Review: So, we've been in Spain for a week, and we haven't tried a single tapa. After taking in a voice recital in a 16th century hospital turned library, we ducked into the rather unassuming Rincon de Aragon for, you guessed it, tapas. Rincon de Aragon means "corner of Aragon." I thought the name was a simple approximate rhyme, and therefore, a play on words of sorts. However, my wife informed me Aragon is a region of Spain directly to the west of Barcelona. Good thing one of us in this family is intelligent.
We began the meal with that Catalan staple: bread with tomato smeared on top.
I was slightly worried because the bread was neither grilled nor crisped in any way. No matter. The bread was wonderful and light, just the way it should have been. In fact, our son ate about half the bread. Little punk.
And then came the tapas. I was looking forward to some snails and sweetbreads (i.e., thymus gland), but they were out, so we settled on the following: heavily spiced chorizo marinated in white wine; jamon iberico; and black pudding (forgot the picture of that one).
Let's start with the chorizo. Now, there is a scene in Rio in which the Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, of Social Network fame) confesses he thinks all sambas sound the same, and then he mimics the beat. So, yeah, that's pretty much how I feel about chorizo. It's good, don't get me wrong, but all the chorizo I've had thusfar tastes about the same. This noted, Rincon's version was certainly the best and highest quality.
Next, the jamon iberico. As an Italophile, my point of reference is prosciutto crudo. But prosciutto crudo and jamon are about as similar as Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Both are professional basketball players. Both are hall-of-famers. Both are among the best the sport has ever seen. However, they are entirely different in temperament, style, and color (and I don't say color gratuitously; just follow along for a second). Likewise, prosciutto and jamon are both cured hams, but they are entirely different. Jamon is meatier, saltier, has a more assertive flavor, and is imminently fattier. Prosciutto is sweeter, more delicate in flavor and texture, and is slightly drier. It is also lighter in color. And from what I understand, jamon is aged longer than the average prosciutto, which might explain the more assertive flavor. In any case, the jamon served at Rincon was beautifully oily and tender (a byproduct of the aging process). Bread would have only diluted the taste, so we enjoyed this jamon with our mandibles.
Lastly, the black pudding. Black pudding is, essentially pig's blood with rice stuffed into a casing and cooked until the blood congeals. Aragon black pudding introduces pine nuts into the mix. We've had black pudding before in Ireland, but that had nothing on this stuff. This pudding was luscious and rich. The pine nuts added a nice earthiness. The casing was natural and crackly after being cooked. Great, just great.
I'm only nominally into flan, to be honest. That is probably because my experiences have been with bad flan. (Except for one made by a Puerta Rican woman who knows her stuff; that flan was phenomenal.) this was very good flan. The flan itself had a wonderful natural custardy feel. Nowhere was that gelatin mouthfeel you get with lesser flans. The coagulant present here was simply egg proteins from low and slow cooking. The caramel was equally well done. Dark and rich and not too sweet. In fact, it was dark in that beautifully almost burned way that comes from cooking it right up to that point of over-caramelization, and then dialing things back. This creates all sorts of interesting compounds that adds depth to what would otherwise just be liquidy sugar. The combination of caramel and custard made this flan a raging success.
(Note: after the meal we inquired about the conchinillo (i.e., suckling pig). Suckling pig is the one item I wanted to try more than anything else on this trip. The waiter explained the cooking process in such detail and expertise that he totally sold me. Thus, suckling pig will be enjoyed very soon. Photos and review will follow.)
Rating: 8/10 (5/10 is average).