After 5 hours of being glued to a plane seat, I finally arrived in Gran Canaria. Needless to say, all I could think of was: I want to break free and ..eat.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
When in Gran Canaria, eat as the Canarians.
So I wanted to try a typical Canarian dish.
“We have ropa vieja”
Ropa vieja actually means rags in English. I instantly remembered a dish from the novel Mysteries of Paris, where one of the highlights of a tavern was a Harlequin – a dish that consisted only of the leftovers of other dishes. One of the characters – Le Chourineur – is really fond of it and says:
What a great dish! There is something in it to everybody’s taste. Those who like fat can have it; so can they who like lean; as well as those who prefer sugar, and those who choose pepper. There’s tender bits of chicken, biscuit, sausage, tarts, mutton-bones, pastry crust, fried fish, vegetables, woodcock’s heads, cheese, and salad.
But Le Chourineur happened to be a butcher and a murderer. So I immediately examined both my recent and distant past and realized I do not entirely fit into this consumer’s profile. Therefore I decided to put Ropa vieja on hold for better times when I truly qualify for it.
I continued my search for food and booze and stumbled upon a restaurant called El cerdo que rie, which literally translates as The laughing pig. I have to admit such a happy mood coming from the pig’s side made me a little suspicious. Maybe he knows something I don’t or ecstasy is part of its daily nutrition.
I went further only to discover another restaurant called El galo feliz (The Happy Cock). Who exactly was this Happy Cock? A character in a fable of La Fontaine? A Happy Cock once met a Grumpy Pussy. The rest is history. Hitler history 😀
Ok. I moved on and found another place that had a dish on the menu called Pata de cerdo, namely Pork’s leg. The familiarity of the name came as a soothing balm for our souls. Ok, let’s play it safe and go for classical values. “We take that”. But the waiter said “I must specify this is a special dish: it’s a reconstructed pork leg, from our traditional molecular kitchen. So now I finally understood the Laughing pig’s reason for exhilaration: his new prosthetic leg was on the way.
Bam! In your face!
It seemed like I was attracting some quirky gastronomical karma.
“I am huuuuungryyyyyy! If I don’t eat something now I will fall into a coma.”
“Well, here is your opportunity: Karmacoma Bistro.
1) Karmacoma Bistro
When we entered Karmacoma, Frieda Kahlo gave me a slightly sarcastic smile from a wall in the background. Something like “Dudes, you ain’t seen nothing so far! Just wait and see now! :))”
So I just ordered some Hummus.
It was super delicious.
Food porn: Lust at First Bite (Censured picture. Use your imagination!)
Karmacoma is actually a garage turned into a small, exquisite bistro, in Guanarteme, the coolest neighbourhood in Las Palmas nowadays. The owner is a chef and also a musician, with a quite special style as a guitar player (his music here). By his stage name – Ruin Man – you would expect him to specialize more in Ropa vieja than in squid delicacies. However, I enjoyed very much being surprised.
2) Restaurant Balalaika
This restaurant is great but its toilet is even greater.
The Toilet Story
When you enter the toilet in Balalaika your only regret is you are not an anorexic.
Because if you were, you could eat the food and immediately run to this lovely toilet to exercise your corporately trained multitasking ability: throw up and check out the surroundings in wonder, at the same time.
The restroom in Balalaika has a psychedelic wallpaper, a milky white mirror and Russian music: Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya! (which is just the Russian version of Nothing else matters). It’s like a parallel world and it’s the best spot to find some peace, hiding yourself from your psychologist, your proctologist and your exorcist.
I’ve even asked the waiter to place a table there for me but for some reason he refused. Maybe because the owner arrived soon playing a song on a balalaika while dancing kazachok..Mmm, not really, the owner was Spanish and had founded the restaurant as a sort of Valentine’s day present for his first wife. (I dare you to rival that!)
The Love Story
She was Russian, he not. And their love story went just fine until one day when the guy started to fool around by.. practically abusing the concept of selfie before this was even invented.
