Restaurant: La Cuchara
Neighborhood: Meadow Mill at Woodberry
Architecture/Ambiance: La Cuchara means “the spoon” and there are awesome old spoons on the walls. There’s whitewash wood to balance the dark colors of the mill, and, being an old mill, there are soaring ceilings.
Service: Our server was very attentive and knew everything about the menu. She was able to describe everything in detail. She did seem a little annoyed that we weren’t ordering entrees, but we were full after having all of the below.
Food, food, food: The food. It’s hard for me to write this because I just want to go back and eat more. I’m so grateful that Ben Lefeneld, the chef and co-owner, brought Basque food to Baltimore.
We ordered a gin & tonic (for him) and the Tempranillo flight (for me). The flight was: Toro Crianza, Arbucala, “Origen,” 2012, Ribera del Duero Crianza, Valduero, 2011, and Rioja Gran Reserva, Bodegas Faustino, 2001. I LOVED the Ribera and definitely plan to find a bottle.
Steve’s favorite thing in Barcelona was the olives, so we ordered those to have with the bread selection. There are four varieties of bread, baked in-house by baker Carrie Goltra. There was one with a little bit of salt that was delicious (and would be amazing with avocado).
We moved on to the pintxos, which are only $2/each (or $1 during happy hour!) and ordered the jamón croquette and the smoked Rockfish rillette on pumpernickel with a mussel on top. The croquettes were perfectly crisp on the outside and gooey with cheese on the inside. The mussel on top was delicious, but I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the rillette. It was kind of like tuna salad, which I didn’t love. (It’s similar to pate.)
Even thought it’s not Basque food, we had to have the raw oysters, so we ordered 1/2 dozen, which were slightly sweet and had an amazing pickled veggie side. Next, we hit up the charcuterie and did Serrano ham, Valdeón, a blue cheese, and Manchego in a membrillo (quince) sauce. The ham with the Manchego might be what I want for my last meal. I’d be pretty damn happy to go out after having it.
We opted to order two appetizers, which were definitely larger than normal apps. The charred octopus with white coco beans, lemon, and sage was the favorite of the night for both of us. They were bite-size and perfectly chewy and the lemon and sage made the dish feel really fresh. We were so full at that point that we could only indulge in a few of the beets.
Since we opted to skip the entrees, I decided that I had just enough room for dessert. I went with the fruite gateau mousse, which is almond cake with Morello cherry. What? What is this magic? Like cake, whipped mousse, overall deliciousness.
Biggest pro(s): I’m obsessed with Basque food. Give me ALL THE JAMON, please! I love the smaller plates that are easy for sharing and keep you from over-indulging. There’s something very European about eating small dishes over a few hours and lingering.
Biggest con(s): It’s tricky to find, hidden in the back of a former mill building. It’s NEAR Woodberry Kitchen, but not in the same “complex.” Both Ubers there and back had a tough time finding it. (There is a helpful map on the website.)