Restaurante Torreó de l’Indià, Xerta
May 8, 2012
The Restaurante Torreó de l’Indià is part of the Villa Retiro complex outside the town of Xerta, along the Ebro River at the south end of Catalonia. Linda and I stayed and dined there the night of March 10, 2012. The charming hotel has nine rooms. It is in a recently renovated residence built in 1892 for a man who returned to Xerta after making his fortune in Argentina. (Thus being known as an “Indiano.”)
Nearby is the restaurant in the renovated 1882 quarters of the workmen of the estate. On the left you can see a 100-year-old Argentine ficus tree. The main dining room is behind the elevated window on the right.
The wall at the end of the dining room divides the old portion from the new, large modern building which includes the kitchen, other dining rooms for groups (up to 500), conference facilities and a spa. (Beneath the window into the kitchen is a tank for live lobsters.)
The young chef is Francec López, who worked at the Plaza Athenée in Paris before returning to Catalonia. One can see the French influences in his Catalan cuisine.
Our Escapada Gourmet room package included the Menú Degustación. It also provided a bottle of cava in the room so we did not need an apéritif at the table. We ordered a bottle of Avi Arrufi, made from white grenache grapes in the Terra Alta, inland from Xerta. It was very good. We also had a half bottle of red wine from Raimat, a large producer in northern Spain.
The second was oysters dressed with beer and bitters.
The next course was
D – A +
Tres tipas de tartar.
1º tartar de langostinos con aire de fruta de la pasión.
2º tartar de salmón con mayonesa de wasabi
3º tartar de sardina con sofrito de tomate
Raw shrimp were served with a passion fruit dressing; a salmon tartar with a wasabi mayonnaise and raw sardines with a tomato concentrate.
Next came an extra course that was not on the menu. It was a cool mixture of mussels and cuttle fish. The syringe contained bitters which sparked up the dish.
Arroz de buey de mar
Arroz meloso de buey de mar con chipirones salteados, carnetas y crujientes de azafrán
This was a rice dish with crab, squid and a saffron wafer.
Lubina salvaje braseada en cocción de beurremousse con salteada de espinacas y canónigos sobre crema de zanahoria aromatizadas al jengibre
Two pieces of braised wild sea bass were served with sauteed spinach and mâche over a carrot and ginger cream.
Meloso de ternera
Barrillera de tenera sobre un lecho de berenjena con bacón y cebolla confitada, salsa de castañas, texturas de calabaza y crujiente de marcilla de piñones
A rich braised veal cheek was served on a chestnut sauce with bacon-cooked eggplant, caramelized onions, pumpkin and a pine nut wafer.
Dulce de las dos Marías
Canelón de piña con corazon de galleta María, espuma de coco, crujiente de piña y helado de Marie Brizard
A pineapple canneloni was dressed with coconut mousse and Marie Brizard ice cream.
Figa simulada amb exterior de crêpe de vainilla i interior de puré de figues, en una sopa freda de vainilla de Tahiti amb caramel pistatxo i aire de licor de figues. (Title from the Catalan à la carte menu.)
We asked for a substitution for the chocolate dessert and were served this dish of fig purée in a crêpe on a bed of vanilla and pistachio cream with a fig foam.
There were four mignardises to finish.
The cuisine was always intriguing and enjoyable. Its Catalan roots were usually evident, as were French and modern Spanish influences. It lacked finesse, as you might expect from a young chef who is still developing his style and combinations, but this allowed for direct flavors from the good, varied ingredients. The menu had a logical progression. We thought it deserved the Michelin star which it was awarded two years ago. The maître d’hôtel was helpful, but a bit overloaded as the evening progressed. The service and pace were fine, but then, as usual in Spain, we started before most of the diners. I think we were the only foreigners that evening.