A whole roasted suckling pig, tapas, massive platters of paella and screaming Argie-Spanish families; sounds like my idea of a fun-filled Sunday afternoon lunch. If you are into experiencing the authentic Spanish cultural center experience, it doesn’t get much more traditional than this original gangsta Spanish club tapas restaurant.
Nestled inside the castle-like Casal de Catalunya in San Telmo, the Centre Catalá, or Catalán Cultural Community Center, is one of the oldest, still standing Spanish institutions not only in Buenos Aires, but in the world. Or so says Wikipedia. And we all know Wiki doesn’t lie.
Dating back to the late 1800s, the building is right out of a page from an edible Spanish Colonial Architectural Digest: Spanish ceramic tile, arched doorways, grand winding staircase, a stained glass dome, gothic Gaudi adornments, and wonderful Spanish specialties.
The menu offers two types of dishes, “from land and from sea.” We started with the land. Some delicious land. A Spanish chorizo, drizzled with quality olive oil. Peppery and slightly soft and mushy, just how I like my sausages.
Sticking on land, prosciutto on toast was next up to bat. Served with a tomato-like garlic jam, the intense garlic flavor might have scared off the hungriest of vampires after one whiff of my breath, it was still too interesting not to eat up. #SexyAjo
Let’s keep the offensive breath coming with gambas al ajillo, plump lil’ shrimps drenched in garlic oil. Yes, more garlic. Now I’m about to scare off the horniest of feos.
Fried calamari with that perfect fried crust. Even though the octopus was on the chewy side, it made up for the wonderful fried batter.
Probably the most famous dish, Casal is known for their impressive suckling pig. Only available when you order in advance, or on Wednesday nights, it’s the ideal impressively eye catching dish to experience with a large group, especially when the mozo parades the porker around the restaurant to plop it in front of your fork. As much as I’d love to try to eat a whole pig by myself, I opted for a modest lil’ leg. Not the same as the marvelous whole suckling oinker, the meat itself was a bit dry and gamey, and I was just waiting for the sad hoof to karate kick me in my garlic face.
Let’s keep the Spanish specialities coming. I don’t get those people who are turned off by the oozing eggy tortilla española. Especially when undercooked to perfection.
Paella please. I think this dish speaks for itself. (Photo by Casal)
It’s hard not to get down with a trio of desserts. The middle was by far the best, crema catalán, a thick rich custardy goodness — a truly special way to end the meal. The others I could have done without, one containing my sweetsweet nemesis turrón (Dear Argies: Turrón sucks!) and the other just a simple meh ice cream with berries.
Not sure what’s better about this photo, the impressive dessert trio or lady jheri curl soul glo in the rear.
El Casal de Catalunya
Chacabuco 863, San Telmo
Mon: 8pm – close, Tues – Sat: 12pm – 4pm, 8pm – close, Sun: 12pm – 4pm
Average price: AR$200