I love Spanish food so when I found out there was a Spanish restaurant in Pleasanton, I knew I wanted to try it. Our friends Regina and Boris agreed and we headed there one Friday night in June 2004. In all we had quite a pleasant experience, though neither Mike nor I were thrilled by the tapas.
Casa Madrid offers a large pan-Spanish menu, with a wide variety of cold and warm tapas ($6-10) as well as several main dishes ($16-22). Main dishes come with your choice of soup or salad.
I love small dishes so I talked Mike into sharing some tapas. This was a mistake. The wine sauce on the chorizo al vino ($9) was quite good, with a deep and yet not-bitter wine taste, but the chorizo had a commercial quality to it. It was skinny (perhaps ˝ inch wide), smooth, not very tender and it tasted of nitrates. It reminded me much more of the links you get at a BBQ place than any chorizo I've eaten in Spain. I wouldn't order this dish again.
We also were not thrilled with the albóndigas riojanas ($8.75), meatballs with red peppers. They tasted like regular meatballs in a light marinara sauce. They weren't bad per se, but given the rich variety of really yummy meatballs in Spain I was expecting something more.
The pincho de cordero or lamb tenderloin skewers were better, they had a slightly spicy marinade full of Mediterranean flavors. Still, the whole plate consisted of only two small skewers of very thin lamb, not a good value at $9.
Mike's seafood crepes ($9) were also disappointing. He characterized them as "OK." He felt they tasted like bland seafood.
Our favorite dish of the evening ended up being the garlic fries. The small cubes were crunchy on the outside and soft in the center and were very nicely seasoned. I especially liked them with the wine sauce from the chorizo. However, at $8, the dish was very overpriced (by way of comparison, a similar-sized portion of fries is $3 at A Cote).
Regina and Boris decided on regular entrees rather than tapas and they were luckier with their choices. Both pronounced the salads "very good," and Regina loved the white sherry sauce accompanying her Chicken Sevilla ($18). It was mild but very tasty. Boris really liked the mahi-mahi on special that night ($19).
Casa Madrid has a nice wine list featuring Californian, South American and, of course, Spanish wines. All wines are offered by the glass ($4.50 to $9) and most bottles are under $35. Mike had a glass of the Vegas Sindoa Merlot ($8.75) from Navarra and we both found it delicious. If I could drink wine, I would have ordered a whole glass myself. Regina was less lucky in her Vacceos tempranillo; she found it very easy to drink but not very deep or complex. She would have liked something heavier. I had a coke ($2, free refill) which tasted weird.
Desserts (average $6) were great. There were five choices: a small flan, a heated bread pudding, a chocolate cake, a Spanish "love" cake and a "mystery" cake which turned out to be Gateau Basque. We decided on the cakes and were quite pleased with all of them. The Gateau Basque was the best version I've had outside of Spain, crumbly and soft in its pudding middle and tasting just as it should. I really appreciated the lightness of the Spanish cake; the cream frosting was perfect for a summer night. The chocolate cake wasn't too rich but I liked the creamy frosting and the hidden caramel layer. The three portions were quite generous and I can certainly see going to Casa Madrid just for dessert.
The restaurant itself is quite nice. It's located in downtown Pleasanton and as many of its neighbors it offers outside seating. The inside room is small, austere with its pale yellow walls and decorated by framed paintings of (I presume) Spanish scenes. Its main feature of notice, however, are the eight fans that crowd the ceiling.
Service was the real star of the evening. I have never had better service at a restaurant in the US. When Mike hesitated on what wine to order, the hostess brought over four different bottles of wine for him to try (and gave him generous tastes). The waiter was attentive and helpful, bringing refills of Boris' coffee way into the night (we closed the place down). We felt very welcome and comfortable there. So much so, that I really wish I would have liked the food better. I may go back and try some other of the entrees, however.
Dinner for the four of us ended up being about $127 after tax.
436 Main Street