The left wall was lined with booths, the right wall was paralleled by the bar and two steampunk copper beer casks. The lighting was terrible, too white, almost like neons, squinch your eyes. The booths were peopled by beer-drinking trios and quartets. No one paid us any mind as we quietly walked by and perched ourselves at the first empty booth. (Were we even supposed to seat ourselves?) The waitress scurried over with her little notebook, pen already pointed to paper, and glancing left and right to check other tables, sputtered out what must have been something like, “Hi, what’ll it be?” Bastien cleared his throat and in his best Spanish delivered something to the effect of, “Uh, menus, tapas, wine, por favor.” A little smile spread across her face, as if she had just seen a two-year old say the cutest thing, and a minute later we were trying to decipher the Galician menu, old-school style with a 3-inch Spanish to French pocket dictionary.
Tapas is one of my favorite ways of dining and Spain certainly knows how to deliver. However, a small neighborhood taparia in a small town in Galicia doesn’t have the eclectic selection that I have loved in Barcelona taparias. Why would it? This is the kind of place where locals stop by, sip a beer or two at the bar and order a little plate of noodles for their kid. Later, they dine on the hearty and rustic cuisine of their region. No new tastes. No fancy names. We wanted to taste something local. After establishing that there was nothing green, as in chlorophyllic, on the menu, we decided to settle a question that has been on our minds ever since trying to follow a recipe for calamari but finding only something called seiche, which translates as squid, but could not be cut into the iconic rings of calamari. Just what are the different cephalopods anyway?
We started with the pulpo à la plancha: octopus – the real local specialty. Whoo hoo! Our tapas outing was beginning to make sense. This was not the chewy tasteless fare that has come out of my kitchen in the past. No siree Bob. We were in taste land. Despite the rusticity all around, there was a little touch of elegance to these spirals. They just can’t help themselves.
Next up was the calamar fritas: fried calamari. Delicious, crunchy, fresh, a real treat with a good squeeze of lemon.
Last, but by no means least, the chipirones: baby squid or cuttlefish. These little guys were served with fries and a very plain but well-seasoned, and well-appreciated salad. Yum! Yum! Crunch, flavor, texture.
Another thing that sparked our attention was the flaming chorizo. It did not disappoint. Upon arrival to the table, the waitress poured grape spirits into this boat-shaped ceramic dish topped with a soft chorizo sausage. After about 6 attempts, the spirits were lit and she motioned for us to rotate the chorizo for roasting. We let it cook until the fire was gone, which may have been too long, but it was still a fun way to sip a glass of wine.