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Date of visit: Friday, April 28, 2017

img_8356Fisterra, Galicia (Finisterre in Spanish) is known as “the end of the world” by pilgrims who carry on with their pilgrimage to the sea after arriving at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. Whichever name you call it by, it’s a beautiful place where the rocky coast of Galicia meets the Atlantic Ocean to complete this legendary, epic journey. Perched high above the end of the world on a hillside in the aldea (village) of San Martiño de Arriba, sits Ó’Fragón Restaurante.

It’s an uphill drive to get there (the restaurant’s website offers a YouTube video of the trip to help guide you there!), then  a zigzagging walk down a concrete path to get to the minimalist modern building that houses Ó’Fragón.  The contemporary building is starkly beautiful with light wood and bare concrete interior, perfect in that it doesn’t draw any attention away from the spectacular sea views through the floor-to-ceiling windows nor the equally spectacular food that will be served.

Photos from the parking area. Restaurant entrance is down the zigzag path.

 

Clean and minimal, nothing distracts from that incredible view!

The menu is not extensive, but it doesn’t need to be. Fresh, top quality Galician products make up the menu items. They are listed, quite proudly, first in Gallego, then in Spanish and English. If you have the time, the tasting menu at €35 per person with optional wine pairings only €15 more is a tremendous deal, given the quality of the fare and exceptional list of carefully curated Galician wines Ó’Fragón offers. We ended up ordering a la carte as we had a dinner reservation later that night to consider (at As Garzas in Malpica, Galicia), but next time I will take advantage of the tasting menu without hesitation.

The regular menu (left), that gorgeous view (middle), and the tasting menu (right)

 

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Fran expertly opens the bottle of sparkling Galician wine with nary a whisper.

Our host for the afternoon was Fran Insua Fernández. Fran has been a restaurateur in Fisterra since 2003. He is not only the owner but also runs the front of house and speaks excellent English. The original location of Ó’Fragón was down in the middle of the town of Fisterra, relocating up the hill to San Martiño de Arriba in December 2015.

I was very interested in tasting a sparkling Galician wine. Fran recommended this clean and fruity Eidosela Albariño (100%) Extra Brut from the Rías Baixas region, made in the Champagne method. Another dining companion enjoyed this 2015 Pazo de Seoane Rosal (an Albariño, Caíño, Treixadura, Loureiro blend also from the Rías Baixas). Mr. Vacation had a taste for a “mezclado”, red and white vermouth over ice. Of course, Galician Nordesía gin made the mezclado even better, and is made by the same folks that I visited in the fall at Vía Romana.

Albariño sparkling wine, Pazo de Seoane Rosal, and a mezclado.

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Tomates Ecoloxicos, Xeado de Queixo Azul “Prestes” – Organic Tomatoes, Prestes Blue Cheese Ice Cream

This first dish so perfectly defined what this restaurant is all about: light and refreshing. Organic tomatoes with Prestes blue cheese ice cream was a uniquely delicious combination with the cheese flavor shining through the creamy cool ice cream atop perfectly ripe juicy tomatoes. The melting ice cream and tomato broth made the best sauce on the plate, perfect for dipping with the hearty Galician white and flax-seed bread.

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Croques ó Vapor – Steamed Cockles

Simply steamed berberechos (the Spanish word for cockles) dressed tableside with good quality local Galician olive oil. That’s it. That’s all you need, or want, when dealing with such high quality product.

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Longueiróns á Tixola – Pan Cooked Razor Clams

These magnificent mollusks are local razor clams. So local, in fact, that you can even see the beach from which they were harvested in the photo below. Similar to a navaja (traditional razor clam), the longueirón has a straighter shell and a lighter sandy color. If the croques above are Galicia on a plate, these longueirones are Fisterra on a plate.

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This beach here, as seen from the restaurant’s patio, is where the longueiróns are harvested.  It doesn’t get much more local!

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Arroz Carnaroli, Croques, Queixo – Carnaroli Rice, Cockels, Cheese

Toasted rice cooked just al dente risotto style in a light, not soupy, sauce. Absolutely delicious with a generous amount of those same tender, sweet cockles we enjoyed as an appetizer.

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Solombo de Tenreira “Costa da Morte” (POUCO FEITO) – Veal Sirloin from “Costa da Morte” (SERVED RARE)

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Estrela Mencía red wine.

