Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Viva Espana - round 2! This time around the trip didn't involve aflight to Barcelona (although I would have been ok with that) but just a quick subway ride to 13th street and the newly opened Jamonera. The former Bindi space has been transformed into an ode to all things Spanish - tapas, sherry, olives, jamon, vino - pretty much all the good stuff in life. 

There is a full bar now, where Bindi once provided those mixes for your rum or vodka, and it is well stocked. Plenty of wines by the bottle or glass, with an expected strong showing of Iberian peninsula varieties. Some specialty drinks, (this is 13th street after all) mixed to order by the bartenders. The girls really like the Bailaora - blood orange puree, amontillado sherry & cava which brought me back to Spain with one sip. The beer list could use some work, with mostly larger bottles priced in the upper teens, and a handful of American craft brews. One lonely Portuguese lager came in under $10. I drank some very good, cheap beers while we were in Spain back in November - how about some San Miguel, or Cruzcampo?!? 

Two dozen sherry's, ranging from $8 all the way up to $22 a glass. From strong and sweet to citrusy and acidic. It's not a spirit you see on many menus in this city, and I'm curios to see if it catches on. Could just be a gimmick, but the idea of creating a little sub-culture of sherry drinkers and introducing the city to a whole new alcohol is intriguing. They've definitely got a corner on the market. This is not the stuff that's been in your parent's liquor cabinet since the 70's. This is high alcohol, very tasty, and meant for sipping. Think dessert wine, but not as sickly sweet. 

the well stocked bar at Jamonera - a far cry from BYO Bindi 

The menu is divided up into tapas, tostas, meats & cheeses, salads & veggies, and raciones. In Spain, they serve different portions depending on the restaurant/meal. Tapas are usually bite size, on a piece of bread or a skewer, and can be eaten while standing at a crowded bar with a glass of vino tinto in your hand. The tostas are little sandwiches, served on a crusty roll or open face, and you'd get these if you had a high top to lean on or a table at a plaze cafe. The raciones are more substantial and meant for sharing at a table. 

Philly isn't quite clued into this whole culture yet, so Jamonera follows the path blazed at Amada, Tinto & Bar Ferdinand by offering slightly larger portions of each, with almost always enough for everyone at the table to get a taste. They suggest 2-3 plates per person, and this was more than enough for us - the boys had to pick up some of the slack and polish off the last few rounds of dishes that came out. We nearly were rolled out the front door. 

marinated Spanish olives with manchego & rosemary 
Delicious little olives (I love the tiny, super ripe ones) with cubes of killer manchego and sprigs of fresh rosemary. They even had some of the smoked kind we found in Sevilla. Yum.

fermin jamon iberico de bellota 
To get us warmed up and ready for the onslaught of dishes to come, we splurged a bit and got the special acorn-fed iberico ham, cut by hand. At $22, I was honestly expecting that melt-in-your mouth super ham we had all over the place on our November trip. I appreciate the authenticity of the hand slicing, just like in the old country, but the pieces were too thick and hard to chew. I think you can get better stuff down a few blocks at Garces Trading co. Maybe we'll go for the cheese plate next time instead. 

heirloom pumpkin croquetas 
The pumpin croquetas with urgelia cheese inside. Served on a pumpkin seed puree, with julienned green apple and pickled brussel leaves. The croquetas themselves were not all that spectacular - a decently crunchy breading, but the filling was just boring. The puree had almost no taste at all. The only thing saving this dish was the apple and peculiarly good pickled brussel sprout leaves. This could probably be served as a salad on it's own. Next time I'll pass on this to save room for some of the other goodies.  

papa fritas 
It's not a Spanish restaurant with out some patatas bravas. These had an ultra crispy skin - almost like the the tater-skins you can order at Chili's with sour cream and bacon. Mmmm, guilty pleasure. Back to the bravas though, which are drizzled with a "wood smoked garlic aioli," and a bottle of house made sherry vinegar-hot sauce on the side. The hot sauce was fantastic. The aioli was good, but I was really hoping for some of that paprika based brava sauce. The reinterpretation didn't really do it for me. These would be a great bar snack for a group putting down drinks, but there are much better dishes for dinner. 

