EXCITED to exit Rome and head to a never-been-to destination. This would be the travel group's first time in Madrid, me included. I didn't do any advance research about the place but my host, Tenny, did, and that only meant that I should go with the flow.
Guess what his research was all about? Food! Being the foodie that he is, he made the must-dine list top priority and filled it before he came up with the must-see entries. Go with the flow will also mean feast like a king and strict diet had to be set aside. Lord, help me...
As soon as we arrived to Madrid, we were immediately shuttled off the airport and the young driver who didn't warm up until we reached the Puerta del Alcala, one of Madrid's landmarks. Once he started talking, we gave him good marks on his tourist guide ability.
He pointed this and that and we replied with oohs and aahs. But what really made our necks crane to a spot he pointed as we coasted the famous Gran Via was the restaurant we should be trying - a popular paella joint. That would be the first order of the hungry tourists who haven't had lunch and it was almost evening of Day 1 in Madrid.
Luckily, the hotel we were billeted in was a couple of blocks away from the paella place. After dumping our luggage, the famished souls rushed to the resto.
For a seafood restaurant, it was aptly named Restaurante Sirena Verde. Why the mermaid is green, I don't know. But what I know is at the end of a meal, you'll leave the place with a smile of contentment, like we all did.
But taste is subjective. There might be other paella houses in the city, but being new in the place, we haven't discovered those yet, so this joint was good enough for us.
The joint is nothing fancy. It's pretty much a typical Chinese resto you walk into in Chinatown. The place must have a loyal clientele for it got busy as the cocktail hour approached, which was a major meal time for us (we missed lunch, remember? And it would be dinner as well).
We ordered a feast! Three kinds of paella-the Arroz Valenciana, Arroz Negro and Arroz Marisco, each tastes distinctly different from each other (I fell in love with the rich-tasting Arroz Negro), and a couple of seafood sampler platters-the Parrillada, which came with lobsters, and the Mariscada that came with oysters. Yum!
The five dishes would have been enough for eight. Right? No. We were a hungry troop and had the appetite of 16, so we had to have more (starving people are highly susceptible to temptation).
We kept pointing to what looks good on the menu-the Chopitos, little, crispy baby cuttlefish, lightly battered and fried in olive oil were so delicious; the Mijillones (mussels), were very fresh-tasting; always on the table should be the classic tapas dish of Gambos, shrimps lightly fried in olive with garlic; of course, the Jamon Iberico for our first taste of the famous ham in its home nation; and the best dish which everybody fell in love with is the grilled Navajas , an elongated shellfish, were heavenly, amazingly sweet and so addictive that we had to order a second.
Sated, we slumped on our seats. We seemed to have slowed down and a good walk along the famous boulevard would probably aid in burning the multitude of calories each of us took in. Maybe, just maybe. We exited the seafood restaurant with happy tummies. Not bad for our first meal.
P.S. We had a second bout with the paellas on Day 3. It was then that we met the Pinoy responsible for grilling the restaurant's seafood to perfection. He was generous enough to extend an invitation to dine at his home. As much as we loved to, we had to decline, as we had to pack out bags for the next day's journey.
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