Location: 313 W Johnson St, Madison, WI 53703
Ambiance: Upscale, formal tapas bar
Best Dish: Market Paella
If you’re looking for an elegant, upscale restaurant, then Estrellon is your best bet. With classy marble tables, leather chairs, and a soundtrack of gentle Spanish music, Estrellon nails the classy tapas bar ambiance. Unfortunately, that does come with a hefty price tag – although still quite reasonable when compared to tapas places in New York City, Chicago, and other major metropolitan places.
That being said, Estrellon is definitely worth at least one visit. Every dish cultivates the flavors, lovingly pairing them so they burst in your mouth in a wonderful combination. Their menu rotates with the seasons, using the freshest produce – if you go to the Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning, you can even see the chef (who also works with Graze, L’Etoile, and Sujeo) walking around the Capitol picking up vegetables for the day ahead.
However, two of their items have been on the menu both times I’ve gone, and have been delicious – their baked goat cheese ($12) and their market paella ($40). Their baked goat cheese blends creamy, cool goat cheese with a spicy, tangy marinara and fresh bread. The marinara cuts through the thickness of the goat cheese to make the dish lighter, and the baking melts the goat cheese so that it’s just soft enough to spread and beautifully warm. It serves as a wonderful precursor to the star of the show – the market paella. At $40, it’s expensive – however, split between two or three people, the dish is well worth the cost. The rice is tender, seasoned well with the richness of saffron and herbs, and the pan allows it to crisp up at the bottom. The assortment of vegetables add freshness – although some of them are cooked through, others are left a little more raw to add crunch and texture, adding a lightness to a usually heavy dish.
Although expensive, Estrellon excels at what it sets out to do. It provides a classy atmosphere with an exceptional assortment of tapas. The care they take to choose their flavors is evident, and should you choose to make the splurge, it is well worth the cost.