Best of the Best 2013: Dining: Álbora
Located in Madrid’s posh Salamanca neighborhood, Álbora (+34.91.781.61.97, www.restaurantealbora.com) could well be the paragon of the contemporary tapas bar. Upstairs, a formal restaurant serves thoughtfully updated renditions of Spanish classics, but the bar downstairs truly captures the zeitgeist. The sleek, black-and-white decor trumpets a design-conscious modernity, but the long and chatty bar, clutch of opinionated waiters, and expansive and sophisticated wine list imbue the place with all the conviviality of a neighborhood taberna. Small plates are exquisitely prepared, from wild-mushroom fritters, deeply earthy and crisp, to lightly baked eggs whose yolks run lushly over tiny fava beans. A wood-grilled octopus has perfectly textured flesh that tastes of smoke and sea, and for dessert, the torrija is a sublimely buttery, grown-up version of French toast. And if, as most Spaniards agree, a good night of tapas always includes a plate of Iberian ham, here too Álbora has the upper hand. Co-owned by José Gómez, whose Joselito hams are considered among Spain’s best, it serves up its glistening slices in vertical tastings from various years, so diners can compare acorn-fed vintages.