This veal was a real treat for the meat lover at the table. The menu made it very clear that it would be served rare. Rare it was – and it was absolutely perfect served that way. This gorgeous hunk of meat sat atop scalloped potatoes with thyme and roasted red and orange peppers on the side. The icing on the cake was the pink sea salt. It was made pink in-house by soaking the sea salt flakes for 24 hours in red wine from the Ribeira Sacra region.

Speaking of red wine, Mr. Vacation selected this Estrela wine from the Amandi subzone of the Ribeira Sacra wine region. This medium bodied red Mencía paired nicely with the veal dish.

 

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Guiso de Polbo con Patacas Novas – Octopus Stew with New Potatoes

More Galician favorites here: humble octopus and potatoes are brought together into a flavorful, richly satisfying stew. With a sprinkle of good paprika and that wonderful Galician bread at the ready to take advantage of that juice on the plate!

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Ameixas Babosas na nosa “Mariñeira” – Babosa Clams in our own “Marinera” sauce

Ó’Fragón presents their own unique take on the classic dish Clams Marinera by omitting the tomatoes that usually make a sauce for fresh babosa clams (a Galician variety).  The just-barely-there sauce was a fragrant mix of caramelized onions, black pepper, white wine, and clam broth. So lightly dressed, the clams remained at center stage on the plate.

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Dessert and Cheese menu

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Xeado Cremoso de Limón – Creamy Lemon Ice Cream

This was anything but a traditional lemon ice cream. As much as we loved the flavor we found the texture was perhaps the most interesting aspect of this dessert; creamy like a lemon sherbet, but with a marshmallow-like consistency.

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Biscoito de Laranxa Amarga-Mandarina – Bitter Orange Cake-Tangerine

Fran advised that this wasn’t an ordinary cake. This would be a lightened up cake. A cake that’s been turned inside out, so that the ‘cake’ (more like a crumbled cookie) is the base but the cream and the orange would be the stars: one scoop of orange sorbet and two quenelles of bitter orange heavy whipped cream each decorated with a caramelized mandarin orange slice. Very unique and, true to Fran’s word, very light.

Fran at work (left) and taking a moment for a photo op (right).

With the clean, streamlined preparations of first class Galician products accompanied by fine Galician wines, Fran has truly created a unique and relaxing space for memorable destination dining. Way back in a 2010 interview with La Voz de Galicia newspaper, he stated that he had the idea to create a kind of gastronomic temple in his hometown of Fisterra (“facer en Fisterra unha especie de templo gastronómico”). That is precisely what he has done here on this hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the end of the world.


Ó’Fragón Restaurante
Lugar San Martiño de Arriba, 22, 15154 Fisterra (map)
+34 981 740 429

Website: www.ofragon.es
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ofragon/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/ofragon_restaurante

English spoken: YES

Our reservation was made 3 weeks in advance via email for our springtime visit. If you plan to visit in summer, I would recommend booking at least that much in advance.

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Date of visit: Thursday, September 15, 2016

With an afternoon free in O Grove, I jumped at the chance to make a reservation at Restaurante Culler de Pau on a beautiful day in mid-September this year. From my table right against the wall to wall windows in a stark white building perched upon a hilltop, I enjoyed an expansive view of bateas (large wooden rafts that float in the waters of Galician inlets where shellfish are cultivated) on the Ría de Arousa.

In addition to possessing one of Galicia’s 13 Michelin stars in 2016, Javier Olleros is known for being one of the most admired chefs in Galicia. Chef Olleros is also part of GrupoNove. As mentioned in earlier posts about YayoDaporta Restaurante, A Estación, Casa Solla, and Alborada, Grupo Nove published a book in 2015, featuring all of the various chefs in the group. Each chef is profiled in the context of the landscapes, products, and producers that are meaningful to them, personally. In the book, Chef Olleros is pictured amongst the boulders of picturesque Con Negro beach located on the westernmost edge of the O Grove peninsula (with stunning sunsets as it faces the Atlantic Ocean – map) [the landscape] holding a bouquet of fresh herbs [the product] representing the organic wild and cultivated herbs and a Galician variety of tender corn that are cultivated and foraged for by two local nearby farms [the producers] specifically for Culler de Pau.

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Expansive views of the bateas in the Ría de Arousa from the dining room of Culler de Pau.

Of the two tasting menus offered, I opted for the shorter 6 course menu, mostly based upon time … it would take about 1.5 hours for the shorter menu as opposed to the 13 course menu that would take approximately 2.5 hours. An optional pairing of 4 wines was offered as well. Upon making my selection, the aperativos (appetizers) began to arrive. First, olives were placed on the table then a small cup of gazpacho (chilled soup) made with the broth of mussels and a variety of small cherry tomatoes. It was fresh, light, and tasted of summer.

