Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Menus in Restaurants on Tenerife, Go Spanish

I’m sure it seems terribly pretentious when we’re in restaurants on Tenerife with visiting friends when the waiter asks if we want the English or Spanish menu and we always, always ask for the Spanish menu.

But there are a number of reasons why if you can understand Spanish even a bit you should follow suit.

Okay for a start there’s the obvious; it’s a good way for picking up basic Spanish words and cooking terms for anyone who wants to learn the lingo. But there are a few other, more practical reasons.

Most menus have been translated into English by someone who doesn't speak it as a first language and that can lead to some, let’s say, misunderstandings.
Two classics we came across in a restaurant on La Gomera were these - tuna done with an iron and roast paw of the house. Unfortunately neither dish was as it sounded which was a shame; one was grilled tuna (plancha is grill, but also an iron), the other roast pork.

Apart from smile-raising mistranslations, getting it wrong can lead to culinary disappointment. One time in Regulo in Puerto de la Cruz, Andy got excited by the inclusion of fish pie on the menu. She had visions of the sort of pie we cook up at home courtesy of Rick Stein’s cookbook with three types of fish, prawns and mussels in a lip-smacking sauce topped with creamed potatoes. She was gutted when a cold, fish terrine was placed in front of her.

Just last week we were in a restaurant with my sister and her boyfriend and she fancied the sea bass on the menu. Sea bass is a fish which regularly falls foul of mistranslations. In this case a quick check of the Spanish menu revealed it was actually sama, a local fish. Often it’s the dorada fish that is described as sea bass, but it’s a wee liar; dorada is bream. What we know as sea bass is actually called lubina here.

However apart from risking disappointment, the best reason for always asking for the Spanish menu is that you might be missing out if you don’t.

Recently we ate at La Casona in Puerto, again with my sis and her boyfriend. The Spanish menu included a ‘combinado’ section which was mysteriously absent from the English menu. If you’ve never come across combinado menus, you’re missing out on a Spanish style of food presentation that would have Gordon Ramsey turning the air blue.
A combinado is as it sounds a combination. So you get bizarre couplings like a fillet of cherne (grouper) served with a pork chop separated by a mountain of chips, or chicken with steak and maybe a fried egg, or frankfurter thrown in for good measure.

Combinados might have the serious chefs holding up a crucifix to ward them off, but they’re quite good fun and perfect for anyone having an attack of indecision, especially if they like their food quite simply prepared…plus they are incredibly cheap, usually well under €10.

So asking for menus in Spanish on Tenerife might sound pretentious, but at least you can be sure of what’s going to be on your plate when it arrives.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

On the Trail of Tapas in Puerto de la Cruz

Tenerife is tapas trail mad at the moment. There are at least four tapas routes taking place as I type. There’s one in Guia de Isora, a cheese themed one in La Laguna, an aphrodisiac themed tapas route along the north coast and one in Puerto de la Cruz.

I knew Puerto held a tapas route at this time of year, but with typical Tenerife advance notice, this year’s wasn’t confirmed until the middle of last week. It started on the 5th November, perfectly timed to coincide with a visit from my sister and her boyfriend, Graeme.

The hardest thing about tapas routes is choosing where to start. With 37 restaurants and cafes in Puerto participating in this one, choosing a start point was always going to be a bit of a mare, especially when you added other conditions – a) there had to be two choices and b) under no conditions could any of the tapas dishes have tentacles. As an avid eater of anything with tentacles, the second condition took some of my first choices out of the picture.

Restaurant number seven on the tapas list I had printed off met all the criteria plus it was in one of our favourite ‘secret’ restaurants in Puerto, Casa Pache.
Last year they blew us away with their space dust ravioli, this year’s tapas were a bit more conventional; albóndigas con papa negra (meatballs with black potato) and the more imaginative timbale de batata con bonito (tuna in a sweet potato mould topped by a light red pepper sauce). As always the food was delish and whilst we tucked in, we formulated our tapas route.

Some places were ruled out because the only opened in the evening, others because they bizarrely stopped serving at 2pm. This being Tenerife, following a tapas route isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Our second choice, Pandorga turned out to be closed for vacations begging the question why were they on it? A sub was quickly found. Bar Cafeteria Central dished up a couple of decent sized montaditos (slices of crispy bread with spicy meat and  tuna toppings). It wasn’t fancy (typical of the type of food they serve), but it was tasty enough. Third stop proved a bit confusing. The map showed Heladería Paraíso, but the name above the restaurant and on the menus said Pinguino; what I’ve always know it by.

“Is this Heladería Paraíso?” I asked the waiter.
“Si,” came the reply.
“But the name says Pinguino?”
“Si, it’s the same place,” he smiled.
“The paradise penguin?” Andy suggested.
“Exacto,” he laughed.

Then to confuse matters further, when we ordered two tapas paraíso and two tapas Charco (don’t ask me what they were, this was our surprise option). But he informed us they didn’t have them, all they had was chicken.

This is another aspect of some tapas routes. You don’t always get what is on the list; it sort of adds to the adventure of the whole thing. As it turned out their shredded chicken in sauce tapas was rather imaginatively presented and tasted as good as it looked.

For our final stop – although not stuffed, the beer with each tapas (€2.50 for tapas an drink) was proving conducive to making us want to practice that most Spanish of traditions, the siesta – we chose local police haunt Maga.

I liked the parrot fish mousse a lot, but the second offering turned out to be the tastiest tapas we’d tried all day. Fillet of pork with apple and sweet potato. They might not sound like obvious companions, but their flavours complemented each other brilliantly. It was a satisfactory end to our tapas trail. Or should I say temporary end. The tapas route continues until the 28th November and having been denied my tentacle hit, there are quite a few tapas that I still want to try out including the stuffed cuttlefish at El Establo and the octopus and potatoes at Lo Que Me Gusta…