setas tosta 
The best thing we ate all night, and one of the simplest.  Wild mushrooms, cadi urgelia cheese, pea leaves, and truffle oil. The incredible earthiness of the truffle oil bringing the quick grilled mushrooms to an unearthly level. Perfectly grilled bread and the lightness of the pea leaves were superb counterpoints, only helping to increase your focus on the shrooms. Kind of like a great wine, making everything else taste better. 

Some other highlights in the tostas family were the gambas al ajillo - garlic shrimp, roasted pepper & salt cod puree on grilled bread and the wedding of anchoas - a mix of anchovies, peppers goat cheese and olive oil (sounds odd but surprisingly good). The tostas were definitely the strongest part of the menu. These alone are worth the visit. 

 pig's tail, a la plancha
One of those not for the squemish dishes, an adorable little curly pig tail, grilled to crispy, served on a slice of toasted bread, doused with pisto bbq sauce and topped with pickled cabbage. If you can get over the pig tail thing, this was fantastic. The rich bar-b-q sauce (with hints of paprika), the crunchy pork and the tang of the cabbage are perfect. Douse it with a little vinegar hot sauce and you're talking heaven on a plank. Oink. 

huevos sucios de lucio 

Indulgence. Pure and simple. If you weren't full by now, you will be after this. The huevos sucios de lucio - a spanish fried egg (not sure exactly what makes this "spanish"), placed on top of a pringa of shortrib beef, chistores chorizo sausage, papas fritas, and drizzled with more of that house made sherry vinegar-hot sauce. 

According to wikipedia, a pringa is an Andalusian dish of roast beef or pork, cured sausages, and beef or pork fat slow cooked for hours until the meat falls apart easily. It's served with crusty bread at a family dinner table for sharing, and rightfully so. You will need help with this. This is some of the best parts of Spain on a plate. 

(left to right)
tomato stuffed sevillan olive, boquerone, vermouth onion 
jamon stuffed sevillan olive, guindilla, caperberry
piquillo stuffed sevillan olive, manchego, pickled chorizo

I only got to try one of the bandarillas, but it was incredible. Served as a trio of different skewers, these are very strong flavors - Sevillan olives, piquillo peppers, anchovies, caperberry, vermouth soaked onion. This is not one for easing into Spanish food, you need to really enjoy the salt to appreciate this one. If the huevos sucios is a bit of Spain on a plate, this is everything else, served on a stick.

warm medjool dates 

The addictively good medjool dates, stuffed with valdeon cheese, wrapped in serrano ham, and smothered in piquillo-almond sauce. A celery-apple salad on top let's you pretend this is almost good for you. Very rich and very decadent. The valdeon, which is a Spanish blue, is melty and luscious. One of the highlights. Not to be missed. 

olive oil ice cream, honey - shortbread
One of the most unique and interesting desserts we've had in a while was the olive oil ice cream (not sure if it's still on the menu any more though). Drizzled with wildflower honey, a sprig of rosemary and a few salted rosemary shortbread cookies that might be made with meth. They were that good. The ice cream was predictably very rich. But not in an over powering way. There was just a hint of that super extra virgin taste there. And the combo with the salt and rosemary of the shortbread was such a clever play. I generally don't like super sweet things, so this was an ideal dessert for me. 

Less inspiring was a sangrita sorbet that didn't have much in the way of flavor, and tasted like something you get on the Ben Franklin parkway during the fireworks show. 

While Jamonera is not quite up to the standards set by Senior Garces yet, they are bringing some incredible flavors to the table and sweeping up us all in this Spanish revolution crossing the city. ¡Viva la RevoluciĆ³n!

Food Baby rating: Twins! 

105 South 13th Street (at Sansom)
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Sun-Thurs 5pm-11pm

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