Recaredo Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009

The first wine of the afternoon was this Recaredo Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009, a dry sparkling cava from the Alt Penedès wine region (near Barcelona).

Bonito de Burela, encurditos, vinagrete de tomate (tuna from the northern coast of Galicia, pickles, tomato vinaigrette)

The first course was a beautiful and absolutely delicious plate of bonito de Burela (tuna from a town called Burela, located on the northern coast of Galicia) with tiny pickled vegetables and a tomato jam accenting two creamy sauces.

The next wine was this Finca Meixeman Guímaro, a Mencia from the Ribeira Sacra wine region.  It was paired with the following two courses.


Huevo, queso San Simón y migas de pan (egg, San Simón cheese, bread crumbs)

Pictured above, a fresh farm sous vide to 63° egg at the bottom of a pool of smoky San Simón cheese ‘bisque’ topped with crunchy seasoned bread crumbs. This was my favorite dish of the day. When I spoke with Chef Olleros at the end of my meal we talked about this dish and how, despite the fact that I’d obviously never had it (or anything quite like it) before, it seemed familiar – like my favorite comfort food. I would not hesitate to make a return trip to Culler de Pau just to have this again. Not a drop went to waste as I utilized the organic white & wheat local bread to sopetear (sop up) every bit!

Merluza, salsa ‘meunière’ y quinoa (hake fish, meunière sauce and quinoa)

Perfectly cooked merluza (hake fish) over a meunière sauce with a dollop of pil pil (an emulsion made from olive oil, garlic and fish broth, in this case most likely the same merluza) and a bit of quinoa on the side was straightforward, perfectly prepared, and absolutely lovely.

Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva – what a unique pairing for roast beef!

Rather than a red wine to accompany roast beef, the next wine pairing broke with usual tradition. A white wine from La Rioja was selected. It was quite a surprise, but this 2003 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva totally worked as a pairing with this next savory dish.

Solomillo de vaca (como roast beef), zanahoria y guiso de champinon (beef sirloin (like roast beef), carrot and stewed mushrooms)

They referred to this beef sirloin as “like roast beef”, and it was – but imagine the most tender, flavorful roast beef you’ve ever had over an intensely beefy pan sauce. Really delicious. The sides, while small, were exceedingly flavorful. A stripe of carrot and grapefruit cream along one side, stewed mushrooms wrapped in Swiss chard, and (my favorite little taste) pasta in salsa de vaina de grelo (turnip green sauce) accompanied the beef.

As we moved into the dessert courses, I noticed that the playlist was including quite a bit of Frank Sinatra. “My Way” started, as if on cue, when the dessert wine pairing was presented, a 2009 Oremus Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos from Hungary.

Fresas con limón albahaca (strawberries with lemon and basil)

Strawberries macerated with lemon and basil topped with fresh blackberries and basil ice cream with an accent of coconut citrus foam. Perfectly refreshing and so lovely to enjoy in the last gasp of summer.

Torrija caramelizada, café, cacao y leche cruda (caramelized torrija, coffee, cocoa and raw milk)

Torrija is a classic Galician dessert, and one I had not yet tasted. What a way to be introduced! It’s basically an extremely custardy french toast (this one stuck me as more of a bread pudding) made of sweet brioche. This version (I had a couple of others after this) had an extremely soft, creamy custard interior (other versions had more obvious bread cubes), and a delicious burnt sugar crust. Served in a puddle of coffee flavored cream with some crunchy chocolate bits and a quenelle of raw milk ice cream, this was an exceptional dessert.

It was truly a pleasure to spend a few minutes chatting with Javi Olleros after this wonderful meal. In a relatively short time we covered a wide range of topics; the importance of teamwork in his restaurant (the team is everything at Culler de Pau; on social media the first hashtag they use is #equipocullerdepau (teamcullerdepau) and on the restaurant’s website, “team” is listed above “chef”), the theme of utilizing the best seasonal products from the region, how food can trigger memories, and the idea of maintaining Galicia’s unique identity while it develops as a culinary and touristic destination. Chef Olleros is extremely passionate about all of these topics, and it’s easy to see after meeting him why it is that he is so deeply respected by his peers in the Galician culinary scene.

