Where Sea and Swine Meet
By Bill Gerdes
Alicante marries together some tasty Spanish and Mediterranean dishes—don’t let Yelp tell you different
The Spanish beachside city of Alicante lies about three hours south of Barcelona by train. The Spanish (mostly) restaurant Alicante lies in Palm Springs—on South Palm Canyon Drive to be precise. Both are slightly underrated. The one in Spain boasts some nice restaurants on its hot and crowded beaches, as well as the imposing Castillo de Santa Barbara, a castle dating back to the 16th century. The one in Palm Springs has some interesting and tasty tapas.
Which we’ll get to in a bit. First the underrated part. Before I made the drive out to Palm Springs I made the mistake of looking for Alicante’s address online, which led me to Yelp, which led me to a mixed bag of comments, a smattering of them harsh. Such be the Internets I suppose, but hey, Fred G. from West Covina—you’re wrong bro, just woefully wrong, my friend.
And Fred’s wrong because he didn’t like Alicante. But I do. I like it for the fact that the outside tables sit cozily up against the 111 Highway as it rolls through town. I like it for the friendly and attentive service I got. I like it for the brown tile floors inside. Really though, it’s the tapas. I like it for them.
I started with the Chilled Baby Octopus Salad, a tasty and refreshing number that features a nice assortment of red onions, cherry tomatoes and cucumber, along with eight or nine chilled baby pulpo. The octopus is fresh and combines exquisitely with the mustard pesto dressing that is liberally applied throughout the salad. It’s a well-done dish, and I enjoyed plucking my way through hunting for baby octopi as I watched people (and Palm Springs people at that—the beautiful, the odd, the touristy and the relatively normal) walk by on Palm Canyon Drive.
The next tapa to arrive was the Grilled Artichoke with asparagus. Basically it is a fried egg, topped with a slice of Manchego cheese, Serrano ham and a grilled slice of artichoke, with a couple of asparagus spears sitting on top. To me, this dish manages to capture much of what I love about Spanish cuisine, fresh ingredients put together creatively. I especially love the way the artichoke marries itself to the runny egg yolk. If there’s a flaw it’s the jamon; quality jamon Serrano is the best ham in the world. This is not that.
And then the final two tapas arrived—the Pine Nuts and Cabrales Cheese on toast and grilled Calamari with Chorizo. The pine nuts and cheese dish is a deliciously sweet mixture of pine nuts, honey and creamy goat’s cheese on crostini bread. This is really a dessert, and a damn fine one at that. Then there’s the calamari, but hey it’s really a chorizo dish, as the pork tends to overpower most of the taste of the squid. That’s okay though as the dish is delightfully yummy, capers, chorizo and calamari creating a perfect union between sea and swine. It doesn’t even matter that the chorizo is Mexican and not Spanish. Mexican chorizo rocks too. As does Alicante. Take that Fred.
Author’s note—Fred is actually a composite of several wankers on the aforementioned website. Any similarities to actual West Covina Fred’s are purely accidental.
Alicante Spanish Mediterranean Cuisine, 140 S. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, (760) 325-9464; www.alicanteps.com. Mon-Thurs, 11am-11pm. Fri, 11am-midnight. Sat, 10am-midnight. Sun, 10am-11pm. AE, MC, V.