Panifiesto, a bread-lover's paradise in Lavapiés


When I first moved to Madrid, I had a few initial goals: get an apartment, make new friends, and find a badass bakery where I could satisfy my carb cravings—not necessarily in that order. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about bread that makes me feel right at home. For me, it’s the ultimate comfort food and the simplest culinary pleasure. So when I moved to a new city thousands of miles from home, finding good bread was clearly a priority.

Luckily for me, it didn’t take long. Soon after I moved into my apartment in Lavapiés, I stumbled upon the perfect place entirely by chance. Panifiesto doesn’t look like much from the outside—or the inside, for that matter. It’s a minuscule, minimalist space on the corner of Calle Mesón de Paredes and Calle Juanelo. The tiny storefront features a bench and a counter, behind which the fresh bread is displayed on tall metal shelves. If you peek through the loaves, you can see the magic happening in the kitchen in the back.

Loaves of bread at Panifiesto bakery in Lavapiés

When it comes to bread, I’ve learned that simple is almost always better, and Panifiesto confirms that conclusion. All they do is bread—no pastries, empanadas, or even tostadas. You can’t come here for breakfast or a drink with friends. In fact, you might not even notice it if you aren’t specifically looking.

storefront at Panifiesto

They offer around five to eight varieties each day: wheat, whole wheat, rye, spelt, baguettes, and gallego (half wheat, half rye) are almost always available. Some days they also have tritordeum (a grain that’s a combination of wheat and barley), seeded (full of poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and more), and heavenly golden-hued corn bread (my personal favorite). Also look out for seasonal specialties, like the raisin, rosemary, and honey loaves they offered last Semana Santa.

Loaves of bread at Panifiesto bakery in Lavapiés

The prices are, naturally, a bit more than you might be used to paying for bread: €1.35 for a baguette or €3-5 for a full loaf. You can also buy half a loaf for half the price, and they’ll slice it for you if you ask!

So what exactly makes this bread special? The short answer is that it’s made with masa madre. If you’re as gluten-obsessed as I am, you know what that means. If not, pay attention, because this is important. There’s not an easy English equivalent for this term. The closest thing we have is “sourdough,” but while all sourdough is pan de masa madre, not all pan de masa madre is what you might think of as sourdough.

Essentially, it means that the bread is made without chemical leaveners like baking powder—just flour, water, and salt. It rises due to the natural bacteria in the dough (sometimes called a pre-ferment or “mother dough”), making it denser and lending it a slightly sour flavor. You can bake any kind of bread with this method, as you can see from the variety of options on offer at Panifiesto.

Have I convinced you yet? If not, I dare you to go to this place and not immediately fall in love. Forget about the sad, stale barras at your local alimentación, set aside a few extra euros, and indulge in some of the best bread money can buy. It’s worth it.

Info

  • Website Facebook
  • Phone:  694 44 90 20
  • Address: Calle Mesón de Paredes, 10
  • Metro: Tirso de Molina & La Latina



Context Tavernas and Tapas, a culinary tour through the bars of Huertas


If you’ve done any traveling lately, you might have noticed that food tours are rapidly becoming a global trend. Companies around the world now offer guided visits to restaurants, bars, and markets, promising to let you in on culinary secrets or show you how to eat like a local. Madrid is no exception. In fact, this city has more than its share of options, thanks to its vibrant dining scene and world-famous cuisine.

I recently had the chance to participate in a food tour for the very first time, thanks to Context Travel. The company offers “tours for the intellectually curious” in cities across the world, including several in the Spanish capital. Many are focused on history or art, but this one was especially intriguing: Savoring Madrid: Tavernas and Tapas.

According to the Context website, the goal of this culinary tour is to define the concept of tapas through tastings at tavernas in the city center. Like all of their Madrid tours, it’s meant to offer an in-depth look at local culture, customs, and in this case, cuisine. But considering the dozens of bars, restaurants, and specialty dishes that are scattered throughout the city, how could it be possible to cover such a broad topic in just 3 hours? That’s what I intended to find out.

fullsizeoutput_33b1

Intricate mosaics decorate the exterior of one of the many historic bars in Huertas.

Hungry for history

The tour began at 7pm outside the Westin Palace hotel, close to many of Madrid’s main tourist attractions. Context limits the size of their tours to create a personalized experience—this one consisted only of me and a couple who were on vacation.

Our guide was Tessy Carrada, a culinary journalist of Mexican origin who moved to Madrid a few years ago. She started off by explaining the basics, with the help of maps and diagrams: what are tapas, where did they come from, and how are they eaten? What makes Spain’s cuisine unique? What can you expect when you go out for tapas in Madrid?

Next she told us how the tour would work. We’d visit three or four places, all in the Huertas neighborhood (also known as Barrio de las Letras). The idea was to show us non-touristy spots, the kinds of places locals go, where we’d get a true taste of the local culture. At each place, she would order a few tapas to share, taking into account our preferences, interests, and appetites. With the ground rules laid out, we set off into the city.