MyLifeOnVacation and Javi Olleros


Restaurante Culler de Pau
Calle Reboredo 73, O Grove, Spain (map)
+34 986 732 275

Website: www.cullerdepau.com/en/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/restaurantecullerdepau
Instagram: www.instagram.com/cullerdepau
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/RestCullerdepau

I also spoke with Chef Olleros about his appearance on a recent episode of the Galician gastronomic television program Gastrópodos, hosted by Chef Beatriz Sotelo of Restaurante A Estación. They explored a bit of O Grove (which hosts an annual seafood festival) and shared much information about local centola (centolla -crab). We even got to see Berto from D’Berto Restaurante as a judge during the cooking competition of the show!

View the O Grove – A Centola episode of Gastrópodos here: http://www.crtvg.es/tvg/programas/gastropodos/

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Date of visit: Friday, September 23, 2016

 

La Casa Barrié – photo taken from the English Route of the Camino de Santiago that passes directly in front. Home to Bido Restaurante.

The city of A Coruña is known for having beautiful architecture and some absolutely gorgeous stately historical buildings. One of the grande dames of the Corunese cityscape is La Casa Barrié (Barrié House), built in 1916. Unique in both size and design, it occupies a large city block near the Plaza de Vigo and is built in an “eclectic” style, which is to say a mixture of different architectural styles (Classic, Baroque, and Modernist). It is within this building that Bido Restaurante is located, right on the English Route of the Camino de Santiago on one of the main thoroughfares that leads into the old part of the city.

Beginning in August of this year, social media in A Coruña started buzzing about a new restaurant set to open in late September by Chef Juan Crujeiras, founder and co-proprietor of Michelin-starred A Estación Restaurante in Cambre, Galicia. Since I was fortunate enough to have visited A Estación twice last year and enjoyed both visits immensely, I was really hoping to be able to dine at Bido during my September trip to Galicia. Alas, it wasn’t to be … the restaurant’s opening was three days after I was scheduled to leave A Coruña. When Chef Crujeiras ever so kindly invited me over to Bido for a sneak peek of the restaurant a few days before the actual opening, I was absolutely delighted to accept!

The name Bido comes from bidueiro, the Galician word for “birch”, as in the tree. The restaurant’s unique logo incorporates a graphic interpretation of a birch leaf (note the blocks that form straight line of the letter “B”, top of the letter “I” and the corners of the “D” in BIDO, below), and also makes reference to the intricate patterns often seen in the old fashioned hydraulic (cement) tile floors of which Chef Crujeiras is quite fond.

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When I arrived early on a Friday afternoon the team at Bido was buzzing about working to finalize all of the last minute details since the restaurant was actually opening in just a few more days. Table settings weren’t yet laid down, but there was already an inviting comfort to the refined airy space. Personalized with birch branches, leather chairs, and natural golden tones, the architecturally impressive interior brings a sense of nature and the outdoors into this city restaurant. While the setting at Bido is a bit more elegant than at her sister restaurant in Cambre, the atmosphere is less formal. There are no tablecloths, for example, and one can sit at the comfortable bar to enjoy a beverage and a bite to eat.

Sipping on a glass of wine at one of the comfortable high tops near the window with a lovely view out onto Calle Marcial de Adalid. Note the birch leaf motif from the logo repeats in the awning.

Bido Restaurante serves contemporary Galician cuisine in quite the same style as the dishes that are served at A Estación. A unique feature of Bido’s menu is that the main courses are all served as media raciónes (half portions), so that guests may try multiple items. As a matter of fact, several of the dishes listed in Bido’s menu are quite similar to dishes we enjoyed at A Estación and, from all accounts, they are executed with the same high level of quality.

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The current version of the menu (menu photos courtesy of Chef Crujeiras):

Para Empezar, Picar O Compartir (To start, Nibble, or Share)
Entrantes (Starters)
Principales (Main Dishes)
Y de postre qué hay? (What’s for dessert?)

 

 

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Well, I did get to try something of the food during the visit to Bido – a seafood croqueta! It was delicious!

Bido takes full advantage of the beautiful well-stocked bar that dominates the front of the restaurant with a specialty cocktail program that covers a great many of the classics. In addition to the cocktails and spirits, they offer a by-the-glass selection of unique and interesting higher end wines. Normally wines of this level are only available by the bottle, particularly in A Coruña, so this is a unique feature allowing guests to sample wines that might not otherwise be found by the glass.

Below, Chef Crujeiras poses with one of the bottles being sampled on the afternoon of my visit and with yours truly (MyLifeOnVacation) for an Instagram post.

