Monday, January 21, 2008

Spanish Cuisine in Pittsburgh: Mallorca

Yesterday, after feeding our spirits at Shadyside Presbyterian and feeding our inner-outdoorspeople at REI, Karl and I feasted mightily at Mallorca, a Spanish restaurant on E. Carson and 22nd in the South Side.

The Pittsburgh City Paper named Mallorca for "Best Outdoor Dining" and "Best Spanish Food" in Pittsburgh. While it was a bit chilly (17˚F) to test the former, I certainly agree with the latter award!

Right next door to Mallorca is its sister restaurant, Ibiza, a tapas and wine bar that Karl and I enjoy frequenting for its delicious and varied array of tapas and inexpensive wine flights ($10 and up for 4 half-glasses). We were pretty excited to explore the heftier Spanish fare at Mallorca.

Mallorca would clearly have been out of the question price-wise for two poor graduate students (entrees $17-$40) had it not been for the uber-generosity of Karl's parents. His father, while in town for a convention a couple of months ago, had chanced across Mallorca for lunch, enjoyed the goat immensely, and consequently promised Karl that he and I could have a meal there on him.

Well, we didn't get his goat. We had all the best intentions of ordering goat for lunch, but the first special we heard in our waiter's thick, Spanish accent changed our plans: wild boar.

Neither of us had ever had wild boar previously. We briefly considered the rabbit entree but settled on Plan A: splitting the wild boar ($36, with an extra plate costing a mere $6.00) and ordering two bowls of soup ($4.95 each). It seemed like it would be a nice light lunch. We assumed that the wild boar entree would be a lunch-sized portion...

Though the wine list doesn't list any, Mallorca does offer wine by the glass. Since we didn't want a bottle, we ordered two glasses of their house Rioja ($8 each) in anticipation of a good pairing with the boar. The Rioja was delicious: the nose smelled obviously of chocolate-covered cherries that carried over into the taste. The bottle had clearly been open for a while, allowing the tannins of this Tempranillo wine to soften and highlight the bright berry notes with faint spice.

We started off with salads of mixed greens, onions, tomatoes, and hearts of palm in a mustard-y version of thousand island dressing (included in the price of entree). I nibbled at mine, picking out the hearts of palm (my favorite!). I didn't want to spoil my appetite, after all.

Our soups arrived shortly after the salads: one Sopa de Ajo (Garlic soup) and one Caldo Gallego (Spanish Vegetable Soup). The Sopa de Ajo was delicious, with the traditional soft-cooked egg in the bowl. I enjoyed the Caldo Gallego soup, too. The hot soup chased the chills from our bones.

Then came our "light lunch."

Two legs of falling-off-the-bone boar in a delicious sauce with lima beans , a plate of yellow rice, a plate of freshly fried potato slices and a bowl of mixed vegetables later (most of which we had wrapped up to go), we ordered a piece of almond cake (who can resist almond cake, I ask you?). The waiter also brought us two complimentary almond liqueurs from the bar. Did we feel like royalty? Oh yes!

Waddling out to the car, our bellies full and with the promise of a repeat meal (due to our sizeable doggy bag), we decided that we'd definitely return some day to taste the goat.