Casa Marcelo

When speaking about Haute Galician cuisine there are a few names that come to mind, but rarely do we hear  Marcelo Tejedor, even if he probably is the “godfather” of an entire generation of chefs and restaurants with a refined gastronomic predicament.

Graduated alongside Juan Maria Arzak, Jacques Maximin, Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse, in 1999 he return to Santiago and started the first of his revolutions. Let’s see, on his first drapery, Casa Marcelo appeared as a gastronomic restaurant, with an open kitchen, where the cooks were many times the elements in the room, and to that he added a single option, a tasting menu – to the reader it may look simple, and you see that everywhere, but in 1999 it was very disruptive.

History, the crises, and a restless brain made Marcelo start another revolution with his project in 2013, the restaurant was then a gastro bar, ending its gastronomic phase based on critics and Michelin stars; being more informal, client-centred and with an offer of modern Galician cuisine all about tapas!

The quick success and the sensitive cuisine of Marcelo and his right hand Martín Vásquez made the Red Guide forget of all its demands (at least in the Portuguese version…) and give it back its Michelin star, keeping it since then.

But on to the night of our visit, installed in the kitchen (the entire restaurant is an open space so we can stay in the red shared table or in different sections of the space) and honoured to have Martín as our cicerone, we chose to put ourselves in their hands and go ahead with our diner.

There’s no better way to start than bread, and what a bread! It’s produced daily at the kitchen of Casa Marcelo and it’s perfect in every way, worth a visit by itself – I would be happy to leave with a basket of it.

Black pearl oyster, padrón pepper
A very delicate oyster paired with a padrón pepper sauce and a spice oil, showcasing the fusion of cultures and flavours the cuisine at Marcelo’s is known for.

Bass “tiradito”, Aji Amarillo
Galician product, Peruvian influence, an amazing tiradito very well balanced in terms of acidity and spicy notes.

Cherry tomato salad, cucumber
A classic at the restaurant, with several versions over the years, and although simple looking, it’s not. Skinless tomato, cucumber granita and a secret sauce that binds all the elements in a beautiful combination of sweetness and acidity. Perfect!

Al ajillo shrimp Har-Gao
Here we start noticing the Asian influence, so well-accomplished experiences that lead to the opening of his recent restaurant Mr Chu. Back to our Har-Gao, the first one was slightly stuck to the plate, losing some of the dough, and its full sensation on the mouth. Having realized that, another one quickly came to the table, brilliantly made! Perfectly cooked shrimp, strong Spanish cuisine notes and a dim sum dough I never found in a non-Asian restaurant.

Grilled sardines, ratatouille
Another house classic that we could eat by the dozen. We could have it like these in our popular festivals, perfect texture, enrichened by the vegetables and a crunchy base to grab, have a bit and feel. Is it asking too much?

Cuttlefish poke
Slightly cooked cuttlefish on its own ink, and sushi rice. Good quality rice, a tasty combo, but the texture of the cuttlefish was not the best. Despite having absolutely nothing wrong with it, it was the least interesting dish of the evening.

Grilled bream, pak choi
Another perfect combination of Galician products with an Asian flavour, with a masterfully use of the grill, the fish was tender and delicate, with an amazing sauce.

Tartare steak
Those who don’t like tartare steak for sure never tried this one, and those who did won’t find enough adjectives for it. It’s got all you could ask of it, and those of you who know me, know who much I like a good tartar steak!

Spicy Toro poke
Opposite to the cuttlefish poke, this one was perfect – the amazing tuna belly with all its fatness, nicely paired with the spicy notes of the seasoning. One of those dishes you can’t stop eating…Leak-potato, egg yolk and Iberian bacon 
On the menu since the first version of the restaurant, the potato is cut and pressed to look like a leak, very crunchy, with lots of nuances and gourmand contrasts with the adding of the bacon and the yolk. One of those good sins!

Stewed cherries, mascarpone
It could be a tiramisù, but it was more interesting… The slightly cooked cherry melted perfectly with the delicate mascarpone cream and the sour notes of the cocoa. Very good!

Avocado, pineapple and coconut
Freshness, freshness, freshness, that’s how I like to end my long meals and that’s how we ended a memorable dinner at Casa Marcelo. Flawless textures, acidity, sweetness and fatness in the right proportions. Balance is the name for this dessert!

The wine list is not long, but it has handpicked options, where obviously the Galician wines have the spotlight and the prices are fair. We drank a LaPola 2016, from Ribeira Sacra, made from godello, albariño and dona branca, a wine that went well with the entire meal with its nuances and structure, not being tiring.

The service is frantic and at the same time super professional, leading us into a working scenario where everyone is surrounding the table, preparing the delicacies to be served.

Final Remarks
Thankfully there are people like Marcelo Tejedor, free people willing to take risks, without the fear of others opinions or distinctions. That rare personality, talent, and gastronomic sensitivity make Marcelo such a special chef, probably the most special in all the Galician region. Showing us distant flavours mixed with Galician ones, and also proving that haute cuisine doesn’t need to be still, or have certain service standards or even decoration. It has yes, to show us new paths, open our horizons and surprise us at every bite, and most of all respect the product.

We need more people like Marcelo and more trips like this one we went on as soon as entering the door. I’ll be missing this place and promise a soon return. Lots of returns!

Prices from 45€ – (without wines)
Rua das Hortas, 1, 15705 – Santiago de Compostela – Spain
+34 981 55 85 80

Photos: Flavors & Senses
Text: João Oliveira
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