The Real Thing

Xixon delivers an authentic taste of Spain

If you really want to bitch-slap a restaurateur, taste his food and then say, "It's not authentic."

The words should be delivered with an audible sniff, as if someone launched a particularly foul cloud of gas in your direction. The tone should be haughty, dismissive, condescending — the same tone one uses with adults who still believe in Santa Claus or weapons of mass destruction. It is even better when combined with a quick flick of the wrist, consigning such culinary abominations to the Dumpster behind the nearest McDonald's and then followed by a sneering "That's not the way they did it when I lived in [France, Italy, Mexico, Thailand, fill in the blank]."

It is easy to become way too proficient at this sort of thing in Miami. Thai restaurants that serve sushi. Sushi restaurants that make maki with cream cheese and mango and old auto parts. Mexican restaurants that have not seen a fresh ingredient or a real Mexican since the day they opened. Italian restaurants that serve caesar salad with chicken in it, for Batali's sake!

It's enough to make you go out and order a nice big bowl of ... chop suey.

Or maybe not.

Instead check out Xixon, a charming Spanish deli-slash-café-slash-gourmet market. Barely big enough for you and your thoughts, it makes no concessions whatsoever to customers squeamish about native delicacies such as blood sausage, squid ink, and bacalao. Sorry, but no sushi or chicken caesar. No tofu burrito or kitchen sink maki (you know, "Everything but the....").

But if you want a selection of Spanish food and drink secondary only to an airplane ticket to Madrid, you will be authentically thrilled with what you can pick up here. Olives, beans, marinated veggies, sea salt, paprika. Cheeses and sausages. Huge, prehistoric-looking haunches of burgundy-fleshed jamón Serrano dangling from the ceiling next to flat, shiny paella pans. A glass-faced counter loaded with everything from tortilla española to chipirones rellenos. An impressive collection of Spanish wines, like everything else, crammed into floor-to-ceiling shelves that occupy every inch of wall space.

Make it easy and order a long, skinny baguette; a wedge of nutty Manchego or pungent Cabrales cheese; and as many translucent slices of immensely savory prosciutto as your pocketbook will allow. Or let one of the very sweet women behind the counter pack it into a sandwich, which you can devour — perhaps with a glass of tangy Albariño or dusky Rioja — at one of a handful of tiny tables.

Stopping there would be a crime against cuisine, rather like dining out in Hong Kong on chow mein and sweet-and-sour pork. The flavors of Xixon deserve a lot more respect than that. There are bacalao fritters, moist and creamy puffs of crisply fried salt cod with a salty and surprisingly mild flavor. There are vivid piquillo peppers stuffed with more salt cod — stronger-tasting this time — in a smooth, spicy tomato sauce.

There is an excellent Spanish tortilla, as thick as a seven-layer cake, the egg-bound potatoes cut in big, meaty chunks; a hearty, wickedly spiced garbanzo frito with sausage, ham, and red and green bell peppers. And, my favorite, chipirones rellenos, cute, thumb-size squid stuffed with diced tentacles and rice, bathed in a midnight black sauce of their own ink that tastes like the very essence of the sea. Or the very essence of Spain, the kind of authenticity not often found in these parts.

 
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