In the old days in Palma you ate very well and cheaply — so long as you ordered Majorcan or Spanish dishes. When visiting friends were eating out on their own, I gave them a list of Majorcan and Spanish dishes to look for — that was the best way to ensure a memorable meal.
And before they left home I always had one last piece of advice: “Whatever you do, don’t order a steak.” At that time steaks were always hit-or-miss affairs. Even in goodish restaurants, an entrecôte could be fine this week and next week it would be as tough as the sole of an old pair of alpargatas, those popular summer shoes with canvas uppers and soles made of esparto rope.
But by the early 1970s we were getting cow meat from Galicia and that meant we had really good beef for the first time — every entrecôte from then on hit the spot. Nowadays in Palma you can have the best steaks on the world market — if you go to the right restaurants.
I haven’t had a Galician entrecôte for donkey’s years so when I saw one on the menu at a new Basque restaurant near the Mercat d’Olivar, I knew immediately it would be our main course.
It was priced at €13.30 without chips or salad, which is the usual way of serving meat in Basque restaurants. A portion of chips with the small pimientos de Padrón cost €2.50 making the total cost €15.80. That is such a very good price for a Galician piece of entrecôte that I was expecting it to be on the small side and somewhat thin.
Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. What we got was a thick elongated piece of meat that wasn’t the usual shape of a Spanish entrecôte but it was absolutely superb.
The steak was pink from top to bottom, just as we had ordered it and that is always a good sign: you can be sure it is going to be en exceptional piece of meat. And it was. It cut beautifully, it was tender, bursting with flavour and a complete joy from start to finish.
They brought a small dish of course sea salt crystals to sprinkle on the steak from time to time. That is the Basque way of serving chargrilled beef and it is much more effective than any of the fancy sauces some cooks do for grilled steak.
If you are chewing a piece of good steak that has two or three salt crystals on it, at some point you will crush a crystal at the same time as biting into the steak. That is a moment of sheer bliss, the salt intensifying the exquisite natural flavours of the meat. Well, this was happening all the time and it made this steak a most memorable one that was worth a 10.
There are two kinds of entrecôte in Spain. The one from the top end of this cut is wide and tapers off and becomes narrow, and the other, from the middle, is of a rectangular shape. Ours was simply a elongated chunk of meat and as it was so splendid I thought they may have given us one of the especially good Angus cuts. But it was on the bill as a Galician entrecôte and it was absolutely magnificent with a superb €13.80 price. No wonder it got a 10. The empanadas de carne, which we know as a speciality in all Argentinian restaurants, were succulently delicious, as good as any I’ve had elsewhere…including Argentinian places. The sweetbreads, sliced before being grilled (the most difficult way of doing them) were a chargrilling tour de force and also worth a 10. The chips came straight from the deep-fryer and were excellent.
Asador Gotxon Olivar, Calle Enric Alzamora 2, Palma, a continuation of Calle Tous Ferrer that runs along the southern side of the Mercat d’Olivar. Tel:971-543421. They do a menú del día but this is the kind of place where you should eat à la carte and share everything, as we did.
· 2 meat-filled empanadas, €4
· Chargrilled sweetbreads, €11.50
· Galician entrecôte, €13.30
· Chips with Padrón peppers, €2.50
· 2 large cañas (330 mls), €3.60
Total cost with VAT: 34.9 euros