Paradores Dos Reis Experience Review
a guest Apr 18th, 2019 121 Never
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- WALL OF TEXT REVIEW INCOMING
- Paradores is among the most famous hotels in Spain, and certainly the most famous in Santiago. Starting as the de facto dwelling for pilgrims on the Camino, it’s been transformed over the last several decades into among the most expensive and luxurious lodgings in the city, and for good reason. Since the hotel itself is inextricably linked to the history of the pilgrimage, it would stand to reason that the restaurants housed within would be an equally historical experience— and they are, although in none of the ways one would hope or expect. Dos Reis is the flagship fine dining area of Paradores, housed within a horse stable-cum-cask storage-cum-dining lounge. Beautifully lit and undeniably classy, the magical atmosphere unfortunately does not have food to match. I opted to try the tasting menu, as for an establishment of this reputation and history I assumed the chef-curated choices would be an ideal representation of the hotel’s food philosophy. We start with a sea urchin and jamon iberico croquette, and immediately I realize that this was not what I was hoping for. The stuffed urchin (bias incoming, as urchin is among my favorite foods) was drowned in queso de Arzúa, a complete disrespect to the creature. The taste of the sea and buttery, foie-esque mouthfeel was completely absent, and was replaced wholly with the overpowering and cloying taste of soft cheese. The croquettes had a similar issue— potato and cheese dominated the dish, and believe me when I say overpowering the essential saltiness and umami of Iberico ham is not an easy task, nor could it be an accident. Wine pairings were confusing at best— a weak bodied pinot grigio that may have been an attempt to cut through the unbearable cheesiness of the urchin and croquette, another weak-bodied and high-acid rosé with the second course, a canneloni which, while adequate, did not hold a candle to the rooster canneloni at Ocurro da Parra from the previous evening and was served with a thoroughly beefy sauce espagnòle which Escoffier himself would have given a thumbs up, but which in 2019 seems a little lost in time. The sea bass came, and with it an appropriate wine pairing(!!!) An unbelievably bright, resonant and citric sauv blanc that bounced on the tongue and the cheeks— though at this point, it is unclear if this was curated or simply a happy accident. While again, wholly uninspiring, the bass and the risotto were skillfully cooked and seasoned, and the distinct ingredients were allowed room to sinultaneously breathe and speak on their own and synergize— a welcome break from the cream-cheesy mouthfeel and indistinct flavors of the urchin and croquettes and the oppressively rigid and TRADIZIONALÉ AUTENTICANTÉ cannelón. The duck was perhaps the largest disappointment— the flavors were wonderfully harmonious (mandarin, strawberry and an off-the-vine tomato so deeply sweet and citrusy it may as well have been a clementine and so perfectly ripe it practically burst in my mouth), but the choice of breast, a tougher and more sinewy part of the bird in a dish that would have benefited from a much more tender cut, along with the inexplicable choice not to trim any fat resulted in an extremely unpleasant textural juxtaposition— my teeth sank through an 1/8th-inch layer of gelatinized fat before running into a hunk of meat with a texture that wouldn’t have been out of place in a manager special pack of beef stew meat at your local grocer. I wish I were exaggerating when I say it took me a full minute to chew the final bite of the course to an appropriately digestible chunk. The pairing was an appropriate but unmemorable Galician wine reminiscent of a pinot noir— thick and heavy, like stone fruit and clay. Finally, the dessert course was a delicious and subtle brioche french toast with fresh berries and yuzu sherbet— a pleasant palate cleanser that somehow seemed to unify (or at least apologize for) a collection of confused and unsatisfying dishes.
- I don’t mean to speak ill of the food or the establishment— while not particularly great, it was certainly well-prepared by a team of cooks clearly well-versed in the European tradition. But the restaurant industry in its current state must realize that in order for a brick and mortar (literally, in this case) establishment to be worth dining in (especially at this price-point) they must be either truly extraordinary or masterfully understanding of the demographic it seeks to claim as it’s customer base, and as a diner I would certainly prefer to see more of the former than the latter.
- TL;DR; While the restaurant is beautiful and the atmosphere romantic and wonderfully old-world, it falls victim to the same pitfalls as many institutions of this age— an overreliance on classic dishes with no room for insight or innovation that, in the current era of cooking, seem woefully inadequate and quite frankly not worth the time or money. The menu here is for the country club crowd— if you find yourself with 66 euro burning a hole in your pocket and a sudden craving for reasonably-executed, uninspired classics in the French tradition, or a sudden nostalgic yearning for a taste of hospitality fare of an era long past, Dos Reis is worth a try. It’s situated adjacent to the centrally located Catedrál de Santiago, and is equally hard to miss with it’s enormous facade and opulent wooden doors protected by sheet glass, making it a destination that is convenient, but hardly necessary.
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