January 7, 2011 - It's the start of 2011 and I've made several New Year's resolutions - one being to curtail my dining out habit. We are 7 days into the new year, and I've already eaten out 5 times. So much for New Year's resolutions.
After a stressful work week, I decided to meet Amy at Estadio, located on 1540 15th Street NW, in the Logan Circle area of Washington, DC. Estadio is a Spanish restaurant, serving tapas from the Basque and Catalan regions of Spain. Haidar Karoum, the executive chef of Estadio, is also the executive chef of one of my favorite DC restaurants, Proof. I had been to Estadio shortly after it opened in the summer of 2010 and really enjoyed my experience. I was hoping for a similar one tonight.
The restaurant was a zoo on this particular Friday night. There was a 45 minute to 1 hour wait for a table and not a seat to be had at the bar. Fortunately, Amy arrived earlier than me and found one seat at the bar. I stood and waited at least 20 minutes next to her for a seat to open up. When one did, I didn't move quite as fast as the person standing next to me. Fortunately, a nice man at the bar, who was getting ready to pay his check, offered me his seat. Trying to get a bar seat was a little stressful - so much for a relaxing evening!
Once I sat down; however, and ordered a glass of wine, things got much better. For our first glass of wine, we ordered one recommended by our bartender. The wine was 100% Graciano, a "blending" grape grown primarily in the Rioja region of Spain. This wine was fairly aromatic, very rich, high in acidity, had hints of black cherry and spice and a lingering finish. The evening was looking up.
I let Amy do all the ordering for the evening since my mind was literally numb from an exhausting week both at work and home. Amy started us off with the chorizo, Manchego cheese with a pistachio crusted quince paste. We ate this so fast that I forgot to take a picture of it. It was basically a cube of Manchego cheese with a thin slice of chorizo layered on top with a tiny dollup of the pistachio paste, all held together by a toothpick. Below is a picture I took the first time I went to Estadio -the chorizo-Manchego amuse bouche is the first and third item, starting from the left, on the plate below. I enjoyed this one-bite starter very much - the chorizo had just the right amount of spice and it went nicely with the cheese and pistachio paste.
Amy and I seem to always order the raw items on the menu and tonight was no different. We decided to try the bacalao crudo. It was served with slices of jalapeno, chunks of avocado and oranges, and drizzled with olive oil. Although the bacalao, or cured cod, was thinly sliced, it was still slightly chewy. I think that is just the nature of the bacalao and not anything that the chef did wrong. The jalapeno, avocado, and oranges were perfect accompaniments and added nicely to the flavor profile of the salted cod.
Another menu item that we always order at every tapas restaurant is the patatas bravas. I would definitely rank Estadio's version in my top 3 of all the different versions I've tried - Jaleo's patatas bravas is still my favorite. Jaleo, by the way, no longer makes the version that I like best. Here is the recipe for Jaleo's "retired" patatas bravas - http://cucina.grandinetti.org/recipes/appetizers-and-salads/patatas-bravas.
Back to Estadio's patatas bravas - the tomato sauce had a nice "kick" to it and the potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, just the way I like them. Amy thought the chef could have added a little more aioli and I agreed.
Generally, I always order the tomato bread at any tapas restaurant but tonight Amy suggested we try the bread topped with foie gras mousse, smoked duck breast, and caramelized onions. This turned out to be an excellent suggestion and probably one of my favorites of the evening. The melt-in-your-mouth foie gras along with the duck breast paired nicely with natural sweetness of the caramelized onions.
For our second glass of wine, Amy and I both ordered the 2006 Muga Reserva, a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, and 5% each of the Mazuelo and Graciano blending grapes. It was very floral smelling and again, like the other wine we had this evening, had a long finish and tasted of black cherries or blackberries.
Finally, for our last tapas, we ordered the spiced grilled chicken, cabbage slaw, rice, and salsa loca. As you can see, the dish is very beautiful and it tastes as good as it looks. Amy thought the green sauce tasted similar to a green chutney sauce she gets at her favorite Afghan restaurant. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to lick the plate when I was done.
Amy ordered one more glass of wine - I had just a taste of it - the 2008 Alto Moncayo Veraton, made with 100% Garnacia grape. It is a full-bodied and well-balanced wine with an intense floral bouquet. It tasted of smoke, spice, lavender, and black raspberries. I will remember this for the next time I go and order this wine first. We both thought it was fabulous.
For dessert, Amy ordered a cheese plate. All I remember about the cheese was that two were made from goat's milk and one was from sheep's milk.
I ordered the pumpkin bread pudding with cinnamon ice cream topped with pepitas (or pumpkin seeds). The bread pudding was very moist and I absolutely loved the cinnamon ice cream.
Final note: I love almost everything about Estadio - the atmosphere, the decor, and most of all the food. My only complaint (and it was a small one) was the service we received when we first arrived. They have a first come, first serve policy at the bar but they don't really adhere to it. I would describe their policy more like a "free for all." Basically, you have to be aggressive and push your way to a seat. Once we sat down, the service improved dramatically. The place was crowded and noisy both times I've been so if you are looking for a quiet evening, I would definitely recommend that you pick another place. Otherwise if you are in the mood for a lively dinner and great food, Estadio is definitely the place to go.