||[Nov. 22., 2016|12:44 pm]
Have I finally built up enough allopurinol in my system to get the proper benefit from it or did I simply dodge a bullet this weekend? It'd be nice to know which going forward. Alas, I've never been that good about reading signals from my body and they're anything but clear in this case.
For obvious reasons, I suggested tapas before the opera Saturday. A Googling for something convenient to the opera house led me to Pata Negra inside Block 37. The reviews were mixed but generally positive and I was curious to try something equally new to both of us. Nuphy was game, and happily made reservations.
We didn't need them. Despite some winter lights celebration on Boul Mich in its second or third year that I'd never heard of before the bus driver warned me of reroutes, next to nobody was detouring to the heart of a mall in downtown Chicago's most ill-fated block for a bite. It could hardly have been any more convenient: I took the el to avoid traffic snarls, forgetting that the station connects directly to the basement of the shopping centre.
Getting from there to the restaurant, however, proved at least as daunting as the rest of the trip. There were signs but they weren't very clear, often making it seem like you needed to exit the building rather than go up a floor. But I found it, and Nuphs already on his first margarita of the evening. I eventually ordered a glass of cava to keep him company. There were only two other occupied tables in the joint when we arrived, but I think our corner spot would have been quiet anyway. (The relatively tranquility of the place had been mentioned by at least two of the reviewers.)
The menu was, as you might expect, pretty meat-heavy. I was prepared to let the Funny Little Man get all the flesh he wanted and just nibble bits. But the servings were considerably bigger than we'd expected and, as a result, we'd overordered. The "butifarrita", for instance, was nine thick slices of grilled sausage and when I thought we were ordering two chicken croquettes, it was actually two chicken brochettes, each consisting of three fat pieces.
I ended up offering one whole skewer of botifarra to the neighbouring table. (One of the diners heard me describing calçots to Nuphy and cheerfully added his two cents, so I figured they'd be amenable.) They wouldn't take any jamón serrano, though. "Oh, that's too good to share!" they told us. It was the one thing we could take away, so I got the server to stow it in a plastic-wrapped box that I crushed and concealed in my car coat for the duration of the performance.
Even the non-meat dishes we got weren't terrific for my gout. Luckily crab is far from the worst seafood, since the avocado crab toast was piled high with it. The chef's special was a trio of grilled mushrooms which alone was enough for an entree. Oddly, we had to order bread. (I don't know if we were charged, but I suspect so because it came with a little dish of olive oil, mustard, and peperoncini slices.) The only other purely vegetarian dish on the table was--again, oddly--the habas a la catalana[*], which contained no sausage but paper-thin slices of red onion and asparagus tips, among other things.
Nuphy insisted on trying the Wagyu, which was as weak as the reviewers warned us. He thought the bacon-wrapped dates with cabrales and marcona almonds were a revelation, but I've made exactly that for an appetiser before so I wasn't impressed. They were sweet enough to save for dessert, since we definitely didn't have room for anything else. A shame since I'd vetoed the Christkindlmarket to come here and I nurtured hopes of stopping by afterwards for fried dough in some form or other. (Nuphy did stop by and waved a bar of nougat in my face, which I stole a piece of later while checking his coat.)
I did take a moment to survey the other stations--apparently the policy is that you can bring in food from them when sitting in Pata Negra provided you order some dishes there as well--but I didn't find the bacalao fritters I'd had my heart set on. Some of the other offerings--like the cocas and grilled seafood--looked pretty nice though, so I may try to stop in for a small bite whenever I happen to be there again (which, under current circumstances, could be another year from now).
Naturally, after having eaten several times my ordinary daily allowance of high-purine foods, I braced myself for a night of agony which failed to arrive. Usually the reaction is pretty immediately, but it was another 48 hours before I was convinced I was out of the woods. So maybe I can afford the occasional splurge after all? In that case, this could be a marginally better Thanksgiving than expected. Or was it due to contributing factors which aren't necessarily reproducible? I think it'll take me some suffering to find out one way or the other.
[*] Definitely not faves a la catalana, as the waiter corrected me when I said this.