Thursday, February 12, 2009

Safe for a rainy day

From my rather poor memory of anything academically inclined, the feeling of safety is one of human's basic needs. It sits somewhere after your very basic need to breathe, eat, drink, sleep and the sort. So there is a deep-seeded psychological explanation for the damsel in distress act, for example, that's not just environmental or circumstantial. Everyone wants to feel safe - away from scary things, painful things, things they don't understand, embarrassment, cockroaches. The means to the ultimate ends is where an aspect of individuality comes into play. We don't all feel safe through the same way. That seems a bit of a no-brainer because it's obvious that we all don't achieve happiness through the same means. But I'm not sure that happiness is a basic human need.

Doesn't matter just now because our favourite Spanish tapas restaurant makes us feel both safe and happy. The world needs more distractions that make us feel safe and happy. Encasa is one of those restaurants that seem eternally busy - well, in the later days of the week anyway. There's seldom an occasion that I've been there and they're not turning customers away, although it is a backpacker/passer-by heavy location. We always know to book in advance now for a good value, sumptious tapas fix.

The feeling of being hurried out of there is one of the downsides of this uber popular, friendly little restaurant but suits rather well when you're in a hurry too. We order quickly and sensibly, meaning that there will be no stuffing of stomachs tonight.

Encasa do a delightful range of reasonably priced salads and we always go for the ensalada con queso, a simple combination of mixed leaves, roast capsicum, olives and a mild goat's cheese drizzled in balsamic vinegar. It is effortlessly tantilising - if only getting dressed and looking good could be this easy. I'm reaching some new low here - I'm envious of a salad.

Our selection of tapas arrive shortly after the salad, with our serve of bread to follow after a calm wait and then friendly reminder.

Grilled baby octopus from Encasa, Sydney

First to emerge is the relatively huge plate of char grilled octopus, golden and blackened in a good way. As soon as it hits the gingham tablecloth (that's new...?) it gets the tastebuds salivating and the eyes sending messages to the brain to dig in. Now. A quick spritz of lemon juice and we obey the brain. The tentacles are tender yet chewy with the tips grilled to a satisfying savoury crunch. The octopus is fiercely independent; its taste and texture needing no sauce nor side. It goes divinely with my glass of a bashful Marlborough sauv blanc, probably even better than with sangria.

Yes, I had tapas without sangria. I find it improper and edging Rudd's binge drinking policy to have a jug all to myself. It's available by the glass but where's the fun in that? Moving along, the poultry and crustaceans turn up to the table together.

Chicken skewers with capsicum, olive oil, cumin and vinegar

The chicken breast skewers are piping hot and filling, if not a little bland. Whatever flavours the chicken is a little too muted making the accompanying sauce - capsicum based yet creamy almost like mayonnaise - essential.

King prawns in spicy tomato salsa

The prawns are a favourite tapas dish here with the tomato salsa making it a sin to not order bread rolls for dipping. A steamy and splattering arrival in a terracotta dish, the prawns taste fresh and are succulently crisp swimming in a tomato sauce loaded with onions and garlic, and this time huge chunks of whole peeled tomatoes. And this time the chef seems to have been a little heavy-handed on the spice factor - there is definitely much more heat packed into the sauce than ever before. Thank goodness for the soft bread roll.

It's nice when you can walk out of a restaurant (a) not having overeaten, and (b) when it's still bright outdoors and it seems like there's still more to be made of an evening. I leave the safety of Encasa to head into the wallet-endangering safety of a nearby bookshop where I indulge in a little more happiness.

Encasa on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

That plate of octopus looks enormous and I like the description of "fiercely independent" octopus (or octopi?). Ahh yes bookstores, the place where many a credit card bill gets racked up but happily so...

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