One of the first items up for business on any trip I take is what restaurants I am going to sample. While my husband and I tried several restaurants in Madrid throughout our stay, this post is going to be about what I didn’t try in Madrid. As I lauded the beauty of going to Madrid in August in my last post, there were a few nice restaurants that were actually closed. One of them was the first one I really wanted to go to. The top of the Zagat list. Chef Owner David Munoz’s two Michelin starred Spanish Asian fusion restaurant Diverxo. The restaurant isn’t in the centralized part of city, it’s closer to the Chamartin train station in the neighborhood of Tetuan, the home of many immigrants from South America and Sub Saharan countries of Africa.
When beginning my research on where to dine in Madrid, I was really impressed that the city was opening its arms to new styles of cooking. It was really amazing that one of the best reviewed restaurants was something as twisted as Diverxo. It wasn’t always that way. I fondly recall back in 1994 my first trip out of Spain was to Lisbon, Portugal to enjoy Indian food from the state of Goa as finding any sort of decent ethnic food was tough. I once took matters into my own hands and attempted to make tortillas at my apartment to compliment the one can of refried beans I brought with me from the states. Floury fried pitas and a wimpy red bell pepper and tomato salsa was the end result. As for chinese food, fellow foreign exchange students tried one of the very few chinese restaurants in Madrid. The little they had say about it was the most telling.
Now just because something’s eclectic, cutting edge and not your Spanish mother’s cocido madrileno, doesn’t mean its cheap. Like most high end restaurants in Europe, its expensive and as a student they only thing I could of done at a place like Diverxo was stick my face against the front window and yearn. So not only was I disappointed that I couldn’t try this Madrileno gem, I was kicking myself repeatedly when a fellow foodie and a Guide for Madrid food tour tweeted a picture of the new Gourmet Experience at the Callao location of the Corte Ingles department store. This new feature by Spain’s department store chain (think Macy’s with a supermarket) includes high end gourmet products and a super sleek food court on the top floor. And much to this once 20 year old study abroad broad’s delight, it now seems that DiverXO has a less high maintenance little sister, StreetXO as one of its fellow food court offerings. StreetXo offers some tasty international street fare and while Munoz is not comfortable crowning his latest endeavor a more economical version of DiverXO, the menu does feature Spanish Asian fusion favorites that hint of his high priced mothership.Madrid Cool Blog’s mention of the grilled Iberian Pancetta with sautéed calamari, pickled shitakes rolled in lettuce and cilantro, dipped in siracha and tartar sauce is great example of the hybrid that is Spanish and far east.
For Spain the idea of quality “take away” cuisine is a innovative. The closest thing to casual is mini fast food bocados at 100 Montaditos, the permanent invasion of Dominos, Burger King and Mcdonalds, or standing at a bar and having tapas. The social component of the latter is a luxury you can do without if you are trying to get some shopping done or have to be somewhere.
In Los Angeles we are spoiled bunch having the Fairfax farmer’s market and the Century City & Santa Monica Promenade food courts which all feature various cuisines, some of which hails from well respected chefs and only requires that you bus your own table. When it comes to the concept of “Street food” Los Angeles is also king. The City of Angels has become fertile haven for wide eyed creative food truck owners to either orgasm or die. The evolution of the greasy stark white lunch truck has produced flavorful four wheeled vehicles like the Kogi truck’s Korean Mexican tacos, The Grilled Cheese truck‘s French Onion Melt and yes, Papas Tapas, a Spanish tapas truck. This isn’t a shocker. Los Angeles according to Wikipedia is home to people from more than 140 countries speaking 224 different identified languages. The city has a larger population of Asians than San Francisco and next to Mexico City we are the largest Mexican city.
As a kid, I lived on the Californian border of Calexico/Mexicali. I was raised on taquerias, vendors pushing white carts selling hot dogs wrapped in bacon, Chinese food restaurants located in Mexicali, where there is a respectable Chinese population incorporating a spicier Mexican flavor to its food. Jose Andres, another creative Spanish chef could of had Mexicali’s food scene in mind as its essence is on display at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada. His restaurant China Poblano is where Chinese and Mexican street food literally live side by side.
StreetXO seems to embody all these concepts that I thought where exclusive to the states. It’s obvious that Madrid is reinventing itself by blending global tastes with its traditional Spanish heritage, and with the Gourmet Experience being ensconced in the heart of the city’s tourist watering hole, Sol & Gran Via, it is a point of pride and there for everyones enjoyment. Madrid Food Tour gives a astute synopsis of StreetXO, its other fine dining food court counterparts, and the gourmet shopping experience for the English speaking traveler. La playa de Madrid has a funny little video that shows what the view looks like from atop of the Corte Ingles. I love that this space, once a simple cafe, is now a wonderful place brimming with rich foods and a breathtaking view of my illuminated Madrid! Can’t wait to visit!