World Tapas Day: Journey to the Flavours of Spain

World Tapas Day: Journey to the Flavors of Spain

Last Thursday 15 June was officially World Tapas Day and I had a chance to share Spanish cuisine, discover new flavours and celebrate life through delicious food at Fava, Bangalore.

From the dreamy mountain villages of Majorca to the adrenaline-thumping surfing on the beaches of Fuerteventura, Spain offers diversity in its landscape just as much as it offers variety in its foods. And when it comes to tapas {a very special type of “mini-cuisine”}, food gains a whole new perspective, as it is not only about the explosion of flavours tapas bring to your taste buds, but also about “tasting the moment” while sharing it with your favourite people.

It’s a well known fact that the Spanish tapas culture has been gaining appreciation in the world’s culinary scene for quite a while. Restaurants and diners around the globe, and especially here in India, are finding this to be a great way of sharing small plates of food, with the culture going beyond purely Spanish restaurants to characterize a lifestyle and loving gastronomy.

This is probably the reason why tapas have very deservingly come into the limelight with a whole day being dedicated throughout the world to these delectable Spanish appetizers. On World Tapas Day, food enthusiasts around the world celebrate this exquisite element of the Spanish cuisine and culture.

Events like these are truly a joy as they inspire innovation among the chefs and motivate food enthusiasts to try delicacies which introduce different cultures of the world in one of the most interesting ways – through their food. The initiative is broken down into two levels for all cities around the globe: Spanish embassies abroad organizing gastronomic events to introduce their cuisine and its specialities to people, and events that are held in collaboration with restaurants in different parts of the world.

Following the success of last year, Fava Bangalore, is celebrating “Viva La Fiesta”; a weeklong event that is being organized to celebrate the simplistic delight of the “small plates” of Spain. I was invited by Chef Abhijit Saha on World Tapas Day to preview this special menu, where Chef Alejandro who was flown down from Spain created tapas magic with his unique twists of flavours. And when food serves as not just a source of nutrition but a reason to be delighted, it deserves to be celebrated; this was one delicious celebration of Spanish flavours and culture that I wasn’t going to miss!

 

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Tanya Dhar

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Chef Abhijit Saha with Chef Alejandro

 

The Menu

A country’s cuisine is its landscape in a cooking pot – Spanish writer Joseph Pla

 

Vegetarian

Crusty Valencian Bread with Topping
{Valencian style mini flat breads with toppings of cheese, roast aubergine, onion, zucchini and cherry}

There’s no place where Pla’s words ring more truely than Catalonia in Spain’s easternmost culinary region. The simplest dish prepared here is Pan Con Tomate {Tomato Bread} made from charred bread, tomatoes and olive oil. But modest as it looks, the flavours push it to a higher level of epicurean delight.

You will find a number of restaurants bringing the ingredients to the table separately and then preparing this dish tableside. While the base is always bread, the toppings can include local cheese, sausage, ham and seafood.

Fava replaced the reds of the tomatoes with the cream and purples of roast aubergine, where a benevolent drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt brought in a lovely flavour to the crusty bread.

 

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Tanya Dhar with Chef Alejandro

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Potato Bombs
{Golden corn stuffing and salsa brava}

Wars have been started over food and these sumptuous ‘bombs’ certainly had been girded up if anyone would try to part them from me.

Made from mashed potatoes, cheese and vegetables, these potato bombs were seated on a small plate flanked by a fiery salsa brava. The salsa attempted to douse the gentle flavour of the fluffy potato and corn balls with its spiciness introducing the palate to a world of deliciousness and promising lots more ahead.

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Stuffed Roasted Pepper
{Roasted yellow and red bell peppers, stuffed with a mixture of zucchini, mushroom, tomato & fresh herbs – served with a garlic crumble and sliced morel (mushroom)}

With a fantastic blend of ingredients and flavours, the colourful peppers created a jaunty looking dish which promised some food-fun. Quite surprisingly, I ended up enjoying this plant-based dish and even felt satiated by it. Apparently, I’ve always had an inclination towards animal products, and this one came as a pleasant surprise.

What made the peppers so wholesome was the perfect combination of flavours when the sweet bell peppers were stuffed with the delectable filling of zucchini, mushroom, tomato & fresh herbs and roasted to perfection.

