Sunday Night in La Latina: El Tempranillo Tapas

8 10 2011

The barrio of La Latina is the oldest area of the city, and it bustles most furiously on Sundays. El Rastro flea market during the day brings in scores of secondhand seekers; the night brims over with bubbly and tapas, particularly concentrated in calle Cava Baja.

El Tempranillo is my second favorite wine bar in La Latina. One glance at the decor leaves no doubt as to their priorities. As per the usual, I request a recommendation of Rioja – the bartender’s expertise definitely trumps my own. He rambles off a name and I agree immediately, resulting in two long-stemmed glasses of deep red diamonds, rich with the promise of warm complexity.

Such liquid treasure must be accompanied by equally superb edibles. Grilled chipirones on a bed of creamy caramelized onions are sweetly reminiscent of the sea without distracting from the Riojana star.

The bacalao accented with crunchy slivers of bell pepper atop a garlicky tomato sauce is an elegant presentation of a classic, but the showstopper is, rather unbelievably, the smoked salmon with banana. That’s right. There never was a happier marriage of fish and fruit than this salty-sweet symphony, drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction; the steady turning of the world comes to a screeching halt as we experience an entirely new and extraordinarily successful flavor combination.

My companion, eyes glazed over in pleasure, proclaims,

This. This is the best thing in Spain.

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