Casbah: Round Two. The year is still young, but this is my favorite new restaurant of 2011 so far, edging other contenders like The Han Room, Earth Food & T Forty Two.
Queso Fonduta. A mouthwatering mix of luscious beef sausages with creamy, boiling-hot Manchego cheese fondue. Once you start dipping, you won't stop (till everything's gone!).
Boquerones (marinated anchovies with garlic & olive oil). Savory, slippery and slimy.
Ouzie-style roasted leg of lamb with Arabian rice, lamb jus & harissa sauce. Fork-tender, barely gamy meat with moist, aromatic rice. Thoroughly satisfying.
"Manti" stuffed with chicken, garlic yogurt, sumac & paprika. Meaty morsels, wrapped in pillowy pasta shells. As light and tasty as the best of Italian ravioli.
Salmon poached in Lebanese olive oil with smoked eggplant puree & dill potatoes. Succulent, fresh-tasting fish, irreproachably prepared.
Baby squid a la plancha, with arugula, olives, radish & chick peas. Springy seafood, whipped up in a salad-ish recipe that kept the full briny flavor of the ocean intact.
Prawns Escabeche (roasted prawns with garlic, ancho chili & pickled veggies). A tangy treat, perfect for snacking; tidbits like these give tapas a good name.
Paella Valencia. Gently laced with saffron, this might not be the best paella ever, but the fluffy bomba rice was nevertheless very nicely cooked. Loaded with enough beef sausages, prawns, clams & mussels to make every bite extra enjoyable.
The cocktails here are stellar. Spanish Lemon Drop (belvedere vodka, sherry, fresh lemon) & Opiate (bombay sapphire gin, midori lemon, absinthe).
Magic Mo'Kool Berry Bliss (cotton candy floss, fresh lemon, absolut mandarin vodka, cranberry) & Mandarin Whisky Cocktail (yamazaki 12 years single malt, cointreau, shao xing rice wine, angostura bitter).