“I just don’t even know how we’re going to fit.”
“Yeah but that tortilla though…”
A very lazy Saturday morning saw my friend and me strolling the streets of Salamanca in central Madrid, recounting the events of the night before. There had been an all-male pregame and a rum and coke with far too much lime, a power-hungry bouncer, a bunch of pandas on a wall… We needed a rooftop with a cool October breeze and maybe retail, if only just to window-shop. We ended up with quite the opposite at the loud and proud Casa Dani, after a 20 minute wait spent standing in a crowd. My friend had wanted to show me Mercado de la Paz and while crossing it, this place caught my attention, luring me in with its vibe. Moth to a flame. In an otherwise empty market, this place was packed. Napkins all over the floor. Cañas a-flow. Mostly Madrileños. And just one food item on a grand majority of plates. That tortilla. That thick, jiggly, bight gold tortilla.
Having done no research prior to my trip to Madrid, I had not known about this tortilla beforehand. It’s quite a famous tortilla. In fact, it’s been officially named the best tortilla of Madrid and since tortillas are a Madrid thing, this probably means its (one of) the best tortilla(s) of Spain, and hence the world. The place is run by a man named Dani, his wife Lola and their son, also Dani. It’s been around for over 20 years and their tortilla has brought all the Madrileños to the yard. And they’re like, it’s better than yours. It’s one of those places – you mention its name to anyone whose lived in Madrid and hearts melt. The South Street Diner or the Barra Payan of the Spanish capital.
So we waited. My friend, patient. And I, apologetic. Finally, we got a space at the counter and hastily put in our order. Two tortillas, two cañas of Estrella Dam. The tortillas came relatively quickly and they were all I had hoped for and more. A triangular wedge, around an inch thick, served with a wedge of fresh bread. On the exterior, this tortilla is a fluffy, airy omelet, almost like a soufflé in texture, transitioning into glossy-wet, thick and warm egg in the center. A kind of creamy, molten, mashed interior. Running through the egg are bits of potato, poached in oil and perfectly tender. Textural contrast but just enough to keep the palate engaged. Caramelized onions are also in the house, adding their roasty-toasty natural sweetness to the mix. The thing is generously salted, as it should be. To be washed down with a cold beer.
In the end it’s eggs, potato, onion and skill, served in a generous portion for 3 euros a piece, in a lively atmosphere. It’s the kind of dish that keeps me traveling and trying new things, the type of dish I love to write about and remember. Casa Dani has a bunch of other stuff on its menu, various tapas and a soup from what I hear. But it’s become a reference point for Spanish tortilla and will forever after serve as my measuring stick for this simple yet classic dish.