Culinary Anthropologist

Tapas, but not as we know it

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smtapasmenu0001.jpgI have to say that we did have some pretty awful tapas in Spain: Dry jamón on dry bread, soggy patatas bravas, bland tortilla wedges, shrimps with supermarket mayo and so on.  But this was our fault for eating in the wrong places (not that anywhere should really be serving up such atrocities).  When the spot was right, we found divine jamón iberico, moreish pimientos de Padrón (there’s always one….), tasty tortillas and more.  But the best spot of all, for a very different concept of tapas, was A Fuego Negro in San Sebastian…

This little tapas bar in the wealthy city’s medieval centre was recommended to us by Haizea Luzuriaga Badiola at Donamariako Benta, who had been to culinary school with the chef.  In true modern Basque culinary style, A Fuego Negro was reinventing tapas.  Their food isn’t the foams and clouds you might expect at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli up the road, but it does challenge the traditional tapas of Spain’s bars.  As streams of locals came in for a minute caña and a tapa or two, we stayed firmly put at the bar to work our way through as much of the extensive menu as possible (wine list included)…  

The beautifully presented little plates, bowls, glasses and spears of tasty morsels included: sweet baby clams on a bed of savoury rice flecked with rice crispies, perfectly cooked cod on cauliflower puree garnished with cress and curried toasted breadcrumbs, a skewerette of jamón and melting goat’s cheese on toast, and bonito with shaved red onions and pickled chillies.  All as delicious as attractive on the eye. 

Smtempura0001.JPGPerhaps my favourite was ‘La Txiki-Huerta en tempura con ketxup casero y ali-oli de patata’, which was all it promised and more.  And Matt’s was a shot glass of green olives, pickled green chillies and anchovy fillets with extra virgin olive oil to dispense ontop with a miniature pipette and Maldon sea salt to sprinkle.  Very classy indeed.

Read about other tastes of Spain

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