In a recent interview on the local Galician culinary radio program Come e Fala, Chef Crujeiras expressed his excitement about this new project and commented that Bido’s opening has exceeded his expectations. With a passionate and devoted team on board (including Manual Otero, the charming maître d’ – head waiter, from A Estación who was featured in this interesting article earlier this year), this new outpost has been established in fine form. While A Estación remains as highly regarded as ever, the arrival of Bido is an absolute boon to A Coruña’s dining scene.


Bido Restaurante
Marcial  de Adalid 2, A Coruña, Spain (map)
+34 881 92 28 47

Website: www.bidorestaurante.es
Facebook: www.facebook.com/bido-restaurante
Bido Instagram: www.instagram.com/bidorestaurante
Chef Crujeiras Instagram:  www.instagram.com/crujeiras


Come e Fala Radio Program – September 9, 2016 episode featuring Chef Crujeiras

A Coruña’s Modernist Route (Ruta Modernista) – For more information on the beautiful historical modernist buildings in A Coruña , see the Coruña Turismo site – available here in English.

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Date of Visit: Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The old part of the city of A Coruña is full of narrow pedestrian streets and alleys lined with bars and restaurants. Every evening is a lively scene, with people spilling out into the streets enjoying themselves until all hours. In May of this year we had the pleasure of taking a cruise out of London with stops in Asturias (Gijón), Galicia (Vigo & A Coruña), and Portugal (Lisbon). After the cruise, we spent an additional day in London then returned to Coruña for a few days.

The flight from London Heathrow to A Coruña on Vueling Airlines lands at 8:40 p.m., which gives a person enough time to exit the airport, get into town, check into a hotel and still catch an amazing sunset like this one we saw on the way to dinner.

Sunset from the shore of Orzán Beach. Photo taken at 10:21 p.m.


I had noticed A Mundiña on my very first visit to A Coruña in 2014. It is located on Calle de la Estrella, one of the aforementioned pedestrian streets lined with bars and restaurants in the old part of the city. My favorite hotels in Coruña are located near here so I had passed by and noticed their refined logo on the awning over the outdoor seating area, filled always with well-heeled diners, many times. Everything I had read about this place indicated it is one of the best restaurants in Coruña for quality seafood with a focus on the freshest product from the market, prepared in a traditional manner. This year (2016), the restaurant is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

 

The menu (above) is comprised of classic Galician seafood and marisco dishes.

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This is the tastiest bowl of Caldo Gallego (Galician Stew) I’ve had in all four trips to Galicia, and it was served as a complimentary amuse here. This version was really hearty with all of the traditional ingredients (potato, salt pork, white beans, and turnip greens) working in harmony to create an intensely flavorful broth.

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We selected this nice bottle of Albariño from Bodega Santiago Ruiz (located in the Rias Baixas wine region) to accompany this seafood feast.

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Cigalas! Langoustines en route from the display case to the kitchen where they had a date with the plancha (grill).

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The same cigalas fresh off of the grill a few minutes later and finished simply with a luxurious drizzle of olive oil. Absolutely perfect. A chuparse los dedos! (Finger licking good!)

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A plate of octopus was in order for our first meal back in Galicia. Pulpo á feira con cachelos (Octopus over boiled potatoes) is about as simple as it gets, and as delicious as ever.

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When inquiring about the specialty of the house we were directed without hesitation to this dish, La Caldeirada (fish stew). Boiled potatoes under a huge portion of whatever fish happens to be fresh at the market (this day it was merluza – hake fish) with   fresh peas in a paprika garlic sauce. Another simple, hearty, and wholly Galician dish; it was so satisfying, we were left with no room for dessert.

Well, no dessert, yet we welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed these simple dark chocolate petit fours with crumbled pistachios presented with the bill.

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The close of another wonderful meal. The food was fabulous and the service so exceptionally friendly and welcoming, we didn’t want to leave … even as we were the last people out the door at nearly 1 a.m. on a Tuesday night!

 

Lucas Pérez! Screen capture of a post from A Mundiña’s Facebook page (9/1/16).

In addition to the restaurant we visited in the old town of A Coruña, A Mundiña has a secondary location just 8 km (5 miles) away in Oleiros called Pazo do Rio (Manor House on the River) where special events and celebrations are held. Just as I was preparing to finalize this post, I saw that they had a very special celebration there just today – a despedida (going away party) for Deportivo La Coruña soccer player and local hometown hero Lucas Pérez, who is leaving Coruña for London to play for the Arsenal soccer team. I think this speaks volumes for how well-regarded the restaurant is, due in equal measure to the quality of their food and the warmth with which it is served.

