Taberna Arzábal in Madrid: Butter and Truffle Potatoes

by mary on December 4, 2012

One of the nice new restaurant surprises in Madrid this time, my friend Nancy took me here knowing I’d love it. And love it I did…it has all I’m looking for: great food at reasonable prices, a fine wine list with reasonable mark ups, good service, nice atmosphere, and a huge vat of French salted farmhouse butter! It’s a place I could have returned to several times during my trip, and regretted I couldn’t. I’m still dreaming of the truffled eggs and those cigalas! Highly recommended to anyone visiting Madrid!

There are two branches of Arzàbal right next to each other. One is smaller and more cozy, the other is larger and has a more fashionable vibe. We ate at the cozy one, though the other would be more fun for tapas or drinks either before or after dinner. Also the larger branch has an enviable position overlooking Retiro park and has a nice terrace in fine weather.

The menu is extensive and it’s hard to make a choice among so many tempting offerings. Very helpful is that you can order most things in half portions so as to try more! We only ordered half portions and found them to be good value and quite generous. Odd by Madrid standards is that much of the menu is available to take away.

The meal starts with a fun, quirky ceremony…the waitress arrives with a giant, size of basketball giant, vat of top notch French butter for you to attack with your butter knife. Delightful fun in virtually butterless Madrid! Dangerous as you can fill yourself up too quickly.

The wine list is quite expensive and very interesting, including a decent selection of foreign wines. Prices are quite good. We had a fun, good value Grenache blend, L’Equilibrista, which you can read more about here.

We had four dishes, two were very good, two were outstanding. The sautéed wild mushrooms and the steak tartare were both delicious, though not mind blowing. The truffles eggs with fried portaoes, a delightful variation of a typical Spanish dish was one of the best I’ve ever had. The grand sounding Patatas a la Importancia was a delightful dish that had the best cigala (Dublin Bay prawns) tails you could imagine eating. More details and pictures on these two below…

Arzàbal is located in the Retiro neighborhood of Madrid, close to the east side of the park. There are two locations: (cozy) Doctor Castelo 2, tel: +34 915 572 691 or (fashionable) Menéndez Pelayo 13, tel: +34 914 095 661. It is quite a popular place so for a sit down meal, reservations are a must. There are two seatings in the evening, one is early at 9 and tends to be emptier, so that works well for visitors. You can reserve online at the website for most days. For tapas and drinks you can just stop by.

The most truffely truffled eggs and fried potatoes! You could smell them as they left the kitchen. Spanish comfort food taken up a notch. So lovely!

Patatas a la Importancia con Cigalitas. The potatoes in their soupy goodness are just a frame for the exquisite cigala tails. Cigalas are best translated as Dublin Bay Prawns and resemble mini lobsters. They are shockingly expensive and though delicious, I am frequently, underwhelmed. These were some of the most amazing bites! The tails were removed from the shells, before being lightly grilled…they were only just barely done inside, melted in the mouth, with amazing flavors of sea and smoke.

The cozier of the two Arzàbal restaurants, the one I preferred for a sit down dinner. But for tapas and drinks, the larger, more lively branch next door would do nicely.


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