Cervecería Cervantes

fullsizeoutput_33b2

First up was a true classic, a place that was packed with customers even at the early hour of 7:30pm. We ordered drinks, and Tessy explained the particularities of Spanish brewing as we admired the collection of beer cans displayed on the restaurant’s walls. The waiter brought out a plate of giant olives and mussels, exemplifying the tradition of providing something to snack on along with every drink.

fullsizeoutput_33b3

fullsizeoutput_33b4

Tessy then ordered several raciones to share: ham croquetas with padrón peppers, manchego cheese, and jamón ibéricoAs we ate, she offered insight on each and every item: how to make croquetas, what makes Spanish ham so special, and how to distinguish true manchego from imitations.

fullsizeoutput_33b5

fullsizeoutput_33b7

I’ve lived in Spain for a while, and I’ve eaten (more than) my share of all of these classic tapas, but I’m not exaggerating when I say this might’ve been the best ham and cheese of my life. It took a lot of self-discipline to restrain myself and save room for the next destination…

La Fábrica

fullsizeoutput_33ab

As soon as we entered this colorful, crowded locale we were welcomed with the sights and smells of seafood. We gathered around an old barrel-turned-table and ordered albariño wine to accompany the salpicón (a kind of seafood salad) and boquerones (marinated anchovies) that Tessy suggested. I was quickly reminded of one of the most pleasant discoveries I’ve made in Madrid: despite my preconceived notions about slimy, stinky seafood, here it’s a true delicacy.

fullsizeoutput_33ac

The salpicón consisted of shrimp, mussels, and octopus swimming in olive oil with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. It was fresh, light, and incredibly delicious. A loaf of crusty bread was brought to the table, and Tessy encouraged us to break off pieces and soak them in the flavorful oil.

fullsizeoutput_33ad

The boquerones were perfectly seasoned and accompanied by olives and crispy potato chips. We were also served a small plate of cheese and chorizo—but it couldn’t compete with the perfection we’d already experienced at Cervantes. The star here was most certainly the seafood.

La Vinoteca

Although we attempted to find a spot at the renowned Casa Alberto, at 9pm on a Saturday night it proved difficult. Instead we went to La Vinoteca, which had a much more modern and upscale atmosphere than the previous bars. We ordered wine and cava from an impressively long and detailed list.

fullsizeoutput_33ae

To round out the night, Tessy ordered patatas bravas (fried potatoes smothered in slightly spicy sauce) and two pinchos (small toasts): one topped with spinach, goat cheese, and caramelized onions, and another with potato cake and duck magret.

Although the ambience here was lovely and the wine exceptional, I have to admit that the tapas weren’t quite as impressive as their successors. That being said, they were still delicious, and certainly provided a well-rounded sampling of some of Spain’s most famous specialties.

fullsizeoutput_33b0

For the last course of the evening, Tessy chose a layered trifle of chocolate and cream, as well as a sort of mini apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Although these were pretty standard sweets that didn’t exactly scream “Spain,” it’s hard to complain when there’s chocolate involved. After devouring dessert, we parted ways for the night with full bellies, satisfied palates, and a whole lot of newfound knowledge.

An interesting aftertaste

For me the best part of this tour, surprisingly, was not the food itself (although of course it was incredible). As a resident of Madrid, I can get authentic tapas whenever I want, on nearly every street corner. What this experience offered me was the chance to engage with the food I was eating on an intellectual level: to learn why tapas are called tapas, what distinguishes jamón ibérico from jamón serrano, and so much more. It was a lesson in being conscious of what I eat and the history and culture it reflects.

For travelers who only have a few days to sample the best of local cuisine, who don’t speak Spanish, or who simply don’t know where to begin, Context provides an ideal solution. Tessy’s insider knowledge and impeccable taste made for an interesting, entertaining, and thoroughly authentic journey through the taverns of Huertas.

Whether you’re a tourist who wants to experience the tapas culture firsthand, or a seasoned local who wants to learn more about the city you love, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Context Tavernas and Tapas tour.

To learn more about Context or book a tour, click here.




Tapapiés: a guide to everyone's favorite food and culture festival in Lavapiés


It’s that time of year again. The air is turning chilly, the leaves are starting to change, and the millennial obsession with all things autumn is taking over social media. But here in Madrid, there’s a whole different reason to be excited. With October comes Tapapiés, the annual festival that inundates the streets of the Lavapiés neighborhood with delicious food, cheap drinks, and live music.

For 11 days at the end of October (this year’s 7th edition lasts from October 19—29), dozens of restaurants and bars in Lavapiés offer a very special deal. Each one develops their own signature tapa, and offers it to the public for just €1.50. For an extra euro, you can also get a botellín (a 250 ml bottle of beer) to wash it down. The event is sponsored by Barcelona’s Estrella Damm, and at most places you can choose between a regular beer or Damm Lemon (beer and lemon soda).

A bar advertises its participation in Tapapiés with the festival's official poster.

A bar advertises its participation in Tapapiés with the festival’s official poster.

