COCONUTS HOT SPOT — The new menu at Cava, the tapas bar located inside Islero restaurant in Phloen Chit’s Athenee Tower, offers a flavor journey that makes stops all over Spain.
New chef Emiliano Alvarellos, from Argentina, planned it that way. The former elBuli and Mugaritz chef has created small plates containing treasures such as: black olives from Lleida, jamón ibérico from Huelva, chorizo from León, olive oil from Jaén, and white beans from Oviedo. The palate voyage lets you feel like you’ve toured the Mediterranean nation without leaving your seat at the warm, rustic restaurant.
On a recent visit, we were wildly impressed with the tomatina salad. This dish, served as a perfect cube, is one of the most unexpected and impressive tapas we’ve tried. The base layer includes fresh, flavorful, vine-ripened tomatoes mixed with sun-dried grape tomatoes and bits of fresh red tuna. The tomatoes are drizzled with a rich olive dressing that pools in yellow at the bottom of the shallow bowl. Most impressive, however, is the “cumin air” that tops the salad. It looks like foam and has a pleasant, bubbly mouthfeel accompanied by a surprisingly strong yet pleasant cumin flavor that makes the dish pop.
Chef Alvarellos said that the “air” is a simple combination of cumin and water, with a bit of lecithin whipped in to make it foam.
The bikini was another winner for those that loved ham and cheese sandwiches as kids. This grown and sexy version of an H&C pairs crispy jamón ibérico with mild Spanish cheese and a truffle twist to create a deeply satisfying small sandwich experience .
Next up was the Idiazabal Foam Cheese. Nothing short of cream that makes you scream, this highly-covetable small plate features a ball of rich, soft, mild cheese sitting in a puddle of even richer, even creamier foamy cheese — both from the Idiazabal region of Spain. The cheese ball is presented in a cage of four slices of crumbly, light toasts with extra toasts served on the side for continued dipping pleasure.
For those that love classic tapas, Cava has menu items to please. The traditional gambas al ajillo (shrimp in garlic) was deftly prepared, the shrimp large and firm in a sizzling garlic butter sauce that didn’t overpower the dish.
Now, there are those that come to tapas joints to nibble and those that come with bigger appetites. For the latter, Cava offers big and hearty dishes of paella large enough to serve two or three as a main course. The slow-cooked bomba rice, from just outside Valencia, can be topped with the diner’s choice of duck or seafood. It arrives simmering in the restaurant’s own signature aioli.
Another hearty offering was the cannelloni. The pastry tube comes sliced into four tapas-sized servings and is stuffed with roasted minced pork, Manchego cheese sauce, and topped with little black bits that look like caviar but are actually an indulgent black truffle purée.
End the night with Cava’s signature dessert, torrijas grandmother style. A cross between a brioche french toast and a creme brulee, it’s served caramelized in a pan with a side of caramel ice cream.
63 Athenee Tower