on February 8, 2015
A few weeks ago, I named three of my most memorable meals of 2014. Now, here’s the rest of the list, with three more restaurants from three different countries.
3. Tendido Cero – London, England
I walked blindly into Tendido Cero, led there by London-based friends not very long after I’d stepped off the plane from Dublin. I had no idea what I was in for when they told me we were going out for tapas, and even if I had had expectations, they would have been shattered. Tendido Cero ended up being the best tapas restaurant I’ve experienced outside of Spain, with vibrant food and a buzzing dining room.
Once we sat down, a Spanish native in our party ordered for the whole table, and soon after, the sharing plates began to come out, one by one. I most remember the asparagus, cooked to perfection and served with romesco sauce; the padrón peppers; and the Spanish omelet, which is a deceptively difficult dish, in my opinion. When living in Spain, I was served overcooked or undercooked tortilla so many times, but Tendido Cero got it just right.
Is it weird that my favorite tapas were simple veggies that had been transformed into something special? Maybe, but I think that’s the sign of a great chef.
2. Tenuta Volpara – Marsala, Sicily, Italy
There’s nothing quite like the food in Sicily, perhaps because it’s prepared with such fresh ingredients and so much passion. After all, for Italians – and especially Sicilians – eating well is as essential as breathing.
Located outside the city of Marsala, Tenuta Volpara is a rustic, rural hotel and restaurant. I love the coziness of the space, which has wooden accents and a blazing, glass-enclosed fireplace. On top of the ambiance, the food is some of the best in the area, which, given Marsala’s culinary fame – some Marsala wine, anyone? – is saying a lot.
As guests of the owners, who are family friends, we were expected to eat a lot. And we did. First, there was the traditional octopus appetizer, then homemade pasta prepared with tomatoes and seafood, some fresh-out-the-brick-oven pizza, and finally, a feast of Sicilian desserts: cappidduzzi, cannoli, cassata. I know I may be partial, but really, there’s nothing quite like going out to dinner in Sicily.
1. Etto – Dublin, Ireland
There was a lot of buzz about Etto when it first opened its doors in a tiny spot along Merrion Row in Dublin in late 2013, and that’s only grown since, with the restaurant earning a Michelin Bib and Irish Restaurant Award in 2014.
Etto is an intimate dining space where the menu changes each day to reflect the availability of seasonal ingredients. This, to me, is the essence of making dining out an event; every visit to Etto is a unique experience because of the menu. Diners will never have an old favorite to go back to time and time again, but instead, they discover new things every time they step through the door. At Etto, a meal is like a short course on good food.
My dinner there last April started with perfectly cooked scallops served with broad beans and tarragon. Our main courses were malfatti (a sort of Italian dumpling) with chanterelles and sage, and cod with spinach and salsify (a root veg that looks similar to parsnip). Now, Etto is one place in Dublin where you don’t skip dessert. We had peanut butter semifreddo (an Italian-American’s dream, I must say), and a rhubarb and goat’s cheese dessert in which the latter was sweetened and, I believe, whipped. Both were stunning, and the semifreddo, with its unique textures and flavors, has been firmly fixed in my mind ever since.