Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bienvenido a Newark

Margy joined me for day two of the drum festival, but the performance we were most looking forward to was dinner at a Spanish restaurant in Newark.

All my life I've heard about Newark's great Portuguese and Spanish food, yet I'm ashamed to admit this was my first time trying it, at a place called Casa Vasca. Well, it won't be my last. As we looked over the wine list, we were given steaming bowls of kale and potato soup with chorizo. That started things off right, but looking at the kale I couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor spinach farmers whose livelihoods have been ruined by the recent health scare. Anyway, none of this stopped me from cleaning my bowl.

Though we eventually settled on the entrees we wanted, I asked the waiter a few questions anyway. We were generally thinking seafood, but there was something in his tone when I asked what the best dishes are. "You want fish?" he said.

"Why? Is meat your specialty?" I said.

"Yes," he said, "but all the best dishes are sold out by now." It was 7pm. Popular place.

We heard a few suggestions, but we weren't swayed. Margy ordered paella with seafood, chicken, and chorizo, and I went for a special of fried whiting. I am powerless to resist the pull of small deep-fried sea creatures. We'd been warned about the ridiculous amount of food you get at these restaurants, but what the heck -- we also ordered the stuffed mushrooms appetizer.

All the dishes were excellent. The whiting, four of them, served whole, scared Margy a little by bearing their little teeth at her, but she didn't complain when she took a bite. The fish was firm, the outside crisp, and the frying was relatively gentle, with no heavy coating. The paella, enough for at least three people (at under $20 no less), was a treasure chest of goodies that included lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, chicken on the bone, and slices of wonderful mild chorizo. On top was a fat spear of white asparagus. We also had a nice rioja that went well with the food.

I don't know why we skipped flan for dessert -- maybe it had something to do with eating half our weight in entrees -- but we'll be sure to order it next time.

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