Lavapiés is known for its incredible cultural diversity, with large immigrant populations from all over Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Central Asia. As a result, it’s full of international eateries offering everything from Senegalese thieboudienne to Syrian sweets. A good number of these establishments participate in Tapapiés, which means that in one night you can practically eat your way around the world, just by exploring the neighborhood’s sloping streets.

The delicious "Crepioca" tapa from Saboor Tapioca in Lavapiés

The delicious “Crepioca” tapa from Saboor Tapioca

In other words, this festival is every adventurous foodie’s dream come true. There are various strategies for tackling the overwhelming amount of options (122 tapas in total) and chaotic crowds. You can simply wander around, dropping into whatever bars you come across and trying your luck. Each one usually advertises a photograph of their tapa with a huge poster out front, so you’ll know more or less what to expect. Don’t forget to stop by Mercado de San Fernando and Mercado Antón Martín, where several vendors also participate.

A tray of tapas at Toscanaccio Italian bakery in Lavapiés

A tray of tapas at Toscanaccio Italian bakery: marinated eggplant, walnuts, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato pesto on spelt bread

If you’re (A) a picky/allergy-prone eater or (B) determined to try as many different tapas as possible, you might want to consider a more organized strategy. Ask for a brochure at any of the participating places—you’ll get a pocket-sized booklet that contains a list of every single tapa being offered, as well as a color photograph and a detailed ingredients list for each. They’re all plotted on a numbered map, so you can plan out your ideal route. Be warned, though: it’s hard to stick to a set plan when there are so many tempting options around every corner.

Dishing out the "Moqueca de Mandioca con Pesto" tapa at Maloka Bar Brasileiro in Lavapiés

Dishing out the special tapa at Maloka Bar Brasileiro: yuca in a coconut milk sauce with peanut pesto

My advice? Grab a group of friends who aren’t afraid to elbow their way through some crowds and try as many new things as possible. This is not an activity for those who would rather settle in at a cozy restaurant for a relaxed dinner.

Expect to eat standing up while balancing a beer in one hand a a tapa in the other, and shouting at each other just to be heard. It’s messy, it’s crazy, it’s loud—and it’s totally worth it.  The frenetic and colorful spirit of the neighborhood is never more alive than on a night of Tapapiés.

"Carrillada melosa" from Maldito Querer in Lavapiés

“Carrillada melosa” from Maldito Querer: braised beef cheeks in a sauce of caramelized onion, garlic, herbs, and Pedro Ximénez reduction

To complete the experience, it’s essential to attend one of the various outdoor performances by local musicians, dancers, and entertainers that take place throughout the event. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons and evenings, you can catch live music and shows at nine different designated spots (a full schedule is included in the brochure). There’s also the simultaneous Chollopiés festival, which spotlights the neighborhood’s local businesses by offering special discounts on certain products.

Plaza de Lavapiés on a night of Tapapiés

Maybe you live in Lavapiés and want to get to know your barrio better. Maybe you’ve never been and want to see what all the hype is about. Or maybe you’re just hungry, thirsty, and low on cash. Whatever the case, Tapapiés is bound to become one of your favorite events in Madrid. If you go into it with the right mindset, a healthy appetite, and a handful of coins, I guarantee that come next October, there’ll only be one thing on your mind. Who needs pumpkin spice lattes, anyway?

Info

Check out our roundup of Tapapiés’ offerings last year!




Cubanismo, a tropical escape in Malasaña


In the warmer months, Madrid becomes inundated with talk of rooftop terraces: which one is the coolest, where’s the best view, who has the best drinks? There are the perennial favorites, the ones that always crop up on tourism sites and lists of local secrets. And then there’s Cubanismo.

On the third floor of the massive concept store and multipurpose complex that is El Paracaidista, this Cuban-inspired cocktail bar offers a hidden escape from the busy streets of Malasaña. To enter the building, you’ll need to sign in at the front desk, and then journey through displays of chic clothing and artsy accessories to reach the bar itself. It may not actually be on the building’s roof… but it makes up for this technicality with an incredible atmosphere.

Cubanismo Madrid (1)

Once you arrive, you’ll be instantly transported back to 20th-century Cuba, or at least a romanticized idea of it. A small indoor area features sofas, mirrors, and old wooden furniture, plus a marble bartop staffed by white-shirted waiters.

Cubanismo Madrid 2 (1)

The terrace is roomy but still small enough to feel intimate. It features wooden chairs with brightly colored cushions, red umbrellas, and a view of the surrounding rooftops. This isn’t the place to go for a panoramic view of the city, but it’s cozy and charming in its own way. At night, flickering candles make it especially romantic.

Outdoor rooftop terrace at Cubanismo cocktail bar in Malasaña Madrid

The drink menu is creative and complete, with something for everyone. For the full experience it’s essential to order a mojito, which comes in a tall glass with crushed ice, fresh mint leaves, a preserved lime slice, and a touch of Angostura bitters. Other drinks include aperitivos that put an original twist on classics like the Negroni and Bloody Mary. The menu offers various rum drinks, among them the intriguing Cavalibre (rum, lime juice, cava, cola syrup, and Angostura) and the Made in Cuba, with hints of cucumber and absinthe.

