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Another excellent, lesser-known jewel in Madrid is a Spanish-Asian fusion place, Nodo. Order a gazpacho here, and you won't get the dressed-up salsa so common in the U.S. Chef Alberto Chicote serves a delicate peach-colored purée, close to a sorbet, poured at the table from an Asian kettle and served in a bowl of ice. The raw tuna tataki in garlic-and-almond sauce featured soft, subtle flavors; a heaping portion of medallions of roast suckling pig, accompanied by caramelized onions, was sweet and succulent.
Dining in Spain isn't always delightful, of course, and visitors who don't venture beyond the hotel and museum districts may wonder what all the fuss is about. Despite our best efforts to find local gems serving traditional Catalan fare, we couldn't shake dishes of gluey paella, watery gazpacho, oversalted cod and lamb scraps advertised as cutlet. In Madrid, where Moroccan food is in vogue, we ordered a salad at a trendy place called Mosaiq and received taco filling. A dollop of wasabi next to a greasy piece of fish was the chef's idea of fusion.
Even at Can Fabes, where we generally enjoyed a stupendous meal, some dishes flopped, such as a cream of potato, cod and truffle soup so rich we could stomach only a few spoonfuls. "I like to highlight the local foods when they come into season," chef Santamaria told us, explaining why so many dishes on our tasting menu featured mushrooms (in the fall). If you go, plan on bringing a hearty appetite, which you may work up just finding the place.