Saturday, November 15, 2008
Nicaragua: El Tiscapa
Brent ponders whether he'll have steak or Steak.
It's the eve of the finals for the Nicaraguan Barista Championship and we're getting hungry. Once again, Brent, Castalia and myself find ourselves in Enrique's CR-V blasting through the streets of Managua, destination: El Tiscapa, a steakhouse specializing in Nicaraguan beef.
Anytime beef cooked on a grill is involved, I'm usually quite amiable. Tonight will be no different. El Tiscapa looks like some sort of Spanish-era ranch house. Stucco walls, ceramic roofing tiles, open-air dining room and I feel like some Spanish Conquistador coming to roost.
"Thank God we're eating at a steakhouse - no more seafood!"
Our group tonight consists of Cleofas Arreola, Roukiat Delrue, Alirio Laguna, Castalia Cuadra, Brent Fortune, Enrique Ferrufino and myself. The menu is simple enough: beef. There's Churrasco "El Tiscapa", an 8 ounce cut of skirt steak, and all the way up to Gigante, a 16 ounce cut. For the appetite challenged, there's even a Mini Churrasco. Or maybe you'd like something different? Pepper steak, filet mignon, tenderloin or kebabs are also available. Maybe you'd like grilled pork tenderloin? They've got that too.
The side salad.
But really, why? Why would you come to El Tiscapa and trying anything other than the beef? Makes no sense to me. I don't even know if they have anything other than beef and I certainly didn't bother to find out.
For appetizers, there's a selection of soups like Chicken Consomme, Consomme al Jerez, onion soup, cream of asparagus and more. Again, why let something else occupy stomach space in place of steak? Doesn't make sense to me.
Judge Ferrufino relaxes without arm candy.
I'll admit, at the time I didn't realize that churrasco meant skirt steak and ordered the "El Grande", a 12 ounce cut. I figured that these would be thick cut steaks and I didn't want some anemic-looking 8 ounce cut.
Judge Laguna observes as the steaks are delivered.
The really nice thing (for me) about Nicaraguan steak dining is their love of multiple starches. What would be a faux pas in the United States is seen as perfectly normal here, a place where rice and french fries (not to mention plantains and yucca) are de rigueur.
In a blur, the steaks arrive.
As the steaks arrive so does Johanna, another of Enrique's friends. As we're introduced a pattern starts to emerge. Seems that Enrique is just surrounded by beautiful women. Last night, Nicaragua's Miss Earth and tonight a true knockout with a great personality. Nice work, and she likes meat.
Judge Arreola ensures that the wine is up to scratch.
As my steak lands on the plate in front of me I find that it's huge. A bit too much for me to finish. Johanna is up for steak and I offer her half of mine. It's no problem, I assure her. I don't want to eat that much meat. She accepts and takes half. Thank goodness.
Condiments for our steaks: picked onions, hot peppers and chimichurri.
The churrasco was good. The beef flavorful, cooked medium and tasty with just the right amount of seasoning to make the flavor shine. In fact, everything was nicely done. Unlike everywhere else in Nicaragua, the fries, while still being the frozen fries we see everywhere, were cooked just right. Golden and crispy, they matched well with the white rice. I wouldn't mind having more.
Fried Plantain Chips.
The steaks here come out in a fun procession with a number of servers bringing everything out on trays and fixing our plates for us. The steaks are piled on a large platter and our man just knows who gets which steak. Another server follows closely behind with a platter of rice and yet another carries a platter of french fries (my hero).
Service comes for Alirio.
Along with the meal comes a house salad, a simple plate of lettuce, tomato, olive, onions and cucumber in a vinaigrette dressing. It's nothing exotic or fancy but rather just a decent, little salad before the meal arrives. In addition to the steak comes plates of crispy fried plantain slices and a bowl of sauteed onions for the steak.
By this point, I'm very pleased with myself for sharing half my steak with Johanna. It was just too big and half (actually slightly less) is just right. As I look around our table, I notice that we're dining with some great women. Between Johanna, Castalia and Rouki, there's no daintiness here. These aren't "I'll just have a salad" kind of women, they're not those annoying vegetarian women that are so hard to feed. These women are digging in and taking no prisoners. Thank God.
Johanna and the other half of my steak.
My steak with my favorite sides: rice and fries.
Soon, it's time for dessert. Over the past year or two, my taste for sweet desserts has been diminishing. I don't need a big dessert. Many times I don't order dessert at all. Tonight is one of those times when I'd prefer to leave my palate savoring the flavor of the meat.
But our group has other plans in mind and orders a couple of desserts for us to share. One slice of Tres Leches Cake and one slice of Leche Flan. It's not much, just enough for a bite or two for each of us, but it's something for us to have a taste, which is fine by me.
The Tres Leches is sweet but not as moist as the cakes I'm used to elsewhere and the flan is a bit thicker and denser than I prefer. Not bad though, just different than what I prefer.
Tres Leches Cake.
As our dinner ends, our group separates. Johanna and Enrique are going to take Brent and myself out to the club while the rest of our group goes back to our hotel to sleep. Afterall, we are supposed to judge the finals tomorrow.
Restaurante El Tiscapa
Avenida Tiscapa y Avenida Universitaria