Somewhere between the honesty of authentic southern Spanish gastronomy and the hypnotically intricate rápido flamenco footwork, is the passion of Embrujo Flamenco. Spanish cuisine is made up of very simple, basic ingredients, and when combined with its complex musical and cultural tradition, creates a memorable dining experience to share.
From the wooden entrance to the warm brick interior, the ambiance is of an old Spanish tavern or room in a castle. As live flamenco music and dancing
ensues we are quickly seated to engage in the revelatory atmosphere. Originating in Seville, a guitarist and dancer provide this entertainment every evening from Wednesday to Sunday.
Opening the menu is like reading an invitation to an adventure and an education on the meaning of tapas. Each plate, served hot or cold, is an introduction to Spain; a combination of only two or three ingredients, representing the provinces of the southern region of Spain, Andalusia.The concept of tasting and sharing these small dishes is a reflection of Spanish dining culture, in which there is no rush to fill up and go, or to focus on eating individual meals, but rather an encouragement to relax, appreciate, and engage in conversation with each other. These are the requirements for true tapas, and we want to taste it all!
We begin with a vegetarian option, the Queso De Cabra Con Miel ($9.95). A thick round of goat cheese crowned with sweet golden honey then baked to a crisp and luxurious texture. Scooping this up with a mini toast is like satisfying a craving I never knew I had. Before there is even a chance to exclaim "gracias!" another plate is served. Canape De Bonito Con Pimientos Del Piquillo ($8.95), are three roasted red piquillo peppers stuffed with tuna and spinach. Drizzled with sweet sherry vinegar and Spanish olive oil, these nourishing pockets of flavour are a tasty example of a dish with a difference. There are so many items on this menu that I have never thought of, let alone tried.
True to the tapas style, the Serrano Ham ($12) is served on its own. A square white plate layered with thin, hand-cut slices of ham is a natural complement to the goat cheese and honey. From the mountains of Spain this white ham is salted, cured, and easily devoured. Unlike prosciutto, this tapa is unadorned by any other ingredients. Presentation is not the focus when preparing tapas because the food is meant to be tasted, not looked at.
For ham aficionados, the jamón ibérico is one of the world's ultimate delicacies. Just introduced to Canada in 2008, Embrujo Flamenco is one of the only Toronto restaurants where it can be found. The difference in quality is obvious. This melt-in-your-mouth black ham is to be appreciated on its own, without any oil, fruit, or cheese. It has been nicknamed the "four-legged olive tree" because of its high content of monounsaturated fats (the good kind), and is not to be missed.
The next tapa to arrive is the chorizo ($14). Another unique Spanish import, this sliced sausage, seasoned and smoked with pimentón (paprika), is another must-try. Served at room temperature and with a wedge of Manchego cheese, each bites sends me on a dream sequence to the arid fields and grazing sheep of La Mancha. Cooked chorizo ($6.95) prepared from an in-house recipe with brandy from the province of Jerez, is served in a fired clay bowl, and is a very popular menu item. Tender and mouthwatering, the Costillas De Cordero En Salsa De Higos ($12.95) are two succulent lamb chops in a sauce of fresh Spanish figs on a mound of spinach. The fig sauce is rich and jammy and really livens up these soft, meaty morsels. Another dish plucked off a local Seville menu is the Gambas Con Salsa De Chocolate ($8.95), shrimps in chocolate sauce. Let me explain: when cocoa was brought to Seville, it was combined with the beloved Seville orange to create a unique chocolate flavour. When it was added as a sauce to their popular seafood, culinary matrimony was established. Try it-you'll love it!
As the music plays we choose to linger. Another tapa? Another glass? For desert we follow our adventure with Tarta De Santiago ($8), an almond-based sweet tart that is a wedge of wholesome goodness to pair very nicely with a fresh cup of coffee. Fresas En Anis Con Elado De Asafran ($9) is a rare treat. Saffron ice cream, new to my taste buds, and a marinade of fresh strawberries in anise, is sweet, refreshing, and for me, seals the deal.
Relaxed and informal, Embrujo Flamenco is a gem to be discovered. Every recipe is from Spain, and most ingredients are imported from Spain. That is unique, and provides an unmistakable authenticity. From the olives to the olive oil, the meats to the paprika, and the paella selection to the wine collection, this is truly an embassy of Spanish cuisine.