Tucked away on a quiet corner of Usaquén, Restaurante Sepulveda has been serving traditional Spanish cuisine for years. The ochre stucco walls of the small house are reminiscent of the golden colors of its namesake and birthplace of its owner, Jose Antonio de la Cerda.
De la Cerda emigrated from Spain over fifteen years ago. A systems engineer by training, he developed his passion for cooking at an early age. “My father used to say to me, there are two ways to capture a woman’s heart, by making a lot of money or by cooking exceptionally …the first didn’t go as well as I hoped,” de la Cerda admits boyishly.
There are no cutting edge dishes, no foams, just the feel of a provincial family restaurant. De la Cerda cooks at Restaurante Sepulveda as often as he can, when he is not traveling around Spain or Colombia sourcing foodstuffs for the restaurant. After all, Restaurante Sepulveda is noted for serving exclusively wines from Spain, as well as cheeses and chorizos that are imported. Like many Spaniards, he is proud of his cuisine and eschews culinary somersaults, preferring to prepare classic dishes like patatas bravas, gambas al ajillo, and his widely reviewed pork roast, the cochinillo. “My recipes are very simple,” adds De la Cerda matter-of-factly.
While I have often lamented that a true tapeo is close to impossible to find outside of Spain (for no other reason other than, there are rarely a slew of Spanish bars in close proximity to each other), a fried crispy quail egg on a sliced baguette, greeted me at the bar. Runny and warm, this tapa was a delightful accompaniment to my cold caña (draft beer). We picked on patatas bravas, and an off the menu item, caracoles, delightfully. Snails? Why is it that they sound so much more appealing in other languages, escargots, caracoles? They have a ring that certainly doesn’t exist in English. Yet, these caracoles were succulent, flavorful and teeming of pimenton de La Vera, that smoky, dried, red peppery taste that is so distinctive in certain Spanish foods. Drawback? Having to use a toothpick to extract the meat from the shell.
I was transported back to my own childhood kitchen with callos a la madrileña one of my father’s favorite dishes. My father, a self proclaimed Iberophile, took extraordinary care in preparing the stew, religiously changing the water, skimming off the excess fat, soaking the garbanzo beans overnight. It had been years since I ordered this dish and it felt right to do so at Sepulveda. Though it wasn’t exactly my father’s callos, this stew was righteous. The chickpeas toothsome, the tripe tender, and lots of leftover sauce to be soaked up by bread.
“I cook especially for Spanish ex-pats that miss their mothers’ cooking,” explains De la Cerda. He does not pretend to offer the authoritative recipe on anything, just to evoke memory and nostalgia in his diners who are often gathered here to watch a football match.
Robust dishes are the norm for this Castilian meson. The amber walls, chocolate-brown floors, and antique details provide a tranquil respite from the bustling Usaquén streets. All the details, down to the azulejo tiling, scream that Restaurante Sepulveda is the real deal.
Calle 117 No. 5A -13
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