Thursday, March 14, 2013

Marisqueira - Portugese in Aspinwall....naturally

Groupon can be fun.  It's good for getting you to go to a place that you may not otherwise try.  It's also great for getting a very good deal on a place you definitely wanted to try, but now have the extra impetus to go to.  In the case of Marisqueira, the latter was definitely true.

Marisqueira is owned by the son of the owner of Mallorca on the South Side, a Suanish restaurant. Portugal is the slender next door neighbor to Spain and shares many culinary styles and influences, so the offshoot restaurant seems like a natural extension.  When we went to Mallorca last year (in a pure coincidence, it was nearly 1 year to the day), we were left feeling underwhelmed.  It seemed dated in the decor and the food, although very generous in portion, was a little bland.

Neither of these things were an issue during this visit.  Marisqueira is in the old location of Mio, which was a high end restaurant.  We never went there, but I imagine it was as warm and inviting as the rustic oranges that were on these walls.  There was a separate bar area, with a 2nd dining area in the rear of the restaurant, but for the most part it was one single seating area that is long and narrow.

Our Groupon was for two people -- you got 1 appetizer to share from 5 choices, your choice of 3 different entrees (chicken, fish, meat), and choice between 3 different desserts for each of you (creme brulee, flan, mousse cake) for $42.  It was regularly $84, I believe, so a standard 2 for 1.

We selected the garlic shrimp as our appetizer.  A very generous portion came out on a shallow raised plate with plenty of garlic flavoring, oil, and paprika.  The shrimp were "gnarled" and by that I mean they were twisted back on themselves.  I'm not exactly sure how they did this, or if this was a certain type of shrimp that I'm not familiar with, but they were very tasty and filling for an appetizer.

DB~ went with the Chicken in Cherry Sauce as her entree.  Normally, I would steer clear of cherry-based sauces, for fear of either being cloyingly sweet (cherry pie) or too tart.  This suffered from neither of those things, as the sauce was perfectly balanced over top of a perfect portion of juicy and tender chicken.  Each dish was served with white rice topped with peas, plus a side of mixed vegetables (cauliflower, carrot chips, zucchini).  She clearly made the correct choice.

Not that my dish was no slouch, either.  I went with the Filet in a Red Wine Sauce.  The filet was perfectly cooked and the juice percolated through the meat matrix nicely.  It definitely reminded me of the sauce from Mallorca as I was eating it, but the overall seasoning balance was much better.

The dessert choices seemed as if they were contoured specifically for us: Creme Brulee is DB~'s favorite and chocolate mousse (in any form) is mine.  Here the mousse was in a chocolate cake in condensed form -- almost resembling a flourless chocolate cake.

The best word to describe the service at Marisqueira is "attentive".  We counted 4 people that waited on us through the course of the meal, in a restaurant that had a healthy crowd.  The person who I'll call our main server was a older man named Pancho.  He was brusque but professional.  Our favorite part was when a table would order sangria (we split a pitcher -- must get it if you go), he would bark at the bartender "Half a Pitcher!!! RED!"

There was a swarthy young man who was the water guy.  By the end of the night, I was trying to see if I could drink enough water to drain the glass before he came by to refill it.  Couldn't do it without blowing out a kidney.

The waitstaff was constantly checking in, which after going to plenty of places where I feel like an orphan, which was nice at times and annoying at others when we were in the middle of a conversation.

Marisqueira is a very nice place that is a touch expensive, but it is worth checking out -- especially if you can score a Groupon.

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