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Friday, November 29, 2013

Those tapas away from home at El Mediterraneo

16-22 August 2013 #669   Nepali Times Buzz

El Mediterraneo    Time to savour those tapas

The first time I stepped into El Mediterraneo was for an evening of beer with friends. Food clearly wasn’t the focus of the night. However, chef and owner Bibushan Raj Joshi kept pouring yummy complimentary tapas and even a baked apple. By the end, I was convinced that I had to put it on my review list. This week I finally got around to going in again.
El Mediterraneo has a simple and inviting decor, white walls, blue ceiling, and wooden furniture, with a bar on the side. The menu was quite refreshing, sans the long list of regular Nepali favourites along with Chinese, Thai, and Italian as dished out by most restaurants in Kathmandu. 
But El Mediterraneo is what it says it is: a Spanish restaurant with tapas.
  • With gazpacho (Rs 220) on the list, we decided to forgo drinks and order straight. In simple terms gazpacho is a tomato-based soup, served cold. We were very impressed by El Mediterraneo’s gazpacho - cold, refreshing, and smooth. The tomato, vegetables, and herbs had been puréed to a smooth consistency and the flavours blended well in every spoonful. The start was good.
  • Next we had tortilla de patatas (Rs 220), Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions. The eggs had been beautifully layered with potatoes and cooked just right. There wasn’t much to complain about the dish, although personally I would have preferred a side of salsa or sauce to add a bit of spice to the bland combination.
For the mains we ordered seafood paella (Rs 480) and vegetarian fideos (Rs 400). Although we were wowed by the starters, the mains didn’t excite us much. 
  • When our seafood paella (like Biriyani, it says on the menu) arrived, it looked like the cook had simply dropped a dollop of rice on a white plate without any effort to improve its appeal. The dish certainly tasted better than it looked and I could feel the ingredients of the sofrito as I took a mouthful. But since the rice had not been cooked in seafood broth it lacked that specific flavour. I should also mention, I almost had to fish for the seafood in my seafood paella.
  • Our vegetarian fideos looked even less appealing than the paella and unfortunately this time we were correct to judge the food by its cover. The noodles had been broken into inch-long pieces and cooked fine, but the dish lacked flavour. And I understand if the restaurant had to be stingy with seafood, but vegetables? The fideos could have used a little more.
  • The mousse de lima (Rs 170) or lemon mousse was the saving grace. It had been beautifully set in a glass and set to a fine consistency. The sweetness was just right and you could taste the delightful lemon flavour of the mousse. Highly recommended.
  • We also tried natillas, a Spanish custard made with milk and eggs, and topped with a biscuit. The custard hadn’t set very well but the flavour was quite good. However, I think the restaurant was supposed to add the biscuit only at the time of serving. Our biscuit had spent a while in the fridge with the custard. It was soggy and didn’t add anything to the dessert.
  • Our beginning and end at El Mediterraneo was great, but the mains were disappointing. 
  • The restaurant has a unique positioning and can garner a niche if it pays attention to the details of a dish. 
  • Also, Chef Joshi would do well to train his staff in hospitality skills, which was the reason that bought me here in the first place. 
  • And a side note to diners: specify what kind of water you want, otherwise you will end up paying for an expensive mineral water. 

Buena suerte!

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