All right foodies, this post is for you! Our second night in Spain, we stayed in a little town called Zahara de los Atunes. I didn’t plan every moment of the trip, but I did do research into good places to eat along the way. Between the pandemic and August being the time many Spaniards go on vacation, I didn’t want to take any chances in a small town. So I made reservations for that night at a highly recommended restaurant called Zokarra.
It was well after dark when we walked down to the beach for our meal, but the town was anything but sleepy. The sidewalks were packed with families, cafe tables, and barstools. The vibe was festive and fun even though everyone was wearing masks. It didn’t dampen people’s spirits at all.
If the name of the town and the giant metal statue of a fish in the central plaza weren’t enough to tip us off to the love of tuna in this area, the menu at Zokarra certainly did. Our first course was, no joke, the best tuna dish either of us had ever eaten…until the fourth course came, and we had to declare a new winner.
When I found this restaurant, one of the English reviews raved about this dish, but didn’t give any specifics. It ended up being kind of a spectacle. First, the waiter slid a big sheet of waxed paper off of a tray. This method of serving cured meats as tapas is commonplace, so it was a nod to Spanish cuisine even in this novel dish. The waxed paper was adorned with little piles of sweet, nutty seaweed, bitter micro-greens, chili powder, and drizzles of pomegranate syrup. There were dollops of wasabi foam in each corner.
On a separate platter, there was the pile of tuna. It had a thick slab of browned butter on top, which the waiter melted tableside with a torch. Then he grated a jerky-fied tuna heart over the whole thing. I ate a lot of tuna in sushi while living in California, but this was even better. All the extra flavors went beautifully with the gorgeous texture and taste of the fresh fish.
As you might guess from the name, this is a Japanese style of preparation, but it has been fully embraced in the region. The tuna is wrapped in seaweed and lightly battered, then quickly dunked in hot oil just long enough to get a thin, crispy layer formed. The picture doesn’t do the texture of the fish justice. It was the most beautiful I had ever seen, diamond shaped and subtle. Those little dollops of sauce packed a huge amount of flavor, too.
Even as we moved inland, tuna was all over the menus. We ate it a few more times, but one particular favorite was at the gastromarket in a revamped Victorian building in Cordoba. It was part of a plate of tapas with lots of different fish. I am also especially partial to the lightly pickled anchovies. As you can see, we took full advantage of the access to seafood. YUM!
In my next post, I’ll be showing you around Cadiz, and I’ve got one more very interesting food experience to share. See you then!