Tuesday, March 19, 2013
After a nice long sleep, I wake up feeling much better today. Not %100, but so much better than yesterday. Janel is working and we are planning to meet for lunch around 2. Maybe I will do a bit of laundry and go out for a coffee. Looks pretty nice outside.
Yesterday Janel had pointed out a little cafe very closeby that she said was friendly and nice. I plan to find it again. Due to my not-so-great history with my sense of direction (or lack thereof), I am very careful when exiting the door of my apartment. There are only two apartments on the 6th floor and and elevator in between. Ok – mine is on the left. Got it.
I wander around for a bit, but cannot locate the striped awning of Bar Benteveo that is supposed to be “hard to miss.” Finally I give up and duck into what I call an “Old Man” bar. That is not really as bad as it sounds. It is a tiny place, the clientele are all old men and there is a kind of gruff lady running the bar. Oh well. I sit at the counter and order a pan con tomate and a cafe con leche. Oh – and fresh squeezed orange juice. I think it sets me back 2.50 euro. Turns out to be pretty darn good.
Finding my way back to the apartment is no big deal. What IS a big deal is finding my apartment among the TWO that are on the 6th floor. I immediately go to the one on the left and insert my key. The key goes in, but not really easily. I am careful to try and jiggle it quietly in case I have chosen incorrectly. No luck. I finally ring the bell (I really don’t know why or what I would have done if someone came to the door). I play around with the key a few moments longer before biting the bullet and deciding to try the door on the right. They key slips in like a hot knife through butter, turns easily and the door opens. I quickly enter and close the door, but not before noting that there is a large “B” above my door and the other apartment is “A.” At midnight last night, I didn’t pay attention. Who knew?
Janel has suggested a few places for lunch and when she arrives we decide on a vegetarian place – La Isla de Tesoro (Treasure Island). It is sort of spitting rain and neither of us has an umbrella. (I actually purchased one the day before I left home, but I can’t locate it in my belongings). The walk is too wet and the restaurant is reasonably close.
La Isla is pretty cute and we both order the Menu del dia. Janel has a polenta “thing” and I have some kind of tofu-ish creation. Both plates include vegs and rice. Overall it was ok, but not one of our favorite choices. Probably won’t be visiting a second time. Nevertheless, we have a nice, relaxing lunch together.
After lunch, we wander around looking for a place to have a coffee. Janel knows a “secret” place that she decides to take me to. It is housed in a huge, old building that is some kind of cultural center. It is gorgeous. There is no indication that inside is a brilliant cafe/restaurant. Don’t tell.
After coffee Janel has to prepare to see a private English student across town. She drops me at my apartment and we agree to meet up again for dinner around 8:30. I rest more at “home,” catch up on reading, blogging, etc and actually appreciate the down time.
It is drizzling when we meet again, but this time Janel has an umbrella and we snuggle up under it together. The plan is to meet her friend – Dario – at a bar for a glass on wine and then move elsewhere for dinner. We end up at a place I have passed before – Estado Puro. A couple glasses of wine are ordered and soon after Dario shows up. By the time we are ready to leave, the weather has cleared up and we agree to walk to StreetXo for dinner.
StreetXo is the little brother of DiverXo Restaurant in Madrid. Diverxo is the 2 Michelin-starred “hottest table in town” restaurant where Janel and I managed to snag a reservation last year. StreetXo is housed in the top floor of a Corte Ingles (huge department store) alongside other gourmet-ish places. It is a tiny alcove with a few tables and a bar that is clearly where you want to be. It looks like the hippest spot in town. I feel lucky since tonight it is not packed. Janel/Dario have been here once before when it was really hoppin’, music blarin’ etc and while that could be fun, tonight I prefer it a bit calmer.
The entire menu (tapas style) has everything you want to order. We tried 4 dishes to share and each was more outstanding than the previous one. We are basically sitting in the kitchen and getting a show from all the young, rock and roll chefs. As each dish is presented to us, the chef/server takes his time to carefully explain them.
It is difficult to describe the dishes here – however one was an absolute standout – the Saam which was tender roasted Iberian pork belly topped with mussels, ginger and pickled shitake mushrooms and eaten in a lettuce leaf. Heaven on a lettuce leaf. Janel and Dario claim that they have now eaten their way through the entire menu.
We ended the evening by grabbing a table directly in front of the huge windows overlooking Gran Via. Dario is engaging and easy to converse with. Fortunately his English is impeccable so I don’t have to tax my brain with Spanish. We sit and chat until until they practically kicked us out. I don’t know how Janel will get up in the morning and I am certainly glad that I don’t have to.