Spanish Dining Institution Xixón Launches $45 Tasting Menu

Chocolate fritters,
Chocolate fritters,
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

Since Carlos Matto and Begoñe Tuya opened Xixón on Coral Way in 2001, they wanted to serve a tasting menu. Unfortunately, the aspiration fell victim to the beloved Spanish institution's success, because it thrice moved to largers locations to satisfy demand. "It's something we always thought about and wanted to do, but it takes a good deal of coordination," Matto says.

In 2010, they moved a block from their space that seemed to dedicate more real estate to Spanish ham and wine than it did seating. And despite moving into a much larger location with a 12-seat bar, a wine cellar, and a patio, the place is still stretches to the brim even on weeknights. 

But with a larger kitchen now run by Catalan import Tomas Cuadrado, they were ready to take the leap. New Times was invited for a preview of the menu. The $45-per-person menu launched last Friday and is available by reservation only. 

Suquet with clams and prawns
Suquet with clams and prawns
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

In creating the menu that will change on a biweekly basis, Cuadrado says he's looking to honor the ingredients of Spain. And indeed, that's what Xixón does. Our server recommends beginning the meal with a glass of biting, delicately sweet cava. Later in the meal, when it's time to move to vino tinto and I request a pour of Malbec, I'm met with a bewildered look. Xixón stocks only Spanish products, but that's OK. An easy-drinking grenache is better substitute. "The aim is to take all of the Spanish products we have and use traditional techniques with some modern elements," Cuadrado explains.

Shrimp carpaccio
Shrimp carpaccio
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

The seven-course meal begins with razor thin slices of shrimp dotted with garlicky aioli, Maldon salt, and a good dose of fruity Spanish olive oil. A few spheres of inky Lumpo roe and dehydrated tomato help further season the sweet, slightly briny crustaceans.

Next it's on to a roulade of house smoked salmon wrapped around a slug of tart goat cheese. It conjures up memories of a bagel and lox sandwich. However the plate is scattered with a sugary Pedro Ximenez reduction that pulls you into another place where you're nearly intoxicated by the sweet-salty contrast. 

Smoked salmon with goat cheese and Pedro Ximenez reduction
Smoked salmon with goat cheese and Pedro Ximenez reduction
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

The next dish could pass for muster for a risotto only it's not. Cuadrado toasts Calasparria rice, nearly the only kind acceptable for a proper paella, then simmers it in a vegetable stock fortified with blended calabaza and zucchini. It's finished with asparagus spears, button mushrooms, and some good salty manchego subbing in for the Parmesan. 

Spanish risotto
Spanish risotto
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

Cuadrado also pays homage to Spain's fisherman with his rendition of the Catalan seafood stew called suquet. "It's what fisherman eat while they're out on a long trip," he says. "A bowl or two of this and you can work all day." His version is a little more dainty, with a velvety, tacky broth with enough saffron and paprika that it's aroma clings to your shirt long after the plate is cleared.

Iberian pork shoulder with savory flan
Iberian pork shoulder with savory flan
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

The final savory course bring a roll of juicy Ibérico pork shoulder perched atop caramelized apples and a savory flan studded with a textbook brunoise of zucchini and bell peppers.

Pineapple carpaccio
Pineapple carpaccio
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

A pre-dessert of thinly sliced pineapple served with a creamy, house-made pistachio ice cream serves as a palate cleanser to prepare for the final course. This was the lone plate that could have used some tweaking. Had the translucent pineapple perhaps been grilled to create a bit of caramelization and sprinkled with a touch of salt it would've been near perfect. 

The meal ends on a sweet succinct note. Melted bittersweet chocolate is encased inside a greaseless fritter that explodes as you cut into it. Gather it up on your fork with some of the chocolate "dirt" made of crushed home made cookies and a bit of the kitchen's vanilla ice cream. A sip of sweet dessert wine will set you right for the road. 

For more follow Zach on Twitter or Instagram.

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Xixon Spanish Cuisine

2101 SW 22 St.
Coral Gables, FL 33145

305-854-9350

www.xixoncafe.com


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