When I picked up the menu at El Despesperada on Cuba Street, it was with admittedly modest hopes- I have a strong and sometimes violent prejudice against Spanish people and things. In fact I begged my editor, who hates me, not to be sent here. At any rate, my expectations were not high!
The deco-style Sealers Union Building on lower Cuba street takes on and sheds new tenants with a deciduous predictability. Until June it was Oppenheimer’s Microwave Kitchen, and before that (you may recall) a short-lived liquid tapas bar. The current decor is tasteful and warm, and the historic pelt odor barely detectable thanks to an assertive (but noisy) misting machine.
The young man who served me was polite and deferential, and responded cordially to my enquiries about his qualifications and rate of pay. It was at this time that I noticed a small, timid movement in my shirt pocket, which then stopped almost immediately.
My starter, when it arrived, was a bread-ish Spanish style item which fitted comfortably on the plate ($13). When prodded with a fork it seemed unyielding. The movements in my pocket came again- stopping and starting seemingly at random and accompanied by the hot feeling of mammalian breath on my left nipple. Then it was time for mains.
I ordered the least Spanish item on the menu- no easy feat- and was pleased when my stew (?) arrived piping hot ($23). The unflappable waiter suggested I accompany it with a glass of an aged grape juice ($14), and adroitly parried my comments on his physical appearance and conjecture about his mum.
By this point the thing by my chest was moving with an energetic rhythm. I stabbed vigorously downwards into my pocket several times with my reviewer's pen, and was successful in stunning whatever it was before immersing it in the stew, which my waiter informed me was a Chilindron from the Aragon region. Unfortunately it was now inedible. It smelled highly Spanish and moderately like seal.
Dessert ($17) had a pleasing little hot moat, which I believe would withstand all but the most determined tiny medieval pudding siege. My waiter devoted some time (8 and 1/2 minutes by my new watch, which is solar powered and therefore unreliable in winter) and four trips to the kitchen explaining the particular origins of the dish. He also answered the more advanced questions I had drafted earlier. My reviewer's pen being now unusable from the stabbing, I was not able to take notes. My waiter also proved adept at recognising a pre-crusted fork, despite my prior research into the house cutlery provider.
A three course dinner for one came to $68, which I will pay by the end of next month provided my crowd funding target is achieved ($8 reached so far, thank you Dad). I also have a campaign running towards a new Guinea Pig for my younger brother.