 

 

 


A Mundiña
Calle de la Estrella 10, A Coruña , Spain (map)
+34 881 89 93 27

A Mundiña Website:  link
A Mundiña Facebook: link
A Mundiña Twitter: link
A Mundiña YouTube: link

Bodega Santiago Ruiz Website: link
Bodega Santiago Ruiz Instagram: link

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EDIT: A Estación closed in March of 2017.  See Bido Restaurante in Coruña. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

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“Hola. I don’t have a reservation …. but I do follow you on Instagram”, is how I introduced myself to A Estación chef and co-owner of Beatriz Sotelo when I arrived without a reservation to this Michelin starred restaurant on a quiet Saturday afternoon last year.

I had completed my second Camino, walking the Portuguese Route from the Portuguese/Spanish border some 115 kilometers (72 miles) to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, just the day before so a celebration was in order. After we chatted about Instagram, social media in general, and the Camino for a few minutes, restaurant founder and co-owner Juan Crujeiras came out of the kitchen to say hello to chat a bit. After this extremely  warm welcome, we took a photo (below) and then it was time to embark on what was to be a fabulous meal.

 

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Juan Crujeiras, MyLifeOnVacation, Beatriz Sotelo

A Estación is located in the former train station of the town of Cambre, Galicia (hence the name; A Estación is Galician for “The Station”), just a little past the airport outside of A Coruña. As a matter of fact, it’s situated only about 1 km from the Camino Inglés that goes from A Coruña to Santiago. Behind the bar near the front entrance is a large sign for a despacho billetes (ticket office) and the “station” theme carries into the comfortable dining room which is arranged in such a way that it actually looks and feels like the interior of a train car. Charming.

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Absolutely gorgeous cheese table. Several local Galician cheeses featured, including my favorite San Simón da Costa (front center).

A Estación offers an 11 course tasting menu (with optional wine pairings available) in addition to a full menu. Many of the starters are also available in half-size (media ración) portions and items from the tasting menu can even order a la carte. Since I was dining alone and wanted to be able to try various dishes, several starters in the media ración size were chosen. All were excellent; thoughtfully prepared, perfectly executed, and among the most memorable dishes I have enjoyed in Galicia.

(left) The simple, elegant place setting. (center) What better wine to accompany this lovely Galician meal than another nice Albariño? A glass of this lovely García Caamaño from the Pazo de Rubianes winery made for a perfect pairing with the seafood dishes selected. (right) A tasty variety of snacks to start: cured local olives, seasoned popcorn, and hummus with crispy breadsticks. A second round of amuses, not pictured here, included a small piece of empanada and a cup of soup.

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Vieira marinada, caviar Persé, holandesa de cítricos y margarita

Since the scallop shell is the symbol of Saint James (Santiago), and featured prominently on all of the paths of the Camino de Santiago, it seemed only appropriate that my first dish would be a media ración of marinated vieira (scallop) served elegantly over a citrus hollandaise and topped with Spanish Persé caviar, a bit of scallion, and edible flowers (yellow daisy petals, actually). An absolutely gorgeous plate with phenomenal flavor and textures.

Salmón marinado y ahumado al momento con milhojas de manzana y requeixo de A Capela

This media ración of marinated and smoked salmon with milfollas (very thin layers) of apple stuffed with requeixo da Capela (a local sweet ricotta-like creamy cheese made with raw cow’s milk) and walnuts was up next. The salmon was revealed from under the smoky dome with a flourish. Perfectly prepared and playfully presented, this salmon and its accompaniments have been stuck in my memory ever since.

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Rape asado, arroz cremoso de pulpo y emulsión de ajada

Galicia is known for an abundance of high quality pulpo (octopus), so I didn’t hesitate to order this dish where octopus was featured twice and paired with monkfish. Thin slices of cooked octopus were arranged in a rectangle (or perhaps it was a thin slice of an octopus terrine?), topped with an intensely flavorful creamy Spanish rice studded with more chunks of octopus, a perfectly cooked piece of monkfish (rape), and a garlic emulsion garnishing the plate. I absolutely loved the combination of the flavors and textures of the pulpo and monkfish in this dish and the generous dollop of that garlic sauce.

