This is the second post in the series Hola Madrid! Exploring Spain's Incredible Food.
Madrid has only one chef with three Michelin stars: David Munoz. His flagship restaurant DiverXO received the honor in 2014 (the first one in 18 years for Madrid!). Since then, it has been very difficult to score a reservation. DiverXO opens reservations six months in advance, and is typically fully booked. The wait list can grow to 25 tables for one night, which is crazy.
The last-minute nature of our trip prevented any hope of a DiverXO reservation. Instead, we opted to line up at StreetXO, Chef Munoz's more casual, Asian-fusion restaurant for fun, crazy bites like the famous “Club Sandwich” (a bao topped with pork belly and a fried quail egg) or the “Korean Lasagna” (more details on that below).
StreetXO is located on the 9th floor of El Corte Ingles, a department store, in the cute and trendy Centro neighborhood. There are several restaurants on that floor, along with a really nice gourmet food shop called The Gourmet Experience where you can pick up nice Spanish hams, cheeses, wines, and many other food gifts.
The restaurant does not take reservations, and there is always a long line. They even have a section set up outside the restaurant dedicated for lines. We arrived about half an hour before opening (~1:30PM - yes they eat very late here in Spain) and ended up first in line. You can see us in the photo above holding our table number sign.
While you're in line, a server will likely come and ask you for a drink order. Many people ordered a cocktail while waiting in line just to pass the time. We ordered a few, and they were pretty good.
In general, the cocktails are interesting and fun. Bryan ordered a Smoky Bacon Cocktail once we were seated. It was really interesting. The smoke is actually captured inside the glass together with some ice. A piece of paper on top holds the smoke in underneath and a piece of bacon on top. You're supposed to eat the bacon while drinking the smoke-filled cocktail.
When the doors opened at 2PM, we were led to one of the bar seats where we could see all the action in the kitchen. They handed us English menus, which was quite helpful. The menu is diverse, with all sorts of fun creative dishes. The server recommended we order 3-4 dishes to share.
We started with a Grilled Iberian Pork Pancetta "Saam", a play on the Korean version of this dish. This version included a gorgeous piece of pork belly together with a marinated mussel condiment, pickled shiitake mushrooms, and a Sriracha and tartare XO sauce. (€14.5)
Bryan was drawn to noodles, so we ordered the Boar's White "Civet"(€17),pork served with wok-fried noodles, extra-smoked bacon, and a fried egg on top with puntilla, which are tiny fried baby squid.
One of their famous signature dishes is the Steamed Club Sandwich (€11), a Chinese style bao that has been grilled and topped with ricotta cheese, a fried quail egg, and schimi-togarashi, a Japanese 7-chili pepper spice blend.
Our last course was the Korean Lasagna (€15), an angry-looking dish with layers of old Galician beef, shiitake mushroom, spicy marinated tomatoes, and fried wonton skins together with goat's milk and cardamom bechamel.
A video posted by Jennifer (@tinyurbankitchen) on
All in all, it was a fun having lunch at this crazy place. We opted for indoor bar seats so that we could see the action in the kitchen. You can also sit out on the patio and get some nice views of the surrounding area (you are on the 9th floor, after all). The dishes are creative, boldly flavored, and fun to try. Chef Munoz enjoys deriving ideas from all sorts of cuisines - everything from Korean Bo Ssams and Chinese wok-fried noodles to Indonesian sambal skate ribs and Indian "Tandoori" baby lamb. The dishes are creative and executed well, definitely on par with other similar types of concepts in Boston and other cities around the world.
Would I come here if I only had a few days in Madrid? Maybe not. Even though it's creative and interesting, it's not really that Spanish. Sure, there's a bit of jamon Iberico on the menu. By and large, however, the cuisine is solidly Asian fusion - a concept you can find in other cities around the world. If I only had a few days, I would focus more on ingredients or dishes that are unique to Spain.
If I lived here, however, I would definitely come. I love Asian fusion, and it would be a refreshing change from the many Spanish restaurants in Madrid.
I guess it all depends on what you're looking for. For me, it was fun to try a famous chef's creative dishes in his more casual outpost. At the same time, looking back, I wonder if I should have focused a bit more on exploring different aspects of Spanish food, not just seeking out famous Spanish chefs.
Calle de Serrano, 52, 28001