Gin lovers will also find several tempting options, flavored with things like blackberry liqueur, apricot brandy, and passion fruit purée. While cocktails are definitely the specialty here, they also offer wine, beer, sangría, and even non-alcoholic takes on classic drinks. If you’re hungry, order a snack like guacamole, hummus, jamón ibérico, a cheese board, or ice cream for dessert.

Outdoor rooftop terrace at Cubanismo cocktail bar in Malasaña Madrid

Although the prices are slightly above average, they’re by no means unreasonable. And for the entire month of October, 2017, all cocktails and mixed drinks are 2 for 1 during happy hour (5:00 to 8:00 pm, Tuesday through Friday). This deal also applies to Parq, the full-service restaurant on the floor above—but if I were you, I’d skip the pricey entrées and stick to Cubanismo’s drinks and snacks. After spending a couple of hours here, you might never want to leave.

Info




Honest Greens, feel-good food that tastes good too


For me, eating is always an emotional experience. I want to eat food that makes me feel good, both physically and mentally. Depending on my mood, that can mean very different things. Sometimes all I want is a creamy croqueta or my mom’s mac and cheese… but other times, my body begs for whole grains, greens, and lean protein.

To be completely honest (pun intended), I didn’t realize how much I missed healthy, home-cooked meals until I found Honest Greens. This brand new spot in Nuevos Ministerios may at first glance look like just another hipster cafe, but I swear it’s something special.

Honest Greens in Madrid features an airy space and an open kitchen

The space itself is impeccably decorated and practically begging to be Instagrammed. The open kitchen means you can watch all the magic happen. But even more exciting is the fact that most of the menu items are on display right in front of you, so you can browse the options before making your (very difficult) choice.

Honest Greens by Naked Madrid

This is one of those places where I would happily devour anything on the menu, so ordering is a considerable challenge. Luckily, they break it down into a nice and simple process: choose between a market plate or a garden bowl, then pick your sides or protein. Easier said than done.

The market plates come with either chipotle marinated chicken, rare beef, tuna tataki, homemade falafel, or black pepper tofu. Each is accompanied by a fresh green salad with pesto dressing and organic sourdough bread with herbed butter.

Market plate with chicken and vegetables at Honest Greens in Madrid

Chipotle chicken and seasonal vegetables

Is your mouth watering yet? I’ve barely gotten started. After you choose your base, you get to add extra sides from an overwhelming list. Cold options include coleslaw, beet salad, creamed eggplant, lentils, hummus, and roasted watermelon (yeah, you read that right). Hot sides include mashed pumpkin, baked cauliflower, roasted beets, herbed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and organic sweet potato, each with creative garnishes ranging from spirulina to spiced yogurt.

I highly recommend the chicken, and although the beef was a bit raw for my liking, it’s received rave reviews from plenty of my friends. You can’t go wrong with the seasonal vegetables or the sweet potatoes, which add some color and carbs to the plate. And speaking of carbs, the bread might actually be the best part of the dish. Freshly grilled and soaked in butter… how can you argue with that?

Market plate from Honest Greens in Madrid with beef and sweet potatoes

A market plate with ternera madrileña and roasted sweet potatoes

Garden bowl salad toppings at Honest Greens in Madrid

Salad fixin’s

If you want to put vegetables front and center, opt for a garden bowl instead. Spicy kale, ginger honey goat cheese, peanut chili lentils, sesame greens, wild coconut quinoa… with names like that, you can hardly imagine the possibilities. Each bowl is filled to the brim with various veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and dressings. You can also add any protein for an extra boost.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a soup of the day?

Once all that has sunk in, turn your attention to the drinks. They’ve got cold pressed juices, homemade fruit-infused waters, wine, beer, and vermut—plus organic fair trade coffee. In fact, one of the highlights of the place is the adorable coffee truck parked outside, advertising their specialty beans.

Fruit flavored waters at Honest Greens in Madrid

Self-serve aguas frescas

The portions here are generous and filling, proving once and for all that it’s possible to feel fully satisfied after a healthy meal. But if you manage to save room, try one of the sugarless and gluten-free desserts. Their takes on classics like carrot cake and apple crumble might not be exactly what you’re expecting, but they have their own charm. If you’ve got a real sweet tooth you might be disappointed, but it’s totally worth it to at least give them a chance.

The best thing about Honest Greens is that it combines the trend of vegetarian and vegan cafes with a selection that caters to meat-eaters as well. While I love a good veggie burger and am slightly addicted to kale, I won’t deny that every meal can be improved by a grilled chicken breast or a juicy steak. For me, this place is the best of both worlds.

Business cards at Honest Greens in Madrid

The business cards say it all

Whatever dietary camp you belong to, you’ll find something here that fits your tastes. And the next time you’re craving some good, honest greens… well, you know where to go.