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Asparagus & Spring Onion in Tempura
{Catalan style served with a sauce made with orange, lemon, orange rind and citrus foam}

Foam, or “Espuma” in Spanish, has been mainstreamed in the modern culinary landscape where presentations are as important as flavours. Spanish cuisine indulges in the use of dense foams that come in a number of variations. It works its own magic on the food it adorns and transforms the flavours while bringing in a refreshing look to the dish. The citrus foam used in this dish lent a sense of coolness and warmth, acidity and richness all at the same time.

Foams abet the ability of diners to experience the different textures of a food especially when dishes are combined to bring many textures together. Needless to say, the asparagus tempura, though not virtuous because of the oil that goes into it, was deliciously crisp and paired amazingly well with the citrus foam.

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Non-Vegetarian

Deconstructed Spanish Omelette
{Sous vide cooked organic eggs – served with potato & onion espuma, crispy leeks, romesco sauce & truffle oil}

Deconstruction in cooking {otherwise called “destructured” cooking}, emerged in the nineties where in search for something new, and thanks to the genius of the Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, traditional food put on a new garb and presented itself with the essential flavours preserved but with new interpretations for modern times; the intent of which was the awakening of all the senses, not just those of taste and smell.

So, enter the sherry glass with potato foam, onion purée, and egg-white sabayon topped with deep fried potato crumbs. I had my own reservations about this dish, but as I had a spoonful… voila! You’re eating an omelette in the most unique conceivable way!

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Grilled Mackerel
{Grilled fresh Mackrel fillets marinated with lemon & garlic – served with migas (a mixture of bread crumbs), bell pepper, extra virgin olive oil & black olive infused garlic mayonnaise}

I loved the practicality with which my mom treated food. Whole fish never necessitated a lot of fuss in her kitchen. They were usually showered with some seasoning and bathed in a generous drizzle of olive oil before they went in the oven. I religiously follow my mum’s no-fuss approach with simple Mackerel recipes to this day.

Oily fish, such as mackerel, have a strong flavour of their own and deserve a bold selection of seasoned glazes. Fava created some nostalgic fish memories as a fresh mackerel reached my table cooked till the skin had gained an alluring crispiness and the flavours had reached an agreement to come together in the most harmonious blend.

White wines pair best with mackerel since reds can end up tasting metallic. I would suggest an Italian blend of Fiano and Greco grapes to go along with this well-seasoned and perfectly cooked mackerel.

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Garlic Prawns
{A classic Tapa of prawns cooked with chilli, garlic & olive oil – served with cherry tomato, pickled beets & coriander leaf}

Just as I was finishing up with the mackerel, a large terracotta plate of sizzling prawns went by with an exotic trail of flavour emanating from the frying garlic – definitely hard to resist!

Sweet shrimp in garlicky olive oil – Gambas al Ajillo is an exemplary Spanish tapas dish that is traditionally served in Spanish bars. At Fava the layered garlic flavours permeated the juicy and tender meat while the outer layer gave way with a crunchy pop – this classic dish delivered in spades!

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Roasted Lamb Chops
{Grass fed baby lamb chops marinated with fresh herbs and grilled – served with tomato garlic sauce}

There are few things better than lamb chops on the grill.

The eastern region of Cataluña in Spain is known for its deliciously prepared lamb chops. The ethos of the cooking is this region is simple; complexity lies in the flavours and textures of the food. This is the type of complexity that you will enjoy – the type that coerces the taste buds to yearn for more.

The tender baby lamb I was served was accompanied with a pungent tomato garlic sauce; the distinctive taste and texture of which combined flawlessly with the perfectly cooked meat.

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Dessert

Deconstructed Mango Crema Catalana
{Catalan style caramel flan Espuma served with seasonal fresh mangoes}

Chef Alejandro’s mango custard had freshness in its taste and lusciousness in its flavours. Crisp caramelized sugar created a crust forming the top layer of the dessert. The result was a creamy dish with a saccharine crispiness that warmed my belly with joy!

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End note: As much as I adore Spanish cuisine and particularly tapas, it’s not just about food to satiate the soul. The Spanish culture uses tapas as a means of bringing together friends and family, and there truly is nothing quite like sharing a variety of foods and wine with your favourite people!

Foodie or not, if you like to try new things and experience new cultures then “Viva La Fiesta” at Fava in UB City Bangalore is definitely a celebration that you wouldn’t want to miss. Dining out is so much more fun when an element of inventiveness is added to it. For a fun and laid-back style of eating that promises to leave your taste buds gratified you know where to head.

 

Photography: Poornima M Reddy

 

*Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant, and is a narrative of the author’s experience at the event. Due judgement and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review.

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

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