A few weeks back, we had a simple dinner at the Hotel Villa Padierna’s fine dining restaurant – La Veranda. I meant to post it soon after but it slipped my mind and I only remembered it while I was reading a chapter in Calvin Trillin’s “Feeding a Yen” yesterday evening. The chapter was called Desperately Seeking Ceviche and talked about how he , his wife and a few friends travelled all over Peru and Ecuador trying to find the perfect ceviche. In the midst of their search, they stopped in a restaurant in Peru where they ate a salt-crusted baked fish and that’s when I remembered our dinner at the hotel.
We all chose different starters – two of us had the foie gras with caramelized apples while the rest had the salmorejo which is a gazpacho with diced Iberian ham and hard-boiled egg added. The pièce de résistance that evening was the salt-baked sea bass, a specialty of the chef that isn’t on the à la carte menu but can always be ordered in advance. There were two large sea bass to feed our group of six accompanied by Tartar sauce and sauteed spring vegetables. The dish looks deceptively simple but the trick is to know when the fish is done since it’s totally encased in a hardened sea-salt crust which is only cracked open table side. The fish was delicious with the flesh imbued with the sea-salt flavor and the Tartar sauce was a nice complement to the fish.
Desserts were also assorted – peach sorbet with frozen strawberries for one and the chocolate cake with liquorice ice cream for another while the rest of the group had espressos and the assorted mignardises laid on the table – the little almond cakes and the chocolate truffles were the first to go.
The tables were all set outside on the large terrace underneath wrought-iron vine-covered trellises. Dinner began with the sun still out and finished with the cricket’s noises and the lanterns lit – a romantic setting for a “diner a deux” or in our case, a pleasant way to spend an evening with friends.