Thursday, January 25, 2007

Places: Casa Lucas Wine Bar


Calle Cava Baja, 30 (near Plaza Mayor)
Tel: 91 365 0804

Though there are many great tapas bars in Madrid, there are a few that stand out. This wine bar is one of our favorites. It not only offers a very high quality wine list, but they also offer some amazing tapas. These are not your average tapas: some of them are quite unique.
There 12-14 wines by the glass on a chalkboard, and different wines are rotated in a on a regular basis. If your party is larger, the bottle wine list is quite outstanding. The staff is knowledgeable and can recommend wines with some confidence. Some of the staff speak English, but whoever you get, they are relaxed, friendly, and very helpful. These are the type of guys who remember you after a few visits!
The place is tiny…just a few tables and standing room...and it gets packed! If you want to sit and more comfortably try some of the tapas…go early! Early here means between 8 and 930 PM. They are open for lunch except Wednesdays, but I don't know how the crowd is...probably less.
As all tapas places in Spain…if you take one of the few tables, they expect you to order tapas, not just drinks.

We were in Casa Lucas with some friends last night. We had a couple of our usual tapas and an exciting new one.

The Cariñena tosta:

One of the regular tapas we always recommend is called Cariñena. It is toasted crusty bread topped with caramelized onions and a slice of grilled pork loin. Sea salt tops it off…so simple yet the flavors are perfect together.
This is a tapa you can find in other places…but Casa Lucas makes one of the best!
The pork in Spain is outstanding…very different than most of what we eat in the US. Try both the fresh and cured varieties. One breed of pig, the black footed Iberican pig, offers the best cured hams, as well as fresh pork cuts that are the other red meat! They have the same color as beef and are best cook either rare, or at least pink in the middle: yes pink pork!

Arroz cremoso con boletus, foie y huevo (Creamy rice with egg and foie):

I have yet to taste anything quite like this any where else!
The Boletus infused creamy rice is topped with a slide of fresh pan-seared foie and a soft-poached egg. They are topped by a drizzle of basil oil and a red fruit coulis. To serve you cut up the foie and the egg in little bits and mix it into the rice thoroughly. The combination of flavors is stunning!
Sometimes when we bring new people there, they are initially put off by the foie and egg, but when they taste it…instant converts!
Boletus is a type of wild mushroom that is one of the most expensive and coveted in Spain. It is almost always served alone, apart form other mushrooms, done in a very simple preparation. The flavors are very intense, earthy and smoky...love it!

Carpaccio de pulpo con revolconas y bacon
(Octopus carpaccio with mashed potatoes and bacon):

This was anew one for us…a seasonal offering on the chalkboard…I hope it stays for a while!
This is creamy mashed potatoes with loads of smoky Spanish paprika topped with ultra-thin slices of tender octopus. Over the top, olive oil and fried bacon bits. The combination of flavors, smoky bacon, paprika, with the great texture of the chunky mashed potatoes, was tremendous. The octopus was a subtle, succulent high note.
This original dish is a modern take on a very traditional Spanish dish from Galicia. Pulpo a Feira is sliced boiled potatoes with octopus slices topped with paprika, olive oil and sea salt. Octopus was something I ate with moderation before coming here, but Spanish octopus is so melt-in-your mouth that I eat it whenever I can get my hands on it!

Wine:
The wine we had with all this was a Vallegarcia Syrah 2003. It is a Vino de La Tierra de Castilla wine…in other words: La Mancha. Syrah in Spain is just picking up and I have yet to be impressed. Most of them are quite alcoholic with a simple Mediterranean fruit. This was no exception! Good length, but too simple for such a big wine…big was all that came across!

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