Info




Sahuaro: Mexican magic in the heart of Madrid


Hecho en México. That’s the slogan of this brand new eatery located right in the historic heart of the city, in La Latina’s Plaza de Cascorro. DSC_0061-1024x683

If you’ve spent any time in the homeland of the Aztecs, the Mayas, and the michelada, you’ve probably already fallen in love. Mexico is a country of rich history, cultural diversity, and undeniably delicious food. A couple of years ago I spent a summer living in the rural part of the Yucatán peninsula, and I still dream about it to this day… especially the tortillas.

No, I’m not talking about the egg and potato variety (although those have a special place in my heart as well). And don’t give me any of those floppy flour burrito wrappers. I’m talking about fresh tortillas made from corn, water, and salt. That’s it.

Fresh Mexican corn tortillas

Look at that bundle of pure, corn-based joy.

Sahuaro’s got ’em. As soon as I saw the basket of tortillas arrive at the table, lined with a linen cloth and covered to keep in the warmth, I knew this place was the real deal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. As soon as we sat down we dealt with the primary priorities: drinks and guacamole. Sahuaro’s drink menu is one of the most exciting things I’ve read in a while. They offer frozen margaritas and classic mojitos for just €3.90, with a choice of strawberry, tamarind, guava, and passion fruit flavors. There are also several other options for under €6, including tropical cocktails and several variations on the iconic michelada (beer with lime juice and spices).

Passionfruit mojito and frozen margarita

Passion fruit mojito and frozen margarita, with a guest appearance by guacamole

Every self-respecting Mexican establishment offers guacamole; but few do it as well as Sahuaro. They serve it right in the avocado skin, atop a mountain of crunchy totopos (corn chips). It’s the perfect blend of avocado, salt, olive oil, and lime, proving that good guacamole doesn’t need to be fancy—just fresh. We were also brought a selection of four sauces with varying levels of spiciness. Each one was unique, and spice-seekers will be satisfied, if not particularly challenged.

Fresh guacamole and corn chips

When it comes to guacamole, Sahuaro keeps it simple.

For the next course, we ordered the house selection of tacos. It includes one of each variety offered on the menu: Guerreros (pork carnitas), Norteños (marinated beef), Del campo (grilled veggies), and Yucatecos (cochinita pork). They were all delicious, but the Yucatecos were the clear winner (although maybe that’s just my nostalgia speaking). The sauce was rich and tangy, the pork tender and juicy, and the pickled onions the perfect accompaniment.

Mexican tacos with pork, beef, vegetables, and pickled onions

My personal taco motto: always get one of each.

Finally, we dug into the chipotle chicken entrée. It was swimming in creamy, slightly spicy sauce, served with refried beans and (hallelujah) more guacamole. Naturally, of course, we ordered an extra basket of tortillas to go with it. But the surprise hit here was the rice, which came in a coconut shell etched with intricate designs. Soft and subtly seasoned, it provided the perfect complement to the rich and hearty dish.

Chipotle chicken, refried beans, guacamole, and rice

Pollo al chipotle

I’ll certainly be returning as soon as humanly possible to sample the rest of the menu, from the salads and ceviche to the enchiladas and desserts. Sahuaro also offers a menú del día during the week and brunch on the weekends, so you can satisfy your cravings no matter what time it is. It’s the perfect place to come for a casual drink with friends or even a date; the interior is elegant and colorful, and the enclosed outdoor patio features tropical plants and comfy couches (plus plenty of fans).

The interior dining area, decorated with indigenous art and bright colors
DSC_0059

Whether you’re nostalgic for your own travels to Mexico, or you’ve always wanted to visit and see what all the hype is about, this place is for you. Sahuaro has done what few restaurants can, combining authentic regional cuisine with an ideal atmosphere, a prime location, and affordable prices. Come, relax, and let yourself be carried away to paradise.

Info




NAP, real Neapolitan pizza in the heart of Lavapiés


Ahh, pizza. The star of so many childhood memories, last minute dinners, college dorm room feasts, and drunken (or sober) declarations of love. At this point pizza is more than a food; it’s a cultural emblem, no matter what country you’re in.

IMG_2663

But if you want the real deal, you’ll have to go to Naples, where the original Margherita pizza was invented in 1889. And if RyanAir flights to Italy aren’t quite within your budget, head to NAP—Neapolitan Authentic Pizza in Madrid.

As soon as you walk through the doors, you’ll be greeted by a rainbow-hued mural by Okuda, the famed Spanish street artist. Check out the wood-fired pizza oven (essential for true Neapolitan crust) as you settle into the bright and airy space.

Obviously, the specialty here is pizza. They offer everything from the classic Margherita (tomato, mozzarella, olive oil, basil, and parmesan) to spicy salami and speck, to anchovies and eggplant, to innovative daily specials. If you want to get creative, you can add as many extra toppings as you like (for a small fee).

The pizza is made in the true Neapolitan style: a thin, doughy, and bubbly crust composed of nothing but flour, yeast, water, and salt, topped with tantalizingly fresh ingredients. Each one is enough to fill up one very hungry diner—but if you’re like me you’ll want to save some for lunch (or breakfast) tomorrow. At 6-10 euros per pie, it’s affordable either way.

