Thursday, July 16, 2009

Madrid Eats: Casa Ciriaco

After the awesome-ness known as Bilbao, we flew down to Madrid for a few days. By this point, we were getting pretty tired of early morning flights, and weren't ready for the 35-plus weather in Madrid either. All of Madrid appears to be under construction as well, while the city prepares itself for an Olympic bid. For the most part, it's true what they say about Madrid: compared to Barcelona, the pace is more hectic, and the people more abrupt. Not necessarily in a rude way, but Madrid definitely seems to thrive more on chaos, and the people reflect it. So - I'm ashamed to admit it - we actually tried to rest a bit in Madrid, even if only to get out of the intense heat.

With that said, I had half decided that I wanted to go traditional in Madrid, and had a craving for the roast porks, bulls tail, and other meats that I had heard so much about. Our hotel was right outside the Opera House, which faces the Palace, and surrounded by restaurants that have been around for the past century.

One of these places is Casa Ciriaco, which has been around long enough to witness an attempted assassination of King Alfonso XIII in 1906, and forms part of the setting for Valle-Inclan's novel Luces de Bohemia. We figured its longevity must have been well founded, and had read that it tended to be the least touristy of the grand dames of the old restaurant scene, being a bit further from Plaza Mayor and the Huertas district, both tourist centres. The place looks its age, an old neighbourhood restaurant that's been in need of an upgrade for awhile, long enough so that it would be a shame to do so now. Pictures of famed bullfighters, the royal mum, and other celebs from yesteryear decorate the walls, with the servers having probably worked there longer than I've been alive.

I'd read a few reviews, and the consensus was to try the Castellian soup, try the roast pork, try the bull's tail. As luck would have it, none of these things were available that day, so we tried a few other dishes that I'd read about.

One was an egg drop soup with bits of bread in it, which had an interesting mix of salty and a hint of sour to it, seasoned with healthy amounts of oil to make the medicine go down. It was good, but definitely far too much for one person to be able to finish it in one sitting.

The other dish was artichokes, which were cooked, tossed in olive oil, and topped with bits of jamon. Again, a good dish, but something one would have to share lest you get sick of it.

Without a digital SLR or good lighting, most of our food pictures are underlit and kinda look yellow. These pictures, though, pretty much capture what the dishes looked like. We both ordered chicken (in hindsight, I should've ordered the tripe): one roast, one stewed. I can remember the roast chicken being cooked perfectly, and the stewed chicken in one of the thickest gravies I've ever ingested. Beyond that, there wasn't too much more to make it memorable, but one can definitely see how the restaurant would be a Sunday family dinner fave.

We ended with a traditional Spanish flan or creme caramel. I don't think I've ever had a bad creme caramel, but this one seemed extra good, rich and caramel-y.

Overall, I can understand the nostalgia that would sustain a place like Casa Ciriaco, but honestly, I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless you were traveling older folk.

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