Friday, January 9, 2009

Review: Amada or, the day P cheated on L with a flan

Amada: it means "beloved". So to quote Haddaway, what is love? Love is 95% pure delight and maybe 5% disappointment, and not disappointment in the absolute sense: it is only because it fails to meet the unfairly high standards of the other 95. Love is a thing to be followed everywhere. Love is powerful as a pit bull and gentle as a bunny rabbit. Go to Amada and you will understand.

I am not going to waste time on d├ęcor, location or anything like that. I would still go to Amada if it were located in an abandoned warehouse, in an angry bear's den, or under the sea.

What kind of place is it? Ostensibly, tapas. It goes beyond that, though, in complexity and refinement. It uses some tapas standards as starting points, but Amada is not restrained by any sort of dogmatic traditionalism.

Amada has a menu, but in our experience you are far better off getting the chef's tasting. You will have an incredible amount and variety of food, and you will taste things you would never think to order, and you will not have to look at the menu, which has a vast variety of choices, and you will not have to tax your memory remembering what you wanted when your server comes to take your order.

Cheeses. Top quality, things you don't see every day, and each served with a thoughtful and delicious accompaniment like lavender honey or fresh cherry compote, pepitas or pistachios.

Vegetables? Warm fava and lima bean salad. Roasted vegetables with perfect little cipollini. Piquillo peppers stuffed with a cheesy crab filling. Mushrooms, my God, the mushrooms, the almost obnoxiously delicious mushrooms that taste better than any fungus has a right to taste.

Pulpo a la gallega is a tapas standard. We only had the chance to have it once in Spain, but Amada's version blows it out of the water. The chefs must interview each octopus they use individually and reject any that come off as too abrasive or "type A", because each disc of the cephalopod is pure tenderness, anointed with oil and tantalizingly smokey paprika that makes you wonder if bacon found its way into the dish somehow.

L really likes the flatbreads. I can take them or leave them, but they are delicious nevertheless.

In the things-you-probably-wouldn't-order-but-are-unexpected-chef's-tasting-surprises department: the "madre e hijo", mother and child, a chicken breast topped with an egg. Oh, and truffle. Last time we went, the chicken breast was cooked sous-vide style; this time, a more roasted approach. Both are nothing short of awesome.

And now, alas, I come to the 5% portion of the review: the breaded lamb chops stuffed with goat cheese. I've had this twice now. Every element of this dish is great, but for me, it just doesn't hang together (and I mean that partially in the literal sense, too: the breading tends to fall off as soon as you dig in). All in all, I'd rather just have the lamb chop.

Oh, dessert? Only $5 per person for a tasting. I must admit I can remember only one thing we had: the crema catalana. Yes, this was what made me take off L's engagement ring and propose to a dessert. The delicately lavender-spiked cream is pure love on your tongue.

Notably absent from the dessert menu these days is the churros con chocolate, whose awesomeness was heightened by the sprinkling of hot powdered chile on the churros. Jose, bring them back!

Service is exceptional.

The cooking at Amada is like a laser-guided munition: precise yet unmistakably bold. Almost everything is done flawlessly. And at $45/person for the tasting, I can think of no better restaurant in this city for the money.

If you haven't been, go. If you have, find someone who hasn't, and go again with them. This world can use more love.

Amada on Urbanspoon


ttfn300 said...

i so have to go there one of these times i go back to philly!!! it was on my to-try list for so long... *tear*

Tinsel & Tine said...

We fell in love with the mushrooms too! I had friends that eat a lot of tapas in NY come to try Amada, they were blown away. Here's our review