IMG_1603

Marinara pizza: tomato, garlic, olive oil, oregano, and basil

There’s plenty more on the menu, too. Don’t miss the bruschetta, burrata, and baked eggplant, plus tiramisu for dessert. If you’re going for the full experience, have a limoncello digestif, and then sit back and enjoy the satisfaction that only pizza can impart.

IMG_1662

Eggplant bruschetta, one of the four varieties offered

Pizza may be beautiful in all its various forms (deep dish, frozen, square-shaped cafeteria style…) but if you ask me, nothing beats the original. Give me a charred and slightly sour crust with a thin layer of sweet ripe tomatoes, and I’m sold.

NAP provides just that: pizza in its simplest, truest, and freshest form. Forget Telepizza, get off your couch, and make the trek to Lavapiés—it’s not Naples, but it might just be the next best thing.

Info

  • Facebook
  • Address: Calle Ave María, 19
  • Metro: Lavapiés & Tirso de Molina
  • Phone: 932 46 26 15

(Pro tip: NAP also has two locations in Barcelona; Madrid is the latest addition.)




Yatai Market: Asian Street Food in the City Center


Move over San Miguel and San Antón—there’s a new kind of market in town. 

Let the buzzing neon signs and colorful lights lure you in to the latest addition to Madrid’s foodie scene, the new mecca of an increasingly trendy culinary genre: Asian street food.

Located just off Plaza de Tirso de Molina, Cortezo Yatai Market unites several different vendors under one roof, letting diners sample all the greatest hits of East Asian comida callejera. It preserves the essence of the street food experience, with an atmosphere that’s both casual and chaotic, laidback and lively. Its creative concept combines the shareable dishes, miniature portions, and social atmosphere of Spanish tapas culture with the flavorful flair of Asian fusion cuisine.

DSC_0286

Various vendors are arranged around the perimeter of a large room, with high top tables and stools in the center. There’s a bar in the back offering beer, wine, and cocktails—but if you want something a little more exotic, try a can of tamarind soda or coconut water.

DSC_0290

Once you’ve got a drink in your hand, take a few minutes to wander around and explore your options (there are plenty). At HOTBAO you can take your pick from a variety of stuffed bao buns and several kinds of dimsum.

DSC_0326

Right next door, Funky Chen offers pad Thai, noodles, and rice topped with everything from veggies to duck to soft-shell crab.

On the other side of the room, colorful curries tempt customers to the counter of Asia Cañi. Don’t forget to try one of their rolls, with creative fillings like ceviche de chicharrones and cocido madrileño (yes, you read that right).

DSC_0281

To the right of Asia Cañi you’ll find Le Japonais, offering sushi, nigiri, maki, and poke bowls. To the left, there’s Ramen Suk, with steaming noodles that are a far cry from the powdered soup you might be picturing.

Before you make any decisions, don’t forget to check out Smok Mok, tucked away in the market’s smaller and quieter back room. It may be set apart from the main area, but with everything from vegan options to smoked Japanese BBQ meatballs—and the only dessert on offer at the market—you definitely don’t want to miss it.

DSC_0329

The best thing about Yatai Market? It’s got something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a hearty bowl of curry to warm the soul or you want to sample several smaller dishes, you can design your dinner (or lunch) experience to match your mood.

DSC_0321

Pad Thai from Funky Chen

Not to mention the fact that prices are more than reasonable: you can get a roll or dimsum for as little as €1 or a bao for €4. Larger dishes range from €6 to €14. Asia Cañi even offers combo meals that include 2 rolls, curry, rice, and a drink for just €9.

DSC_0318

Veggie fried rice

If you’re in the mood for something different than the same old neighborhood bar or quiet café, this is the place for you. With the spirit of a classic Madrid market, the hipster vibes of a Malasaña pop-up, and the exotic flavors of a faraway continent, Yatai Market should be at the top of your list.

Info

  • Facebook & Instagram
  • Address: Calle Doctor Cortezo, 10
  • Metro: Tirso de Molina and Sol



Keyaan's: A Taste of the Dominican Republic in Madrid


When it comes to restaurant reviews, the word “authentic” gets thrown around a lot. It’s become a buzzword for people seeking out genuine food and unique eating experiences, but all too often it’s used as a catchall adjective that doesn’t really mean much, a vague and perhaps inaccurate way to lure in customers looking for “the real deal.”

This is not the case at Keyaan’s. If there were ever an establishment that deserved the label of authenticity, it would be this place. Specializing in Dominican empanadas, traditional sides, and homemade desserts, the colorful café brings a true taste of the D.R. to the streets of Chamberí. After opening its doors only two months ago, it’s already accumulated a loyal clientele—and it only takes one bite to understand why.

DSC_0083

The story of Keyaan’s began with a simple craving. Around two years ago, just after her son Ilias was born, Zakiya Ramirez had a powerful longing for a good empanada. Her husband Aderly, who hails from the Dominican Republic, called up his mom and asked for her recipe. After a bit of tweaking and improvisation, he cooked up his very first batch of empanadas using nothing but a hot plate. Zakiya was floored; it seemed her husband had a hidden natural talent that not even he was aware of.

