|I couldn't get them to stop flipping the meat long enough to get the photo||.|
There are few dishes that seem to leave as big a mark with my foreign visitors as the Carne roja de Buey a la piedra that has been served up at the classic Madrid restaurant, Restaurante Taberna Viña P, for as long as anyone can remember. This straightforward dish consists of a plate of barely seared aged beef that has been thinly sliced and generously sprinkled with rock salt. It is then accompanied to the table by a piping hot clay dish that has been lightly coated with oil. The rest is up to the diners, who cook their own meat to the desired amount on this piedra, or stone. The plate doesn't stay hot for long, but not to worry, the waiters will bring you a new one as soon as yours cools down.
There is something about cooking your own meat and watching it sizzle in front of you that has a memorable effect, leaving people like my co-cuñadastro, Will, eager to repeat almost 8 years after first having tried it - not to mention that the thinly sliced beef is flavorful, tender and quite lean. Listed on the menu for two people, it is admittedly not cheap (around 30+ Euros), nor does it seem to be as generous as it used to be. Even so, it is often enough to order just one portion for 3 or 4 people to share and then tack on a few other raciones, such as the fried eggplant with honey (thin, crispy and always delicious) and the tasty grilled pericos (green asparagus) with garlic mayonnaise. For dessert, I always get the Crema Catalana to share (similar to a creme brulee) and a icy glass of patxaran for a digestivo.
Viña P also makes an excellent choice for taking out-of-town visitors due to its wonderful location, smack dab in the middle of Plaza Santa Ana. Granted, it is full of tourists, but there is a wonderfully sunny terrace in the plaza itself (I just had lunch outside in January). Inside, the restaurant is a traditional classic graced by bullfighting photos, posters and aging aficionados. This family owned-and-operated establishment has a long history of being frequented by bullfighters, who during the sport's heyday, traditionally dressed before a fight at the imposing meringue-like Hotel Reina Victoria (now the Hotel ME), located at the end of the plaza.