Normally when walking down the street in Spain, if I see a restaurant with a giant crayfish sculpture outside itsÂ doors, I laugh and keep walking. This type of attraction is generally an indication that the food inside is less than stellar and is trying to make up for its own inadequacy in some way.
El Cucuraucho del Mar, however, is a far cry from inadequate in any way. If anything, it’s a “not to miss” destination for any seafood lover.
A good friend suggested we dine at this “great Galician restaurant” last week, a place I was completely unfamiliar with prior to this point. And let’s be clear, this is not a man to doubt, as he has already introduced me to two fantastic restaurants in Madrid: a top notch sushi bar and an Italian restaurant that makes an incredible thin crust pizza. So even the larger than life plastic sculpture of a bright red crustacean failed to seed my head with doubt, knowing that to date, my friend has failed to disappoint.
What can I say? In short, if you’re in Madrid, stop reading and head downtown now. This is a true family restaurant where the Galician mother is busy in the kitchen, the father is taking orders, the son is managing the beverages, and the daughter is efficiently running food. Add the bright colors that suggest a leisurely lunch by the sea, rather than a landlocked restaurant in the center of a peninsula, and clearly, you’ve found a very special place.
As for the food, it was some of the best seafood I’ve ever experienced. The almejas (small clams) tasted as if we just plucked them from the sandy shore, fresh and delicious. This was followed by grilled chiperones (small squid), lightly charred alongside an herbed mayonnaise, which tasted of pure heaven. Seriously perfect.
Now for the twist. We’re in a Galician restaurant, a region known for its fish, and what did we order next? Steak! Despite popular belief, Galicia is also known for its beef, which grazes upon its vast lush green landscape. One chuleton later, a large steak with bone, I was feeling a bit dizzy, not just from the fabulous food, but the fact that I would never have expected to find this quality of food here. I’m not even a fan of dessert and the slice of Tarta de Santiago, a thin dry almond cake, disappeared without my realizing it was gone.
However, this is not a place for the die hard wine lover. There are nice enough Godellos and Albariños, but the options are thin and relatively uninteresting. My suggestion is to simply ask for a white, without fussing with the wine list. This same theory also applies to the food menu. Go with whatever the owner recommends. He claims to receive a special shipment of seafood in each and every day. Now whether this is his usual marketing pitich, who knows, and really, who cares. Just ask him what he recommends, and you won’t regret it.
Finally, have the Orujo at the end of the meal. It comes from the owner’s small hometown in the middle of nowhere Galicia, and is made with, as he put it, “a grape that makes crap wine…” or something like that called, Varamermella. (Hey Steve does this count towards my list, if I haven’t had it as a wine? ) It’s absolutely incredible – full of spicy fruit and smooth as silk. Don’t miss it.
In short, I don’t have much to say other than, if your in Madrid you would be nuts to miss this. An inland ocean oasis with some of the best beef and fish around, I for one, can’t wait to get back there!