El Bodegan- Cocoa Village- 1.5 Stars
As fortune would have it, my veracious restaurant generator produced El Bodegón in Cocoa Village, FL for my next meal. I say this was lucky as I was in the mood for Latin food and so why not go back to the source? Not the Italian kind of Latin, I am speaking of the South American style, ergo one heads to Spain in order to find the real McCoy. Since El Bodegón is heralded as "Authentic Spain Cuisine", I entered with anticipatory taste buds at the ready.
Wanting to get a wide sampling of his fare, we placed an order for Calamares al Bodegón, Pulpo a la Gallega, Almehas al Vapor and to wrap things up, one order of Ceviché.
If I rated a place on decor, atmosphere, and food presentation this place would be 5 stars all day, every day. The interior is subtly decorated denoting class in an underhanded way, the upstairs lounge had a lot to do with this, the food was plated and presented like the works of art concocted by one of my favorite chefs to be found in the kitchen of Di Mare in Vero Beach, Chef Jean. As I do not take those things into consideration, The Big Boy is all about the food and only the food, I firmly stand behind my 1.5 Star review of Marino's establishment.
The Calamari al Bodegón was extremely tasteful and would have been downright divine if the Calamari was not grossly overcooked (think leather shoelaces). Again, the homemade lime and parsley sauce with a bit of a kick was delightful, it was just that what it covered had the texture of old mule skin. At least the sauciér was on the ball back there in the kitchen. Our next dish originally hails from the Galacia region of Spain. Located in the Northwest region of the Iberian Peninsula, this region is famous for its locally sourced octopus. Sadly, I fear the octopus in their Pulpo a la Gallega came out of a can with a Sysco label on it, I am sure the pre-cut potatoes in the dish did. The octopus was chewier than it ought to be and didn't taste fresh at all while the potatoes had that "fresh from the can" texture and consistency. As with the previous item, the seasoning was spot on, but the main protein itself was not so much spot on as missing by a kilometer (they use the metric system in Spain). It was with slight trepidation that I eyed the next item up for review, the order of Almehas al Vapor. Steeling my taste buds and teeth for what I expected was to be yet another overly chewy experience, I popped a baby clam into my mouth and was happily surprised. the clams were perfectly steamed and the freshly made garlic sauce was flavorful with a mix of herbs that made it exceedingly interesting to my palate. The sauce was the perfect companion as it added the right amount of flavor without drowning the baby clams in garlic. Again, I give a nod to the sauciér for being a perfectionist in his craft while enduring such obvious incompetency by the rest of the cooking staff. This brings us to the last selection on our Spanish culinary adventure, El Bodegón's version of the South American what I assumed to be Old Country influenced Ceviché. To this day, I have not had traditional Spanish Ceviché, if it exists at all. The dish most likely originated within the Moorish diet of Spain and was brought to the new world by the Moorish cooks accompanying the explorers and conquistadors. What they served me at El Bodegón was nothing like the Cuban inspired Ceviché I am most familiar with living in Florida, this was more akin to the Ecuadorian version as it was literally bathing in tomato sauce. The only seafood to be found were chunks of salmon, sadly, I cannot comment on the flavor of said fish as the acidic tomato sauce it was drowning in killed any and all flavor of the Salmonidae.
As I was leaving El Bodegón, I couldn't help but think back to an album a friend bought me back in high school. My dad turned me on to the Ink Spots back when I was just a wee Little Boy and not The Big Boy we all know and love today. Knowing this, a friend of mine bought me an album by "The Fabulous Ink Spots" for a birthday present one year. He was very excited as he knew how much I loved the group, especially their "top to bottom" vocal style found in such hits as "If I Didn't Care," what my good friend didn't know, and I never had the heart to tell him, was that this, like the food at El Bodegón, was not the real deal. Bu including members of off-shoot groups from the original members, The Fabulous Ink Spots, had a tenuous relationship with the original group. By using canned ingredients and South American influenced recipes, El Bodegón maintains the same association with Spain.
The Big Boy says, "If you're into good sauces and mediocre entree's this is the place for you. Otherwise move along, there is nothing to taste here."