An epiphany moment, which, after nearly twenty years of gastronomic adventures in this gorgeous corner of Spain, is an achievement in itself. That special occasion calls for a mariscada como Dios manda, as the Galicians will tell you. So what does this actually mean? Something about God ordering seafood platters? Well, yes. A seafood platter fit for God himself? Well, yes. Ask a native Galician what constitutes a mariscada como dios manda and he will invariably reply ‘patitas’, i.e. little feet.
This in local seafood speak means crustaceans, and preferably local ones. That means we have to politely reject gambas (prawns) and langostinos (bigger prawns), as they’re not native to Galician waters. No, the only thing any self-respecting Galician seafood nut will order is centollo (spider crab), percebes (goose barnacle), camarónes (shrimp), nécora (velvet swimming crab) and cigalas (norwegian lobster/dublin bay prawns/nephrops-nephrops)and, if they’re available, the very rare and much prized santiaguiño known to all and sundry by their easy to remember scientific name Scyllarus Arctus.
With this in mind, and the special occasion being the visit of my dear nephew James, we headed to Restaurante Suso in La Coruña, tucked away in the same street (C/ Angel Rebolledo, Nº 50) as that other La Coruña institution O Bebedeiro. The place is small and pleasantly unassuming, a far cry from the starched table cloths, napkins and snooty waiters you get in some marisquerías or seafood restos.
As you head upstairs you get a tantalising glimpse of the precious ‘raw material’, piled onto pristine worktops, with bubbling cauldrons overseen by the charming cooks, all beaming smiles and warm greetings. We were shown to our reserved table and within minutes the order was taken, the bread basket plonked on the table and the wine served, a delicious Pazo de Señoráns Albariño Rias Baixas, the obvious and correct choice for such a feast.
About ten minutes later our platter arrived, all freshly cooked, no cold cabinet chill in this place. We started off with the goose barnacles, uniform in size and simply exquisite. After that we moved on to the spider crab, wisps of ‘marine moss’ still on his back, a sure sign that it was locally caught. The norwegian lobsters swiftly followed and finally the velvet swimming crabs and the shrimps, a riot of different though subtle flavours and deathly silence reigned as we chomped our way through legs, sucked gleefully on heads (yes, the Brits do do this) and weedled our way into legs and claws, stoically putting into practice the old Spanish refrain, Oveja que bala, bocado que pierde, i.e. the sheepeth that bleateth doesn’t get to eateth. Wise words.
We were far too stuffed for either café or pudding, and left the place very contentiños, as the Galicians say. Restaurante Suso is a must do it experience for all marisco buffs, i.e. those that are after the pure experience, i.e. without the unwarranted ‘distraction’ of molluscs, bivalves and other lesser creatures, which are perfectly acceptable as stand-alone dishes, though not as part of a ‘proper’ mariscada fit for the Gods and the more discerning mortal.
Photo: James Harrison