Shawn Hennessey. A woman with duende.
In the event, that evening was just a warmup, because Shawn had all sorts of great ideas for us. I'm going to skip over Vineria San Telmo, Casa Antonio, and the delightful La Bodega (which became our “local” for the week), marvelous though they all were, and go straight to the best of the best: La Azotea.
It's a tiny place on a street called Jesus del Gran Poder, in what is euphemistically referred to as a “neighborhood in transition” near the Alameda de Hercules. The place opens at 9 pm, and unlike other restaurants in Seville, which tend to start off slowly and really get rolling after 10:30, there is a crowd waiting for the door to open. We went two nights: Wednesday, the place was packed within 15 minutes; Thursday, within 5 minutes. We will stipulate that everything we tried was of surpassing excellence. We ordered a parade of tapas, and it is no exaggeration to say that we finished every dish thinking “How can they top this?” and were repeatedly delighted with the answer. The chef's name is Jesús Rosendo Domingues. As the lovely Elena told us, “He did not go to culinary school. He grew up in his father's bar.” His food is phenomenal.
He's back there, at la ventana (the window), behind the dupes...Jesús Rosendo Domingues. A chef to watch for.
Elena gives us The Professional Smile.
The wine-by-the-glass list was deep, interesting, and priced right; I don't recall anything that cost more than 4 euros.
Proyecto Garnachas de España” (Spanish Grenache Project), a 2009 La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo (Ribera del Queiles). Winemaker Raul Acha produces garnacha in a variety of styles and terroirs within the Ebro Delta, a large area (not a Denominación de Origen) that encompasses several appellations, including Aragon, Priorat, and Rioja. Ribera del Queiles is a sub-appellation of Aragon. The Garnacha Salvaje (“Salvaje” translates as “wild”) was soft and round and not in the least sauvage or rustic, similar in style to the better Garnachas of the Campo de Borjas region, with pretty strawberry and plum notes, and the aforementioned roundness thanks to five months' aging in French oak. The wine is in limited distribution in the U.S. by St. Louis-based Bakkehia Imports.
Juan, with a Legal Smile.
We sat at the bar, and chatted with our neighbors. The Chef sat next to a couple from The Netherlands, who were just finishing up a 12-day tour. I sat next to a guy from Queens who was interested in sherry, and who inadvertently provided one of the evening's many highlights: Juan (an exceptionally personable young man, a native of Seville, who owns the place with his wife, Jeanine, who is from California) brought him an unlabeled bottle of something golden. I asked what it was, and he waved it in front of me so I could see that there really was no label, and announced “Arab herb liquor! Illegal!” Well, we just had to have some too, didn't we?
Dave, with an Illegal Smile.