When I look at menus I am never searching for my favourite dishes or even those I have never eaten before: what I want is a dish that gives me something to write about or one I can photograph for immediate or future use.
For a three-dish meal, most of us would not repeat the same main ingredient. But I do it frequently. If there are three chicken dishes I am interested in I have no qualms about ordering all three. I am never aiming to construct a well-balanced meal.
I went to today’s restaurant with the intention of trying their tapas, but their €12.50 menú del día was an immediate attraction. Both of us could have had a man-sized portion of paella (women would also have been able to cope with it), and as a mains we’d have shared a pan-fried butterflied dorada (gilt-head bream) and an entrecôte steak.
At nearby tables I could see the dorada was fried to a nice golden colour and looked most appetising. An entrecôte looked superb, the meat of a nice even pink colour all the way through.
That entrecôte almost made me opt for the menú del día but in the end I decided it was going to be a day for eating calamares and I ordered two quite different versions of this very Mediterranean seafood. Calamares are always a risky dish to order in a restaurant — or make at home — for the simple reason that you never know if they are going to be nice and tender. It all depends on the temperature at which they are cooked and for how long.
Calamares and cuttlefish can be so tender they are literally butter-soft. This has happened three times recently and I was beginning to wonder if these calamares were made with surimi — the reconstituted white fish that is sometimes dressed up as if it were crab or lobster. It would be very easy to manufacture surimi squid rings.
However, at Plaça the calamares a la andaluza — coated with flour and deep-fried — were for real. They weren’t as soft as butter, but they could be cut with a fork and they were a nice chew.
They came with a tiny salad topped with a little sweetcorn, something I always eat gladly when it is there but which I never think of buying for salads at home.
We also had calamares a la plancha which I order frequently because they always taste better in restaurants than those made at home. They weren’t as tender as the rings but my friend and I don’t mind the extra chewing — it squeezes out extra taste.
Mussels are always a satisfying dish when cooked properly and served plump and juicy. That’s how we got them at Plaça. It was a nice portion that cost €7.50: a real treat at a most modest price. Mussels as memorable as these are fairly common but the price is seldom as low as this.
The calamares could have been more tender but we’re not complaining too much. There was one huge inconvenience: the din was tremendous. And we couldn’t ask the owner to turn it down because it was coming from 12 customers at different tables who were shouting at each other instead of conversing. Sound pollution at its worst.
Restaurante Plaça, Plaça Bisbe Berenguer de Palou 1, Palma (also known as Plaza de los Patines, where Celler Sa Premsa is). Tel.971-667329. Closed on Sundays. They do a €12.50 menú del día that is a good buy and always looks interesting. The dining room is large and bookings shouldn’t be necessary.
- Mussels marinera, 7.50 euros
- Calamares andaluza, 7.50 euros
- Calamares plancha, 7.50 euros
- 2 cañas, 3.80 euros
Total cost with VAT: 26.30 euros.