March 22, 2010 at 12:31 pm , by Serina Patrick
Located on Decatur’s historic square, this restaurant is the latest from the Castellucci family that owns Sugo. An extensive selection of Spanish inspired tapas and plates are offered. Me and ST sampled our way through the menu, essentially eating like pigs, starting with charcuterie, jamon Iberico, the expensive Iberian ham and the restaurant’s namesake.
Our server Mary Quinn suggested a creamy sheep’s milk Spanish cheese called camedeoveja. Spread on the crispy toasted bread, it was delectable. Cheese and ham were served on wood cutting boards with mustard and tiny green olives.
The space is warm, furnished in dark wood, exposed brick, and deep red velvet curtains. Lighting is soft and flattering, perfect for a romantic evening with ST.
Chef Chad Crete was very gracious, bringing us a few of the bacon wrapped dates stuffed with manchego cheese and walnuts, resting in a romesco sauce. OMG. I could eat fifty of those!
There were so many amazing sounding dishes on the menu, like the tocino con manzana….slow braised pork belly with a salad of Granny Smith apples and candied walnuts dressed with a drizzle of apple cider reduction. Fatty crispy pork belly was yummy but I detected a hint of something not yummy….the tiny chiffonade of green on the apple salad, was it mint? I hate mint.
Which brings me to the sangria. The best in town is at Pura Vida, hands down. Still. I ordered the bottomless glass at The Iberian Pig for $21. Served in pint glasses, I suspect there is more juice than rum or wine. What I love about Pura Vida’s sangria is that it has chunks of fruit soaked in rum. Eat them and you will feel it! Sangria at Pura Vida is not for pussies.
While sipping the sangria at The Iberian Pig I once again detected a hint of flavor that was familiar yet somehow just plain wrong. Then I saw it….a slice of cucumber! Cucumber in sangria? Don’t ask me. ST ordered the “pretty darn good” red wine and it was, in fact, pretty darn good….2004 Marco Real Garnacha Navarra from Spain.
Next up on our trail of tapas was the BBQ octopus and the huevos con trufa. Both recommended by a friend of MN. The best part of the octopus was the stringy pork belly underneath. For some reason I thought BBQ meant grilled. No, it means with BBQ sauce, which I didn’t really care for. It was served with crunchy potatoes that I did not eat lest they take up space in my stomach where I could put something delicious, like more pork.
Huevos con trufa is a huge chunk of slow roasted pork with rustic toasted bread topped with a poached egg and black truffles. Remember, these are tapas folks. But the Castelluccis are known for ample portions. The pork was fork tender, ridiculously good. Break the egg yolk and dip the crusty bread in it, making sure to pick up a bit of truffle which was made into a tapenade. Decadent, rich, hell yeah!
Chad delivered another delicious surprise, their albondigas. Wild boar sausage meatballs stuffed with piquillo peppers, dates, and roasted tomatoes, finished with pimento creme and oyster mushrooms. I would not have ordered this but it was great, the flavorful meat pairing perfectly with the sweetness of the dates and the earthiness of the sauce.
Jesus Christ! An enormous serving of baked manchego mac ‘n’ cheese came out and a sampler of three sausages….lamb with macerated cherries, fennel sausage with caramelized onions, and chorizo with moscatel wine reduction and romesco, which was the standout among the trio. We couldn’t polish off all of them so they went in a recycled to-go container along with one of the two meatballs.
After all of those entree-sized tapas we had an actual entree coming, the cabrito carbonara; slow roasted goat with chittara pasta tossed in a carbonara sauce with Benton’s bacon, cream and topped with yet another poached egg. Mary Quinn instructed us to break the egg and mix in the yolk to complete the sauce. I found the pasta a bit too al dente, however the meat was succulent, the flavor of the dish was outstanding.
By now I was on my fourth glass of sangria. Despite the cucumber, I didn’t seem to have a problem getting my money’s worth out of the bottomless glass.
A selection of gelatos for dessert….the best was the fig and cherry, followed by the pistachio and the dulce de leche. I found the texture to be pretty authentic as far as gelato goes, the dulce de leche a bit too sweet.
We gave our leftovers to the “homeless” kids outside. They said they were hungry. I guess their Mothers in their million dollar mansions don’t really cook. Poor things.
Next time I will try one of the flatbreads. A neighboring table had one and it looked extra thin, crispy, and drool-worthy. The food isn’t authentic Spanish, however, having recently visited Spain….Barcelona and Mallorca…..I found these dishes more to my liking, perhaps because they were not so simple like in Spain. Regardless, I liked this place with its rich sauces, overdone flavor combos, and Italian riffs mixed with Spanish inspiration. It worked for me!
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