Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Casa Marcelo
1E Rúa das Horfas
15705 Santiago de Compostela
Tel: +34 981 558 580

Tuesday - May 5th - 1.45 pm
Casa Marcelo, owned and operated by head chef Marcelo Tejedor, is a one Michelin star restaurant specialising in Galician cuisine. It's located in a prime location in a quiet street just off the main city square, Praza do Obradoiro. Unfortunately, Chef Marcelo was not there the day I chose to eat there. I was given to understand that he does not prepare the lunches at the restaurant, but I may have misunderstood the waitress's halting English, especially seeing as lunch and dinner cost exactly the same, so I don't think there should be any real reason for him not to be there at lunchtime normally.

The unassuming front of Casa Marcelo

The interior was done up very nicely as one might imagine an upmarket restaurant to look like. What caught my eye was the fact that the kitchen was open plan. That's right. You could watch the kitchen staff prepare your food right in front of you. The kitchen, as you can see from the photo, was very clean and shiny, and I liked that the pots were copper. I don't know why, but it just invoked a feeling of tradition in an incredibly modern place.

Dining area

Open-plan kitchen

There is no a la carte at Case Marcelo; the only menu available is a €60 tasting menu consisting of nine courses (including two desserts). It's not exactly the most affordable meal in the world, particularly given the plethora of great restaurants in Santiago de Compostela, but, what the hey, I wanted to experience the atmosphere of a Michelin-starred restaurant for myself. Sadly, I found out that Casa Marcelo's menu used to cost around €35 in 2006, but prices have since increased, and by a rather substantial amount at that.

These were the nine courses that were served that day. The dishes were figured out through a combination of the waitress's translation of the Spanish name into English, and guesswork. I found them all very inventive; whoever would have thought to make a popcorn ball with a foie gras middle, or serve chocolate freeze-dried?

Clockwise from top left: house bread and corn bread, popcorn-covered foie gras, bread-ball in consomme of beef, and mackerel

Clockwise from top left: potato 'legs' with bacon bits, first asparagus of spring, hake in lemon juice, cream and oil, beef cooked with steam served on a bed of cabbage

Top to bottom: mandarin ice-cream with freeze-dried almond and chocolate bits, strawberry tartlet

My favourites out of all the courses were the popcorn/foie gras combination, potato 'legs' (which was nice and crispy), beef cooked with steam, and the mandarin ice-cream, which called up memories of Chinese New Year, as the ice-cream tasted exactly like a mandarin, and not like some cold artificial facsimile of a fruit. I excitedly tried to explain the last part to the waitress, but neither her English nor my French was up to it.

I also liked being able to watch the kitchen staff at work. After the waitress took away my plate, she would call out to the kitchen what course should be served next, and the chef and his three assistants would start preparing it from scratch. Each assistant had clearly segregated duties, from warming the plates by the flames, to squirting the cream into the sauce, to ensuring the cabbage was laid just right.

Head chef for the day preparing the beef dish

The service was very attentive. After every course, the waitress would come up to me and check if I liked it. For the most part, I did, although my mouth wasn't in the best shape that day, as I'd burnt my tongue and the roof of my mouth earlier in the trip. Perhaps because of that, I didn't think the fish dishes were anything extraordinary, although, truth be said, I'm not the biggest fish fan around, and seem to like it only when covered in sambal chilli. In any case, the waitstuff pretty much figured the only Spanish I knew was "gracias" (said the Galician way) and "muy bien!"

After I somehow managed to finish off all of the courses (it was really tough going as this girl is not made to eat that much food), the waitress offered to take me on a little behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen. Maybe it was the large camera beside me, and the fact that I was writing note after each course arrived, or perhaps it was because I was alone (as the couple beside me who'd finished at the same time I did weren't offered this)... who knows? In any case, I accepted and took some photos of them clearing away the food for storage.

Un petit tour de la cuisine

Un petit tour de la cuisine II

All in all, the bill came up to €73 for the tasting menu, a glass of white wine (I'd gone for the ribeiro, if memory serves) and a large bottle of sparkling water.

Would I recommend this restaurant if you happen to be in Santiago de Compostela? Sure, why not? It's definitely worth a try if you have the money to spare. Good dining doesn't always have to be just about the food; it's about the ambience and the service and the overall experience as well, and this place manages to score well on all fronts. It's probably better if you go with friends though. I'm the kind of person who gets a little shy from all the attention, so friendly service can sometimes get to me when I'm dining by myself.

1 comment:

Jonathan Shock said...

Great review!

I think that the main point about the fish at this place is they go with real simplicity. Very delicate flavours so that you get the natural freshness of the raw ingredients. It's certainly not going to knock your socks off with a punch, but I did find the beautiful subtlety of it extremely pleasing. I can certainly imagine that a pre-burnt mouth would detract from the experience!