Fried homemade chorizo [Photo by Fan Zhen/China Daily]
Fresh shrimps with garlic and chili [Photo by Fan Zhen/China Daily]
Ham and mushroom croquets [Photo by Fan Zhen/China Daily]
Here is a restaurant that will warm you from the inside out. Fan Zhen visits Agua and experiences some Spanish passion.
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Everyone has a favorite dining spot and it is usually a place where you can relax for a chat with friends or hold an important business meeting to close a deal.
The food is just right - not so lavish that it might awe your companions, but special enough to warm up the occasion. Agua Beijing, hidden in the hustle-bustle of Sanlitun, is a candidate for that spot.
Hidden behind a high white wall, the restaurant overlooks a beautiful patio, and is an ideal refuge for talking, eating and resting.
Outside, the white corridor lined with ivory-linen covered tables is ready for those who enjoy the warm sunshine. Meanwhile, the stylish interior is filled with the warm browns and natural wood of a Spanish hacienda.
Chef Jordi Valles Claverol gives us a tour of his domain and starts with the cold storage room. Rows of sausages are strung up in the spacious refrigerator.
Each of them, Valles Claverol says, has been made by his own hands under the most scrupulous procedures to create the best quality Spanish sausages in China.
These frozen meaty lengths come to life the moment they hit the heated pan. The entire kitchen is filled with the rich aroma of garlic sausages. We couldn't wait to start.
The food at Agua is incredibly good. From the spicy, piquant chorizo that projects waves of vibrant warmth, to the sweet and salty joy of smoked bacon sandwiched between molletes (Spanish bread rolls) and onto pan-fried mixed mushrooms tinged with garlic and threaded with herbs.
Then there are the chili-spiked shrimps scattered with crisp potato chips, and the soft indulgence of blood sausages served with caramelized onions. Golden fried ham and mushroom croquets completed the culinary pleasures that rose and tumbled like waves upon the Mediterranean shore.
Both the chorizo and blood sausages were served sizzling hot, with the olive oil still bubbling against the sides of the stoneware they were served in. Their robust flavor and warm, tingly spiciness were distinctive, giving everything on the table the feel of authentic Spanish cooking.
Then came the tapas - small portions just enough for two - and after we demolished all the delicacies, we were happily satiated but still eager for dessert.
Valles Claverol calls it "my granny's flan", telling us he makes it the same way his grandmother made it for him when he was a child.
This was brought to the table in an elongated porcelain dish and was a plain brown golden bar that arrived unadorned. But with one bite, you realized it required no garnish.
Under the crisp coat, the slightly sticky and spongy custard wafted a refreshing sweet fragrance that completed the meal and complemented the lingering spiciness of the tapas we had. It was an extraordinary feast.
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