The walls of Balalaika are entirely covered in pictures of the owner taken with all the guests in the history of hospitality and humanity. I guess this must have been a turning point in the Spanish-Russian marriage. It must be challenging to have your husband watch you all the time from the walls like a Big Brother.
The Food Story
I ate a rabbit. My guess is this was a direct descendant of Bugs Bunny. A pretty solid fellow to deal with: I had to keep cutting and chopping like crazy to get the meat off the bones.
Don’t get me wrong, it was supertasty, but the whole operation really felt like a fitness training. A HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to be more precise: 10 minutes of intense cutting and chopping, 5 minutes break, 1 hour nap. Then repeat 10 more times. Then rabb it up!
Now, seriously, no need for dumbbells to build your biceps. Just order some rabbit in Balalaika. And dumbbells will forever look like jingle bells.
I got up from the table feeling exhilarated. It was the only restaurant where it felt like I have worked hard to get my food, like I had really earned it. This is how a caveman must have felt at the end of a hunting day. Invigorated, proud and ready to watch a documentary about rabbits.
Food porn: Roger Rabbit and The Potatoes Fuctory
3) Restaurant El Mirador Tunte
On a day trip around the island I have reached a region called San Bartolomé de Tirajana. A name so long that it was officially shortened to Tunte. Which is in my opinion a salutary initiative. But in German Tunte basically means a Drag Queen.
So this made me realize very quickly I was not at all appropriately dressed for this region.
Around 2 o’clock I got to the restaurant El Mirador Tunte, which literally means A Drag Queen’s Viewpoint. Well, I must say: Not bad, not bad at all! If this is a Drag Queen’s perspective on the world, maybe it’s time to revisit my sexual orientation.
The restaurant has a spectacular view over Barranco de Tirajana which allowed me to eat chuletas de cordero (lamb ribs) while staring out of the window all the time.
During a visit to the bathroom, I found a friendly message on the door that read like this: Please make sure you refrain from inappropriate behaviour like pissing or shitting. Abstinence would be much appreciated! Thank you! Signed: Tunte Team.
So there was a whole team of Barbette, Hedda Lettuce, Glennda Orgasm, Pussy Tourette, Lilly Slaptsilli keeping things in order. It certainly gave me a feeling of reassurance. And I left leaving a tip.
Food porn: Romancing the Bone
4) Restaurant De Enyesque Canteras
I have found it one evening, while I was walking by the beach and starving. When I got inside I really wanted to speak some Spanish although I’m never really studying it at home. So I asked if they have any dish with spinocchio.
The waiter looked quite confused, then his entire face lit in a laughter:
“Aaa, espinaca! Si, si!” (Oh, spinach! Yes!)
They had a soup with spinach and chickpeas and tuna.
“Ok, I take it”
The waiter brought the soup. But when preparing to start eating it I noticed I was lacking some adequate tools. There was no spoon on the table. I double-checked in the menu, and the dish was listed under the section De cuchara (Spoon), that I have immediately misread as Cucaracha (Cockroach).
“So this soup must contain some spinocchio after all – it’s probably a cockroach named after Pinocchio.”
The soup was quite tasty. The spinocchio didn’t really bug me.
Food Porn: Spinocchio (aka Pornocchio)
5) Restaurant La Quilla Taberna Marinera
When I read the name of this restaurant at the entrance, it made me think about a movie called Quills where the Marquis de Sade ends up writing fragments of his novel on a wall using his own shit.
But the view was wonderful. La Quilla is on Passeo de Las Canteras, just in front of the ocean where you have the best chance to watch a gorgeous sunset. So I sat outside, by the terrace, and hoped the experience was not going to be a sadistic treat.
I ordered Pulpo al grill (Grilled octopus). When the waiter brought it to my table, I felt like struck by lightning. I looked terrified and thought:
“This is not Vasilică, is it?
