The inspiration for David Muñoz’ StreetXo located in “The Gourmet Experience” on the 9th floor of Corte Ingles Callao, just off Madrid’s Gran Via is Asian street food, in particular dishes from Singapore, China and Thailand. While neither the location nor the pricing are accurate portrayals of these culinary treasures, the food itself is true to the spirit of a street origine and full of explosive, delicious flavor with Spanish twists.
StreetXo has an open kitchen with all the hectic activity that one might expect to find at a busy street stall. StreetXo was very busy when we were there at the height of a Saturday lunch rush. Even so, we didn’t have to wait too long for a spot at the bar overlooking the kitchen, food turnover was quick and people came and went with a fast turnover as well, though nobody seemed rushed.
We had just arrived in Madrid and were hungry, but we didn’t want to overdo it and get greedy, especially since we had a reservation for that evening at Chef Muñoz’s flagship restaurant, DiverXo. We decided that we would limit ourselves to sharing just three dishes, but given how good everything looked on the menu and coming out of the kitchen that was not going to be an easy choice. Somehow bypassing such mouthwatering dishes as “Tuétano con Kokotxas y crujiente de arroz (bone marrow with cod cheeks and crispy rice)” or “Espeto de Pollo Pekinés (Skewered Chicken brochettes, Peking style)”, we settled on three dishes.
We started with “Gambas al Vapor con ‘Ajillo de Pollo’ (Steamed shrimp with “Chicken Garlic Sauce”)”. These are steamed shrimp dim sum dumplings served with a garlicky chicken sauce, wild rice puffs and a side of black garlic mayonnaise. It’s a complicated dish with a lot of ingredients, but it is packed with a variety of textures and a whole lot of flavor.
In honor of my son’s impending visit to Singapore, we also selected the Singapore street food classic “Chili Crab.” Muñoz’ version was definitely “Spainified” as he included such Spanish staples as pimentón and Palo Cortado sherry along with a touch from Mexico – chipotle – along with a side of Mantou – Chinese steamed buns. This dish is not for the squeemish or those afraid to get their hands dirty. It is no holds barred dig in and wipe up later. The crabs themselves are small and offering little direct reward. The real joy of this dish is the sauce that is a true flavor bomb that compels one to lick his fingers and possibly even those of someone very close to you. The dish was finished in front of us with the addition of sliced green onions and cilantro. Moist towelettes are provided for before and after.
Our third and final dish was a truly novel one. “Ñoquis de arroz glutinoso con boloñesa coreana, cinco especias chinas, jugo de mandarinas (Gnocchis of glutinous rice with Korean Bolognese sauce, Chinese 5-spice and orange juice)” was perhaps our favorite of the afternoon. It was once again, a total conglomeration of so many different flavors, textures and ingredients, that somehow worked marvelously.
The food at StreetXo is not for those who who don’t care for explosive flavor and an overload of texture. It is fun food that is fun to eat. It is also just a fun place for a good, unique and quick meal. The food that I am most reminded of is Danny Bowien’s at Mission Chinese, but without the excess heat or numbing effects of Szechuan peppercorns. Both restaurants create novel, flavorful dishes from the Asian tradition, mixing it up with ingredients and techniques from their own particular terroirs. While Bouwien mixes American ingredients and traditions into his Chinese stews, Muñoz does the same with Spanish traditions and ingredients. Both chefs have hit on exciting combinations that please with their power rather than their finesse.