It's a wee spot, tucked away on Murray street, a bit off the Market’s main drag. The sign was an understatement, the view unassuming. Inside, a combo of brilliant red and orange walls and traditional flamenco music greeted us, along with el toro, charging across a canvas at the front door. The promise of great things to come wafted in from the open-concept kitchen. Menu items were mostly Basque (northern Spain) with some Italian influence, and were executed with contemporary flair.
With it being my birthday and all, I indulged in a glass of Bodegas Adar NV Cava Brut (DO Penedes, Spain) which had a brilliant shine and fine, plentiful bubbles, a subtle yeast nose, dry palate, and semi-sweet finish. Hubby opted for the crisp and zesty Montesol 2008 Verdejo/Viura (DO Rueda, Spain). Both were versatile enough to handle the sharing plate of Spanish tapas we ordered: rillettes of salt cod and chorizo (“sausage butter”, Hubby called it), firm-pressed ricotta salata, wine-soaked olives and pesto artichoke ‘popsicles’.
The wine list was user-friendly and approachable, although I was surprised there weren't more Spanish wines available by the glass. Particularly tempranillo, Spain's signature red that seems to marry well with all that country’s succulent, meaty dishes. I did get to sample a Juan Gil 2008 Petit Verdot (DO Jumilla, Spain), which had a complex nose and palate of raisin, cedar, tobacco, chocolate and cassis.
(Speaking of wines, the staff need to find a better place for the wine cabinet. Hubby had to get up and move his chair so the server—apologizing profusely the whole time—could procure a bottle from within the vault.)
Selecting a main was easy for me. All the way through my pregnancy, I’d been craving tartare. Raw meat, however, is not really recommended when one is in that “delicate condition”. So when I checked out the menu online and saw this raw-meat wonder was one of their specialties, it was a no-brainer. And my mouth thanked me profusely for the treat.
The tartare came with thick slices of chorizo and a chunk of manchengo, along with a slice of serrano ham dangling from a bizarre clothesline-looking contraption. We were sure it could double as a nifty desktop Post-it holder, but nay, these things were designed solely for the purpose of curing meats. Go figure.
The dish was washed down with a Fattoria di Magliano 2008 Sangiovese/Syrah (DOCG Morellino di Scansano, Italy). The soft, round tannins and long, warm finish was just the right match for the tartare. One bite, one sip, repeat. I savoured every delicious morsel until my plate was clean.
Room for dessert? I love it when servers ask me that. Even if there wasn’t, in a place like this, I wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass me by. I picked the crème brulée. Topped with tart passionfruit and candied pistachios, the silky, warm custard was the best I’ve had since we went to Brix in California. I had to hold myself back from licking the bowl.
Sign of a fine meal. Thumbs up to Rene Rodriguez and his staff for adding some exceptional Spanish flair to Ottawa’s roster of go-to foodie havens.
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