Maria’s magic recipe
Our dinner at Restaurante Orozko in John Ascuaga’s Nugget began with a glass of Rombauer Chardonnay ($9.50). This wonderful wine lacks the whimsy one expects from a white grape. It’s heady, bold, dense and goes with just about everything. It even stands up to red meat.
Everything we ordered was luscious and rich. The breads on the table, hand-formed by the restaurant’s baker, were like the ones Mom used to bake. We had a choice between regular, good old butter or a purplish butter with rosemary and olives blended in. Decadent.
We moved on to hazelnut-crusted calamari with lemon-basil tartar sauce ($7.25). The calamari was lightly fried and flavorful, but we perked up the whole dish by dripping the juice of fresh lemon wedges onto the squid. The surprising highlight of this dish was the side of crunchy jícama doused in a tangy vinegar sauce.
Our other palate-pleasers included a dish of blended wild mushrooms sautéed in olive oil with garlic and Madeira wine ($4.50). This dish swam in its rich juices. The warm baby spinach salad with roasted portobello mushrooms, manchego cheese, smoked trout and balsamic vinegar ($3.75) was a surprising mixture of flavors and textures, including the meaty trout and the manchego, a Spanish semi-hard, gutsy cheese made from the milk of manchego sheep.
Michael, who abhors fussy plates, was pleased with the mosaic-edged matching plates Orozko uses. They go well with the grotto-esque interior of the restaurant, complete with vaulted ceilings, rocks, trees and the successful division of tables that gives the enormous restaurant pockets of intimacy.
Cups of nectarous garlic soup came with our entrées. During the process of making the soup, the garlic caramelizes and turns a dark, orangey, squash-like color. The cream gives it a bisque-like consistency. The end result is a stout, delicious potage.
And then there were the entrées. Michael dug into his hunk of medium-rare prime rib ($24.50). Between bites, he said, “That’s just about as good a prime rib as you’re going to have. It’s like butter.”
His dish came with fresh vegetables and a mound of buttery, herbed orzo.
I ordered the Basque garlic chicken, Nevada-style ($17.00). I chose it because of the fact that John Ascuaga’s mother, Maria, brought the recipe over from Spain. Since I couldn’t be in Maria Ascuaga’s kitchen eating it firsthand, this would have to do.
The plate held enough chicken to feed a family of four: a breast and a thigh smothered in chunks of tomatoes with red and green peppers and bite-sized morsels of smoked ham in addition to a pile of saffron rice and fresh, steamed vegetables. I enjoyed it at the restaurant, and I enjoyed the leftovers for days afterward.
For dessert we started with an apple strudel ($6.50) filled with tart apples, golden raisins and crunchy walnuts. We ended our perfect meal with a perfect Spanish flan ($4.50), which pleased Michael.
“I don’t want to be let down by a flaccid flan." He wasn’t.