Madrid Eats: Best tortilla and an excellent menú del día at Casa Dani
Madrid has so many great places to eat, but there's one eatery I hit up just about every time I visit: Casa Dani. It's situated in the heart of the tony neighborhood Salamanca, but it's hidden away inside of the Mercado de la Paz, which is itself hidden in the middle of a large city block: the main entrance is down kind of a mid-block alleyway.
Up until a couple years ago, the restaurant had a very old-school look and feel, reflecting its reputation for old-school good food.
When I went back for the first time in a while, in January, I was shocked to see a modernized Casa Dani!
As a sign of the times, it's right across from the Amazon Prime Now operations in the market.
But thankfully, Casa Dani's star, the tortilla de patatas, or Spanish tortilla, remains just as good as ever. In fact, I think it takes the crown as my very most favorite tortilla in Madrid, which then makes it my favorite tortilla in Spain!
Why do I love it so much? For me, it has just the right level of doneness: not too well-done to be hard and floury, but not too soft to have liquid dripping out. The tortilla is super creamy, with the potatoes and egg mixing beautifully, along with hits of well-caramelized onion. The whole mixture is well-salted, like a good tortilla should be: the salt really brings out the egg flavor. But it's not so salty that I cry out for water. And thanks to the high turnover of tortilla here, it's usually served just a bit warm, rather than the room temperature varieties that sit out all day.
It's really just right.
During almuerzo time, that time between breakfast and lunch when one usually eats tortilla, Bar Dani also have other tapas on offer. I tend to only try things that appear freshly made, because otherwise they've just been sitting out all morning.
One time I saw a pan of fried things come out of the kitchen, and I asked to try some. They turned out to be absolutely delicious fried calamari strips! Instead of the usual big rings with an egg/flour type batter, which can often be rather bland in Spain, these were well-seasoned and coated with breadcrumbs instead. So delicious, I ordered a small plate of them!
They also have chicharrones, fried pork belly, which seem to be a common accompaniment to the tortillas.
This year, I've actually had the chance to visit Casa Dani during the weekday lunch hour. Instead of just the bar area, as seen in the previous photos, they open up two separate dining areas and another bar area for lunch!
I went on two separate occasions, and both times there was a wait for both sit-down lunches, as well as their to-go service.
It was really cool to see the mix of people who ate there. Being in the upscale Salamanca neighborhood, there were very well-dressed gentlemen in suits and neckties for example, but all of the construction workers and plumbers and electricians also seemed to be drawn to the restaurant.
The portions are large, the price is reasonable, and they offer really typical Spanish food. It's no surprise that the appeal cuts across demographics.
On this day, I chose the "Potaje Casero" as my starter. Just this bowl alone could have been a meal in itself! Potaje is a chickpea stew with some vegetables, either spinach or chard usually. I had always associated the potaje base as being a meat base, but in this one I found some fish bones hidden in it, so it was clearly made with fish stock. It was absolutely delicious: hearty and robust, and hit the spot for this rainy day.
I love albondigas, or meatballs, so couldn't resist to order them here. They came piping hot and came with freshly cut french fries.
Dessert was kind of a disaster. Unlike my favorite Rojas Clemente in Valencia, the desserts here are not homemade. In fact, I saw the box they came in and they get their desserts from some kind of industrial bakery with the brand name "Atocha." Not only that, my lemon pie came out all broken up.
On another visit, I started with the lentejas, or lentils. Again, I really wanted a hot stew because of the cold and rainy weather, and the lentejas were just what was needed. They were soft and creamy, and came with potatoes in a meaty, robust stew.
This time I ordered the dorada a la espalda, or the sea bream. It was simply grilled with some garlic, and served with those french fries. Super fresh, the fish really didn't need any more dressing up to satisfy.
For dessert, I ordered the "pudin," or bread pudding. It was presented more nicely, but the caramelization was overdone to the point of having an unpleasant, bitter burnt flavor.
I also ordered a café solo, or espresso, to help wake me up after so much food!
So to my surprise, despite the menu not mentioning beverage or dessert both were included in the 11€ price! The only thing extra was the coffee.
So I learned that not only does Casa Dani have my very most favorite tortilla in Spain - so far, that is! -, they also cook up hearty, delicious, and well-priced lunches. (I might just substitute coffee for the dessert next time.)
Calle de Ayala, 28