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Spanish cuisine with local twist

THE Spain Pavilion restaurant, a.k.a the restaurant of Pedro Larumbe, provides traditional Spanish cuisine adapted to the modern kitchen and local tastes.

Larumbe, a Michelin three-star chef, has designed a menu that combines typical Spanish elements such as Iberian pork, olives and wine with an Oriental twist.

For example, the traditional paella is usually served a bit raw, yet Larumbe has made a version for Expo visitors to suit the Chinese palate. He has also redesigned a cold soup into a warm one since Chinese customers are not accustomed to the cold broth.

But typical Spanish tastes are not compromised by the adaptations.

The hallmark wine, olive oil and Iberian pork are used in the menu to achieve an authentic taste but within the limitations of restrictions imposed by Expo organizers on food items.

The restaurant is divided into two parts - the Tapas Bar and the "Spanish Passion" performance.

The tapas, a dish to be shared at the table, is the Spanish way for dining groups to taste different dishes. A party can order four or five tapas items to share at the table rather than ordering one main course each.

This is in line with the Chinese style of eating - to have many dishes in the center of the table for sharing.

In keeping with the communal spirit, the restaurant doesn't have a formal long table.

Most seats surround casual round tables for four or five friends to share dishes. It is rather a unique experience to dine right under the "Spanish Basket," made of more than 8,000 hand-woven wicker items from China.

The menu includes typical and authentic cuisine one can find in most fine dining restaurants in Spain - Spanish Paella, Iberian Ham, Iberian Pork Stewed with Mushrooms, Duck's Ravioli Cooked with Tio Pepe Wine and Cod Ajoarriero with Roasted Egg, for example.

A cook stands at the entrance of the bar to cut fresh Iberian ham for guests, one of the most favored dishes in the restaurant. The kitchen used up 800 boxes of ham in the first month, a supply the organizers had expected to last for two months.

The Spanish Paella, cooked with a variety of seafood, vegetables and chicken, is genuinely tender and mild.

The Bread with Tomato and Virgin Olive Oil La Espanola is replete with a fresh smell and genuine taste of good-quality olive oil.

The olive oil, wine and ham used in the restaurant are also available for take-home orders.

The "Spanish Passion," a three-course set menu, is served inside the pavilion's auditorium to the accompaniment of three cabaret performances. Two daily shows, at 5pm and 7pm, cost 298 yuan (US$44) per person. The set also comes with one glass of wine.

The dishes contain a starter, a main course and a dessert and are selected from the Tapas Bar menu. Dishes are served prior to each performance. The shows change every four to five weeks and variously include magic shows, circus acts, flamenco dancers and singing.

A total of more than 50 artists from 20 different companies will have performed in the auditorium by the end of Expo.

A side benefit from the show is a fast entrance into the Spain Pavilion, which has one of the longest lines among all Expo pavilions and usually takes three to four hours to get in.

Tickets are available at the restaurant entrance of the Spain Pavilion and those who purchase tickets need to make table reservations since the space is limited.


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