Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Trip to Madrid, Spain (Day 2): Cinco Jotas

After El Rastro and more walking, we were ready for lunch again. The weather was still really nice and we wanted to sit outside again. Again, a group of 7 was a bit troublesome when it came to tables. With the waiters being aloof and "European", we took things into our own hands. We all huddled around a table top for 4 people. We made the space ourselves and patted ourselves on the back. Why? Well, basically Spaniards love to linger over lunch and relax. So waiting and hovering over a table doesn't work here. They don't care and won't even bat an eye.
With our accomplishes behind us, we sat down, enjoyed some cold drinks, and ordered away. We chose to share some calamar a la plancha (grilled whole squid), tortilla, gnocchi with anguilas (baby eels), and verduras a la plancha (grilled vegetables). The grilled squid was tender and plump. A light dressing added the acidity that brought it together. The tortilla was filled with tender slices of potato. The egg was just lightly cooked until golden on the outside but still runny on the inside. That was a happy surprise. I've never had a tortilla that had a runny middle. It was excellent. The gnocchi with baby eels were just fine. The pasta itself wasn't too exciting but the baby eels were delicious. My first foray into baby eels and it's been good. Apparently they are a delicacy in Spain. And the plate of grilled vegetables wasn't anything exciting except for the fact it was a plate of vegetables! We really needed something like this. Vegetarian and light.

But don't let those vegetables fool you. We still wanted jamon iberico de bellota. This was a lovely specimen. The cinco jotas (or 5 J's) is a rating system for jamon in Spain with 5 being the highest quality you can get. And this, my friends, was some really lovely ham. Sweet, salty, pungent, and melt in your mouth good. You have not tasted ham until you've had this kind. A black footed pig fed exclusively with acorns. That unique flavor to the meat and the wonderful marbling of the fat is a result of dedicated farming.
And to round out the meal, we ordered 2 paella. One was meat and the other was vegetables. We received the meat first according to our waiter. When he came back around with the second paella, it was exactly the same. He tried to argue that it was different but it looked exactly the same. After some back and forth, he finally clarified that we got the vegetable paella. What?! We definitely had pieces of meat in it. Oh vegetable paella actually means meat paella with vegetables in it. Well, glad that was clarified. I was even more glad a vegetarian wasn't around. The waiter took the paella away and admitting that it was the wrong one. Then he came back a while later telling us that they ran out of the meat paella. Strange. Very strange. At this point, we didn't need any more food so we were glad to skip the last dish.
We sat around in the sun bathing in the atmosphere and culture. But when it was finally time to leave, the waiter was no where to be found. We had to get up and tell him 3 or more times that we wanted the check. It took probably 20 minutes or more to do this. When the bill finally came, they charged us for the 2nd paella that never showed up. Frustrated with the service (it is no longer European now; it was just rude), we paid the bill minus the paella and left no tip. Yes, I know you're not supposed to tip. I meant that we didn't even round up for him. We gave exact.

Cinco Jotas
Plaza de Santa Ana, 1
Madrid, Spain

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