieces, and most importantly sitting on a table next to a bottle of sparkling wine next to a blue ocean cove. Gaaaaahhh! I can only imagine that there are better octopi in the world. I'm not ashamed to say it, I spent this lunch in love with all things European.

Very tolerable prawns were also on the agenda, prompted by the incredible ones the night before. They were of course not equal in any way, but they were superior in quantity and inferior in price, so all was far from lost.

But again with the main dish...ORDER FAIL. At another table we saw a nice-looking paella. We debated about which one on the menu it could be. We tried to ask. We ordered fideua, which is best described as 'pasta paella'. Sounds weird if you've never heard of it (like me), but the pictures should make it clear - make pasta in a shallow pan with lots of seafood, then broil/grill until crusty on top. Why the fail? For some reason we ordered this for 4 people, and we certainly got a portion for 4 people. While we (nearly) finished the whole pan, we were reduced to gibbering wrecks. ONE of us went to bed, not to recover until morning.

Who would think that such an innocent dish could hide such depradations? The other truly depraved thing about this is that, in addition to the hunks of cholesterol-of-the-sea liberally mixed throughout (the ham-like bits are in fact octopus, while the white ones are squid, not fish), it was served with a mayonnaise topping. Sure, not regular mayonnaise - aioli. My cholesterol is fine, thank you, so I went for broke and put a dollop of garlicy mayo on every last bite. And the last bite finished me; I barely remember the walk back or the fall into bed.

Els Pescadors doesn't have a web site, but I saw one review in French that talked about the professional staff, great atmosphere and huge portions. Spot on. It's on the south side of the bay. Keep walking past the casino and you'll see it. Don't be fooled by the even-more-touristy place next door.
+34 97 225 8859

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rias de Galicia, Barcelona

August 30th, 2009. 9 PM. If you're following, you'll see that it's still Sunday of this trip, day 2 of 7. This could take a while...

Really, we did some touristy things too. Here's the other famous Gaudi apartment building, Casa Batllo. We just stood outside and looked at it, which I think yielded most of the value (considering that we had already been to Casa Mila and seen the interior detail there). I can't help thinking of Gaudi more as an artist than an architect. While his ornamentations are completely unique, the spaces and the way they fit together don't feel much different from anyone else's work. This is especially true at Casa Batllo, which is a Gaudi remodel of an existing building and thus must have faced more interior constraints (although he seems to have tried mightily, converting the doorways to mouths and the roof of the main stairwell into a wave, and it seems the ornamentation may be more elaborate and better-preserved). At Casa Mila you can get a better idea of what Gaudi would have done with a free hand - the apartments are curved around the central light well despite the exterior walls being mostly straight. Both aspects are interesting, but I like modern art more than classical, and am happy to give up ornamentation for an interesting use of space. Digression stop:| At this point we fell asleep for a good 3 hours.

Rias de Galicia is a famous seafood restaurant. Perhaps the famous seafood restaurant. Botafumeiro is the other one, and appeared in our guidebooks, but I've seen RdG described as better if pricier, and we weren't there to save money. The taxi driver knew it by name alone. We were fashionably early at 9:30, but definitely not fashionable since several of use were wearing short sleeves and/or shorts. And denim. More on that shortly.
You'll know you've arrived when you see the greeting committee smiling at you. While the iced display here is pale, scrawny and pathetic in quantity terms compared to the Bangkok's mighty Profisherman ("If It Swims, We Have It", you don't see monkfish every day, nor are many of the other items common in other countries. And one has to believe that the quality here is higher. One kept telling oneself that as one sat and looked at the prices, which one had been warned about but not fully prepared for.

The broad, smiling reception we got from the waitstaff was comparable to the surprised, toothy, displeased expression of this (I think) barracuda. In an absolutely priceless moment, the maitre d' literally stopped and looked us up and down, pausing for a beat before deciding to seat us. His smile was strained for the rest of the evening, but I admit that this is a top-end restaurant and many other patrons were wearing evening dresses, jackets, etc. We were seated upstairs, which I read is the foreigner ghetto, but late-arriving Spaniards sat there too, so maybe there's no bias on that front. Anyway, it would make sense to have all the non-Spanish speakers in one place.

You should go here for things like this. Not others. Razor clams are uncommon where I'm from (or any of the places I've been from), and eating things like this was a prime reason for wanting to visit - eating things like this at absolutely top quality. Somewhere else (that I can't find now, I read that the name of the restaurant refers to a region of old rivers of the coast of Galicia - formerly above, now below the ocean surface, and by virtue of their unique geography forming a unique breeding ground for seafood. Uniquely tasty. The produce here is supposedly imported from there.

These cockles are pretty common in Spain, but from the first bite of their barely-steamed, gorgeous taste, I was convinced we were in the right place. And this was just a snack to get the table started, gratis. Excellent.

Razor clams, or razor clam on my plate. Throughout this portion of the meal, the staff brought small plates of shellfish and carefully doled them out to the 4 of us. This is because the maitre d' discouraged us from ordering full portions, and it wasn't hard because we were already discouraged by the prices. A half portion was generally enough to fit 4 creatures (except here, where we were advised that they would need to charge us up a little to get 4 clams in the order). It should already go without saying, but this was extraordinary - the plate of razor clams at Le Cinq was decent, but this was excellent, with a unique texture and taste.

And when we get to 'unique', we can't go by the barnacles. This is a crappy picture of an incredible item; you can get a much better one from Chuck (thanks in advance). Despite reading about them, I couldn't figure out comfortably how to eat them - you're meant to grasp the 'claw' end, twist and pull...but nothing happened. I ended up peeling away the claw to get to the soft, juicy, almost veal-like shellfish within. I'm told by reliable sources that the waitress hovered by my shoulder with a horrified expression during this process, as if I was violating a sacrament. I would eat these any time for the sweet, salty, meaty goodness, but at 5 Euros per bite it's merciful that you don't see them in Japan. Except perhaps on the bottoms of ships.

RdG was out of the best quality prawns that night (or else they told us that because they judged we weren't sufficiently skilled eaters after my barnacle performance). That meant we were stuck with these guys, largish prawns costing 30 Euros for an order of 4. I don't want to malign Japanese seafood or anything, but this was the single best prawn I've ever eaten. Speechless. Wish I had a whole plate of them. Unfortunately this was all the shellfish we ordered, and it was time for our...

Order fail. We all ordered fish main dishes. Let me tell you right now, unequivocally, you should go to RdG and order nothing but a full portion of the shellfish that interest you. The main dishes are acceptable and large, but dull by comparison. For the same price you could get another 4 razor clams or another 4 prawns, or a big plate of octopus. I regret our ordering pattern, significantly, because we could have eaten 2 or 3 times as much shellfish for what we paid overall. Damn.  Oh, I think this was sea bass. Huge piece of good fish. Yawn.

Monkfish with chick peas in a non-curry sauce that I can't remember but was an acquired taste lost on me. The prawn on top was not one of the famous ones, and the cockle-like things around the side, despite appearing similar to the inspired ones earlier, were one of the very few things in recent memory that made me want to gag when I ate them (both of them, for confirmation purposes). I'm reminded as well that monkfish tail is a big, meaty item, and huge portions may be excessive.

I'll cut things off there without showing off the other two mains or the large, acceptable, dull desserts. I can't stress this enough - I wish I could go back to Rias de Galicia wearing pants and a jacket, order a nice bottle of wine, and do nothing but eat shellfish for 2 hours - as well as all the cetaceans that we missed. I'm tortured by the memory.

Rias de Galicia
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