Thursday, March 1, 2012

Taberna del Alabardero Sherry Dinner

In downtown DC, there is a Spanish restaurant named "Taberna del Alabardero." The Madrid and Seville locations are pretty downscale, informal affairs, but the DC location is pretty upscale. A jacket isn't required, but if you wear one, you won't feel out of place. Recently, they had a sherry dinner, and given my love for sherry, I'm glad I went.

They began with a reception that included Cava and an assortment of tapas. The tapas was fine, but none of the dishes were exceptional. The dry tuna with sherry tomato and corn brochette was good, but seemed a bit heavy for so early in the meal, and the tuna mostly tasted like salt. The skewered anchovies were fine, but were fairly bland. The botifarra sausage with fried green peppers was the best of the bunch, with the green peppers blending and contrasting nicely with the sausage.

The appetizer was fish consommé with a fried egg stuffed with crab meat. It was served with Fino Tio Pepe. The fino was fantastic, light and just the right amount of grassy, and it paired superbly with the soup. All of the pairings were excellent, but I think this was the best one. The soup tasted good, but I'm not sure it matched the description. There wasn't much fish flavor in the broth, and it was thicker than some stews I've had. Additionally, the fried egg appeared to be covered in some sort of pastry. It was very tasty, and I definitely used some bread to finish up the broth; just not what I was expecting. The rest of the meal is after the jump.

The second appetizer was grilled duck foie gras with a chutney of dry nuts and fruit, paired with Apostoles Palo Cortado Muy Viejo. My wife and I both thought the Palo Cortado was our favorite sherry of the bunch. It was reminiscent of a good scotch or brandy and perfect for sipping. The foie gras was excellently grilled, but it was somewhat overpowered by the chutney. My wife, who is smarter than I am, tried the foie gras without the chutney, and thought it was much better that way.

The first course was a risotto with quail and Boletus mushroom. The risotto appeared to be made with brown rice, and was creamy without being mushy. The quail had a strong, gamey flavor that paired well with the sherry, Del Duque Amontillado Muy Viejo. The sherry was a bit sweet, and wasn't quite as nutty as I was expecting, but it was very good.

The main course was venison with dates covered in Valdeon cheese, in a Matusalen wine sauce, paired with Matusalén Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo. The venison was very tender, reminiscent of filet mignon. Other than that, it was unremarkable, without much flavor. The sauce and dates went well with the steak, but the sherry tended to overpower it.

For dessert, there was a chocolate soufflé, with mint ice cream and lemon 'twists'. The twists were a thin wire of lemon lollipop, and looked very nice on top of the ice cream. The sherry was a Noe Pedro Ximenez Muy Viejo, very very sweet with lots of raisin and fig notes. One of the other participants in the dinner got some goat cheese, and I thought that went better with the Pedro Ximenez, but then again, I like cheese.

You shouldn't let my critical comments fool you; I enjoyed the dinner quite a bit. However, given the price point of the dinner, and the restaurant generally, I expected more of the dishes in terms of plating and creativity. The sherries, however, were all excellent.

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