Indulging in Calderon’s Spanish specialties (GMA News Online)

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last August 24, 2013)

Whenever I crave for more than the usual home-cooked fare, I turn to one of my preferred world cuisines—Spanish. I find this particular tasty Mediterranean cuisine to be a special treat. Even my mother serves her lengua only on special occasions.

Fortunately, I don’t have to wait for those rare moments, as there are a lot of restaurants in the city that serve Spanish food—one of which is Calderon. My hubby and I recently dined at this barely-a-year-old restaurant.

Appetizers, ambience

It was a rainy night when we arrived at this cozy little place, rushing in from parking our car. The cool weather called for something hot and our choice was Sopa de Ajo, which we shared in order to make room for the other bestsellers. The Sopa’s light broth was heavily-flavored with garlic and herbs, topped with croutons, and made even more savory with an egg poached in the soup.

I believe the gauge of a good Spanish restaurant is its paella, and Calderon offers a couple of variants. We opted for the classic Paella Valenciana.

The waiting time for this was around 30 minutes, as with other traditional Spanish restaurants. To pass the time, we enjoyed tapas like Almejas en Salsa Verde (clams cooked in herb sauce) and paired it with Sangria Calderon, a red wine-based beverage containing bits of fresh fruits. The restaurant also has a white wine version, both of which are ordered per carafe.

While nibbling on some tapas and sipping on sangria, I admired the establishment’s wooden furniture, which added a warm ambience, and the tile accents on our ground-floor table gave it some character. The printed plates and artwork on the wall added color to the comfortable atmosphere. I explored the second floor and saw the bigger dining space where diners may book private functions.

Upon chatting with the one of the owners, Marmi Perez, I learned that Calderon has an acoustic/jazz night and an unlimited sangria promo every Monday.

Too bad we went there on a Sunday.

Spanish food is worth the wait

What makes Calderon special is that its owners are three foodie couples who met under differing circumstances, but realized they all lived in the same area.

And they all cook, too: one of the owners, Angela Melo, contributed her churros con chocolate recipe to the restaurant. Monchet and Ellen Carballo helped develop the paella and other dishes. Marmi, on the other hand, provided the recipe for one of the house specialties—Pollo Iberico, a roasted chicken dish that customers have to order at least one day ahead.

The server brought a big roasting pan to our table, the entirety of the chicken on it steaming hot and swimming in marinade and its own juices. A light brown sauce coated the skin of the poultry, which had a dash of herbs, spices, and garlic cloves. I only understood the advance order requirement when I bit into the fork-tender meat that had absorbed all the flavors. This was indeed one of the finest chicken dishes I have ever tasted.

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