Tarta de chocolate hecho al momento con helado de yogur y chocolate blanco y café

Everything on the dessert menu looked so tempting. One offering was even a “gin & tonic in cake form”. This is the exact moment when I was wishing for a dining companion so we could get two different desserts to share. Since there was only to be one dessert, I decided on this chocolate cake “hecha al momento“. Think of a rich chocolate lava cake, deliciously gooey in the middle, served with white chocolate frozen yogurt sprinkled with chocolate pop-rocks (what a delightful surprise!), atop a coffee sauce that was brushed on the plate.

Coffee service came with a nice little assortment of petit fours. The check presented in an elegant wooden box. 

In addition to the very warm welcome from the chefs, the entire staff was friendly, courteous, and went about their duties with a calm elegance during both of our visits. I wasn’t surprised to read earlier this year this insightful newspaper article about their maitre (maître d’ – head waiter) in the local newspaper. In the article he explains a bit about his role as head waiter at A Estación where he serves as the primary liaison between the guests and the kitchen, discreetly helping guests to ensure they have a nice time while enjoying their meals. Dining at A Estación was such a wonderful experience, I knew before this meal was even finished that I would be returning.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

As the title of this post indicates, I did return to A Estación again. Just a few months later my husband and I visited Galicia together so that I could introduce him to my favorite little corner of Spain. We began that trip by attending the Festa do Mariscos (Shellfish Festival) in O Grove, where I just so happened to run into Chef Crujeiras who was there judging the best mussel dish cooking competition on Saturday night. We had a friendly chat and made a plan for us to visit the restaurant later in the week.

Unfortunately, I had fallen ill in O Grove on Monday night. On Wednesday evening I was still quite unwell, which tempered my excitement about returning to A Estación quite a bit. Not wanting to deprive my husband of the experience of dining here, I pulled up my bootstraps and set out to enjoy as best I could, given the circumstances. Chef Sotelo was not in the restaurant the evening of this visit but Chef Crujeiras was. It was nice to see him again and exchange a few pleasantries. After amuses that were quite similar to those received a few months earlier (and described above), we began the meal in earnest with a couple of classic appetizers.

(left) jamón Iberico (Iberian cured ham) accompanied by (center) toasted pan de molete bread and tomato jam and (left) zamburiñas (variegated scallops) with a crunchy onion topping. Two very simple, high quality dishes.

left – rape asado, arroz cremoso de berberechos, emulsión de ajo – limón
right – atun rojo a la parrilla, semillas, setas de japón y crema de apio-nabo

First to the table was the rape asado (roasted monkfish) served with a delicious creamy rice with berberechos, greens, all atop a lemon garlic cream. Next was the grilled sesame seed crusted atun (tuna) steak served with Japanese mushrooms and a creamy celery root sauce. This dish also received high marks. The sesame crust was perfectly crisp while the tuna remained rare in the middle, just as it ought to be.

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For dessert – local Galician cheeses accompanied by a glass of port wine.

While not in the mood for dessert myself, my better half opted for a cheese plate. The cheese cart this evening was quite similar to the one pictured above during my first visit, and from it came a very nicely composed plate featuring three cheeses and three sweet accompaniments. Of course, I really wish I had been feeling well enough to enjoy this second visit a bit more, but I’m so happy that my husband was able to experience A Estación for himself. He was quite impressed and I’ve no doubt we will make another return visit in the future!

Since these visits in 2015, I’ve kept up with the two chefs via social media, primarily Instagram and Facebook. In addition to social media, Chef Beatriz Sotelo can also be found in the regular media, on local Galician television as the host of her own cooking competition show called Gastrópodos. In each episode, she travels around to a different part of Galicia in a refurbished 50-year-old English bus to discover a unique ingredient common to the area she’s visiting, and then has a cook-off on the bus with a different local chef each episode. Judges aboard the bus declare a winner at the end of each episode. It’s quite entertaining, and she is a natural. The second season of Gastrópodos is airing now (the fall of 2016) on the CRTVG television network.

Chef Juan Crujeiras has also been keeping busy. Among other things, he is in the process of opening a new restaurant located in the city of A Coruña. At the time of this writing, the location of the new place has been announced (near the Plaza de Vigo), but the name has not yet been revealed (although there are hints being posted on Chef Crujerias’ Instagram account). All reports indicate it will open towards the end of September 2016. I will edit this post with the information once it is known. EDIT: About a week after this post was published, the name of the restaurant was announced.  The name is BIDO, which is the Galician word for “birch”, as in the tree. One newspaper article explained that the restaurant will feature media raciones so patrons will be able to try several dishes, which is exactly my style of dining. If I’m lucky, it will be open in time for my next visit back to Galicia in September. Best of luck to Chef Crujeiras in this new venture!