I had made friends with Vasilică around 2 weeks before. One afternoon, while the sea was low and I felt high. I was walking on some greenish rocks spread throughout the water and right in the middle of this trip without LSD, I had a chat with an octopus. The exchange went very well, stories were shared, tears were shed, farts were spared and in the end we shook hands.
I was looking at the octopus in my plate, but trying to distinguish its face from the face of my newly made friend was like trying to tell one North Korean from one South Korean.
I sighed and proceeded with the operation. I must admit, the octopus didn’t disappoint me.
Food Porn: Pulpo Friction
After a few days of heavy eating, I realized I was beginning to look exactly like a turkey on the cover of a book titled: How to fatten up a turkey fast before Thanksgiving!
“That’s enough! I have to stop this! Today I start a diet. I go to the supermarket and buy some salad leaves.
The closest supermarket was SuperDino located in a big Shopping Center called El Muelle – a tall, modern building overlooking the harbour on the other side of the island – Playa de Las Alcaravaneras.
I got there quickly and while searching for the supermarket, I stumbled upon an… all you can eat restaurant, buffet style, called WOK El Muelle. Oh, noooo!!! It’s a Chinese restaurant that can hypnotize you to throw your diet plans out of the window.
“Fuck diet! You know what, I start tomorrow. Now I am here.”
Right at my fingertips there were endless rows of super fresh vegetables, seafood, meat waiting to be cooked right in front of me. Let’s celeeeebraaaate!
One of my biggest frustrations when I go to a restaurant is the lack of variation and freedom of choice: you can order one dish or two or three but then that’s it. You can already start your wishful thinking:
- I hope the cook didn’t have a fight with his wife and now he’s spitting on the food in anger against all humanity.
- I hope the duck hasn’t been cryogenised in the last 100 years and only brought back to life today and has a flu.
- I hope the bill won’t force me to work forever in this restaurant dressed up as a pink pig holding a menu at the entrance and squealing joyfully.
But a buffet is anyone’s chance to feel free of anxieties. For 15 euro you are free to pamper your inner freak and create a Frankenstein-looking dish. Who said you can’t combine 1000 pork tails with 1 kilo of ice cream and name it My Ticket for Liposuction ? Nobody. You are free. You can Wok until you can’t wok no more.
Food Porn: When Frankenstein met Spankenstein
7) El Poncho Steak House
El Poncho is close to both Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles in the South of Gran Canaria. I found there the best grilled ribs – both lamb and pork – super juicy and delicious.
But, I have to admit this restaurant has a brilliant strategy of mocking your will power. I had eaten the ribbs and was feeling more than full. Ok. I feel like I am exploding. I will pay and go home.
Than all of sudden a waiter shows up with a very large food tray on wheels and says:
“This is what we have for dessert today. I am going to leave this tray here so that you can take a look in case you want to order. But no pressure! This is just for informative purposes. In case you have any questions, just call me.”
Here’s what the informational tray looked like:
I was laughing and crying at the same time. This is what you may call a culinary knock out. I am just human. I ordered dessert.
Food Porn: Top Buns
I am sure the information above can help anyone make the right choice when eating out in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
But something I forgot to mention is that the alcohol in Gran Canaria is really cheap. Hence, there is a high probability that you spend most of your time dead drunk. (Actually, that’s what I did. The rest is fiction.) And when shuffling through the streets with a hangover in the morning, you will find that the best hangover remedy is to enter the first tavern and order a light meal combining these foods:
- Chuletas de cerdo
- Chipirones a la plancha
- Y bizcocho con nueces
Todo de rechupete! (Delicious!) It will work wonders! Buen provecho! (Enjoy your meal!)
However, if your parents have been repeating to you over and over again when you were a child that: “we are not poor, it’s just that potatoes are the best food in the world”, you will probably go for potatoes only. In this case, your best bet is: Papas arrugadas con mojo – a typical Canarian potato dish.