Saturday, October 29, 2005
Eating: El Cisne Azul
After being turned away from an Indian restaurant at 3:35 because the kitchen was "closed" (closed? at 3:35? in Madrid?), my friend Sam and I ended up eating bad-but-expensive sushi for lunch on Wednesday. And not enough of it either, because on the way home we ended up stopping for a dessert of sauteed mushrooms.
Sam had seen the place before, and although he knew it specialized in mushrooms, he had never eaten there. We went in, and it looked for all the world like your typical ca. 1976 Spanish bar, with bad lighting and blaring tv, formica floors covered in used napkins, and turquoise tiles (we later learned the bar is called The Blue Swan, at which point I understood the tiles to be an illustrative touch, though I still have no idea where the swan comes in) covering the walls. The only decoration, such as it was, were the laminated charts depicting wild mushrooms stuck randomly on the door, behind the bar, in the window.
The tapa display case held plates of trompettes de la mort, shitake, hen of the woods, and some irregularly-shaped mushrooms that the Spanish call cow's tongues. We argued about whether boletus in Spanish are porcini in Italian, then ordered them anyway. Sauteed with garlic until they were brown around the edges, a fried egg sitting on top, they were utterly delicious.
Meanwhile, in a corner of the bar, a group of ten men were finishing lunch. Cigars were out, talk was raucous, and there were two open bottles of Ballantines on the table as digestif. As one of the men got ready to leave, he pulled the waiter over and whispered instructions. Seconds later, the waiter came back with a large crate of boletus (which are indeed porcini, and cepes, for that matter), a thick layer of dirt still clinging to their fat stems. He pulled out a couple--they were huge--weighed them, and dropped them into a plastic bag for the man to take home.
The Cisne Azul, c/Gravina, 19; tel. 915213799