DSC_0164

Zakiya, Aderly, and Ilias Keyaan Ramirez

In the years since, Aderly’s recipe gradually evolved and improved until the couple decided it was time to share his skills with the world. They opened Keyaan’s in November, christening it with their son’s middle name, and it’s already gained a considerable—and well-deserved—reputation.

I recently dropped by to sample some of their signature offerings, with my friend and trusty taste-tester Sophia by my side. We were presented with dish after dish of Dominican delicacies, hitting as many of the menu’s high spots as possible before falling into a full-on food coma.

DSC_0111

First up: the empanadas. Aderly’s specialty is front and center at Keyaan’s, making up the bulk of the menu. You can choose from several fillings (beef, chicken, cheese, vegetables, tuna, and even pepperoni, in a variety of combinations) and two sizes (just one of the big ones will fill you up, but the mini empanadas are too cute to resist). Unlike some versions, these are chock full of the good stuff, meaning you won’t be biting into a pocket of air. The dough is made fresh each day, and every single empanada is hand-formed and fried to order. The result is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and juicy without being greasy; a difficult balance to strike.

DSC_0145

As tempting as it may be to gorge yourself on nothing but empanadas, it would be a crime to leave without sampling the sides. The fritos (flattened and fried plantains, similar to tostones) and bollitos de yuca (fried balls of yucca stuffed with melty gouda cheese) also achieve an ideal equilibrium, indulgent and rich without being too heavy.

DSC_0106

DSC_0155

Not to mention the quipes—fried balls of bulgur wheat dough stuffed with chicken, beef, or cheese—a classic dish that arrived in the Dominican Republic by way of the Arab world (you might have tried its Middle-Eastern cousin, kibbeh).

DSC_0129

Upon biting into one, Sophia’s first words were “I just wanna dive into it.” In fact, she named it her favorite of all the dishes she tried, which is certainly saying something. According to Zakiya, it’s a customer favorite as well; almost every Dominican who comes to Keyaan’s orders empanadas with a side of quipes, and they’re far from disappointed. One regular swore that their empanadas are even better than those of the most famous restaurant in Santo Domingo. Needless to say, authentic is an understatement.

DSC_0139

If you’ve managed to make it through the savory stuff without getting too full, you won’t be disappointed by dessert. There’s a wide selection of batidos in flavors ranging from the classics to irresistibly creative inventions. The fruitier options (strawberry, papaya, coconut, and mango) are made the Dominican way, with evaporated milk, while the richer varieties (chocolate, vanilla, Oreo, Kinder Bueno, Ferrero Rocher, galleta Biscoff, and magdalena) are made with ice cream for a more American-style milkshake. They’re served in enormous glasses and topped with whipped cream, ideal for sharing (or not). Not too sweet, perfectly rich, and deliciously creamy. You might be surprised at how fast you can finish one.

DSC_0098

Galleta Biscoff batido: “Like drinking a cookie”

Still hungry? Try one of the sweet empanadas, dreamed up as a way to combine Aderly’s talents with Zakiya’s passion for baking. The same perfectly fried dough, stuffed with apple pie, dulce de leche, nutella cheesecake, Oreo, white chocolate, strawberries, or pineapple… it’s clearly a match made in heaven.

All of the desserts are made entirely from scratch, and rumor has it that Zakiya’s cheesecake is the best in all of Spain. If you want to taste it in all its glory, you can order it by the slice as well as in empanada form. For something a bit more traditional, try the majarete or habichuelas con dulce, classic Dominican desserts made from corn and beans, respectively.

DSC_0174

White chocolate caramel cheesecake

To wash it all down, you can choose from a variety of espresso drinks made with Dominican Café Santo Domingo (“Even the coffee is amazing,” according to Sophia), including bulletproof coffee and affogato. Or give into temptation and go for Zakiya’s signature Nutella hot chocolate, or the Dominican specialty morir soñando (orange or passion fruit juice mixed with evaporated milk). If you want something a bit lighter, there are also several kinds of natural juices.

DSC_0089

Keyaan’s offers weekly specials and events that draw a crowd of expats and locals alike. If you want to sample as many empanada flavors as possible, you’ll appreciate Lunes de Locura, when mini empanadas are available for just €1 each (and larger ones for €2.50). There are also monthly language exchanges, giveaways, and much more on the horizon. Zakiya has big dreams for Keyaan’s, hoping to one day turn it into an international chain with locations in London, Santo Domingo, and the United States. Her customers are already begging her to expand, so they can feed their newly formed empanada addictions no matter where in the world they may be.

DSC_0077

For now, though, we’ll have to be satisfied with this cozy café and its incredible power to transport us from the center of Madrid to the middle of the Caribbean. Keyaan’s is unquestionably authentic, but it’s so much more than that: it’s a place where real homemade food takes center stage, giving us a taste not only of Dominican culture but also of the genuine tradition, dedication, and love that’s folded into each and every empanada. No wonder we keep coming back for more.