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The chefs at A Estación are also part of GrupoNove.  As mentioned in my earlier post about YayoDaporta Restaurante, in 2015 Grupo Nove published a book, Nove e
a Nove Cociña Galega, Cociñeiros, Paisaxes e Productos
, featuring all of the various chefs in the group. Each chef is profiled in the context of the landscapes, products, and producers that are meaningful to them, personally.

In the book, Chef Crujeiras is pictured next to a stream in a mountain forest near the town where he grew up in the Coruña province of Galicia [the landscape], featuring the highest quality fresh-baked wheat, corn, and nut breads [the product] all baked by Mocho, the restaurant’s baker [the producer]. Chef Sotelo is pictured splashing in the sea near her hometown in the Pontevedra province of Galicia [the landscape], featuring the Galiña Piñeira, a native Galician breed of chicken which is prized for the quality of its meat [the product], that was saved from extinction by a local veterinarian [the producer].

Marmontaña (sea and mountain) exemplifies Galicia itself, geographically speaking, so it seems quite appropriate that these two themes are at the heart of the cuisine at A Estación, and the soul of the restaurant itself given the provenance of the two chefs.


A Estación
Estrada da Estación, 51, Cambre (Coruña), Spain (map)
+34 981 67 69 11

email: estaciondecambre@gmail.com
Website: link                           Menu: link

A Estación Facebook: Restaurante A Estación
A Estación Instagram: www.instagram.com/aestacion

Juan Crujeiras Instagram: www.instagram.com/crujeiras
Juan Crujeiras’ new restaurant: BIDO (scheduled to open September 2016)
Marcil  de Adalid, 2-4, A Coruña, Spain (map)

Beatriz Sotelo Instagram: www.instagram.com/beatrizsotelo
Beatriz Sotelo on Gastrópodos – CRTVG: www.crtvg.es/tvg/programas/gastropodos

 

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And I’m off!  Just about to board the big British Airways 747 bound for London, connecting then to A Coruña, Spain.

 

Daily flight from London flies over my office every day around 5pm

I see this plane coming in for a landing quite frequently as my office is right on the flight path, and today I’m getting on it –  Rumbo a Coruña!!

 

Camelback Mountain playing peek-a-boo over my plane.

 

As I finished the day at work, I left this little note on my computer monitor, in case there’s anyone at all who doesn’t know what I’m up to….I mean I’ve only been talking about this on a daily basis since last June!

 

I’m on Camino!

I’m so excited for this next part of my journey,  and to see what will be unfolding over the next couple of weeks.  Un buen viaje y buen camino.

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In June 2014, I made my way to Ferrol (Galicia), Spain in order to embark on my very first Camino – on the English Route (Ruta Inglés) of the Camino de Santiago. There are two ‘official’ starting points of the Camino Ingles, one in A Coruña and the other in Ferrol. Most opt to begin in Ferrol, as the distance to Santiago de Compostela (118 kilometers) is enough to qualify to receive a Compostela certificate upon arrival (on foot) to Santiago.

My first afternoon was spent exploring Ferrol on the Modernist Route of gorgeous buildings using a very handy map found in the lobby of my hotel:

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This one is for rent!

After all of that touring around, my next search was for Churros con Chocolate. Luckily, I found them just a few steps away from my hotel.
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The following day, I finally made it down to the port to look for the official starting point of the Ruta Inglés, where people for hundreds of years may have come by boat from England to walk the Camino. It was a picture perfect day with beautiful views of a working port.
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And mere steps away was the highlight of the day: lunch at O Camiño Do Inglés (Rúa San Francisco 17).
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The staff was so friendly, and so patiently explained the whole menu to me.

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Starting with olives and albariño.

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tapa: mini bocata de raxo (little roasted pork sandwich)

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I had seen this online and knew I had to have it: Verduras a la parrilla, huevo, salmorejo, y aceite de chorizo (grilled veg, egg, tomato/bread puree, chorizo oil). Just as incredible as it looks! That egg!

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They said this was their signature dish – alitas de pollo, crema de patata, y cebolla carmelizada (boneless chicken wings, potato purée and carmalized onion). Wow, incredibly rich and delicious.

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Obligatory Camino decór

After the fabulous lunch, I was then officially on the Camino route …. where you just follow the shells all the way to Santiago!
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