DSC_0121

Professional taste-tester Sophia enjoying Keyaan’s specialties

Info

  • Facebook & Instagram
  • Address: Calle Blasco de Garay, 10
  • Metro: Argüelles and San Bernardo
  • Phone: 915 99 38 76



Oysteronomy: Think Outside the Shell


The world is your oyster!

That’s the very appropriate slogan of Oysteronomy, a project dreamed up by a diverse team of culinary innovators who are dedicated to making dinner more than just another meal. The concept is both uniquely complex and deceptively simple. At its heart, it’s an effort to bring the very best marine delicacies (caviar, king crab, sea urchins, and—of course—oysters) from the sea to your table.

More specifically, it’s a Spanish brand that operates in various forms, adapting to the needs of restaurants, events, and individuals seeking a one-of-a-kind dining opportunity. It’s a collaboration between various entities, including Pop Secret (a brand specializing in creative culinary and artistic events) and Pol García, the celebrated Basque chef who’s worked everywhere from London to Shanghai. But it’s so much more than that.

Oysteronomy is a gastronomic experiment in combining preparation, presentation, and consumption to create a multisensory culinary experience.

So what exactly does that look like?

A few weeks ago I got to find out. I was lucky enough to attend the event that officially marked Oysteronomy’s arrival in Madrid, a sold-out dinner held at the Cambridge Soho Club in Plaza de España. At the designated hour, twenty-four lucky guests were led beyond the elegant bar area to a private room decked out in marine decor and deep blue lighting, where the magic was set to take place.

The night began with wine and mingling, allowing the guests to get to know one another as they snacked on hors d’oeuvres. An expert team of bartenders and servers attended to the guests and made sure that no one’s glass was ever empty.

DSC_1512

In an interesting twist, the first oysters of the night were paired with top-quality sakes from the gourmet importer Salvioni&Alomar. Expert Pablo Alomar explained the elaboration and advantages of sake, an underappreciated but up-and-coming beverage in the Spanish gastronomic scene, and invited the guests to sample a few choice varieties.

DSC_1528 DSC_1524

Not long after, Chef García emerged with the second round of oysters. These were accompanied by a swirling fog of liquid nitrogen and several gourmet toppings—eggplant, caviar, and leche de tigre, to name a few—some of which were injected directly into the oysters with a plastic syringe. Quite a spectacle, indeed.

DSC_1558DSC_1497

The guests were then seated around tables set with seashells and sprinkled with salt, primed and ready for the main event.

DSC_1492

The first course of the night consisted of—you guessed it—an oyster, this time still hidden inside its shell. The diners were instructed to tap it with their forks, allowing them to lift the lid and discover the flavors of cucumber and spicy mustard with which it had been infused.

DSC_1569

Next came the final oyster of the night, served on a bed of salt and swimming in a creamy and indulgent sauce. This was followed by a salad of caviar and crab, served in miniscule glass jars with tiny spoons to match.

DSC_1589DSC_0003

Each course was accompanied by a detailed explanation of its composition, origin, and flavor profile, delivered to the diners by the chef along with Emma Hidalgo and Julieta Arévalo, the organizers of the event. A DJ provided mood music, varying the soundtrack as each new dish was served. The wine, of course, continued to flow.

DSC_1554 DSC_1595

And then, just when it seemed like the night might be winding down, the real show began. A tray of king crab legs was placed atop a podium at the front of the room. As a hush fell over the diners, Chef García produced a pan of flaming liquid, which he then poured directly onto the crab, touching it up with a small handheld torch as needed. You heard it here first: flambéed crab legs just might be the newest—and hottest—definition of dinner and a show.

DSC_0021DSC_0028DSC_0045

The final savory course was a surprise departure from the marine theme of the event: carne de vaca brava de lidia, served juicy and rare (in more ways than one). This unique variety of beef comes from free-range bulls raised for the increasingly controversial tradition of toreo (bullfighting). What could be more quintessentially Spanish than that?

Meat course

Photo courtesy of Oysteronomy

Just in case anyone had yet to be impressed, the meal was wrapped up with a dessert that looked more like modern art than your average ice cream; an abstract spread of frozen sugary creations atop an edible tablecloth, accompanied by smoky tendrils of liquid nitrogen.

Postre

Photo courtesy of Oysteronomy

DSC_0048

 

A round of masterfully prepared cocktails closed out the evening, giving the guests time to sit back, relax, and reflect on a night that was full of surprises.

From the first glass of wine to the last grain of salt, Oysteronomy’s first event in Madrid was masterfully executed, beautifully designed, and altogether unique. I have little doubt that everyone in attendance will be talking about it for weeks to come. The team behind Oysteronomy has announced their presence in the capital city—and they’ve certainly made a splash.

 

Who knew oysters could be so photogenic?

DSC_1583

Info

For more information and upcoming events, check out Oysteronomy’s Facebook page and the Pop Secret website.