music in the park san jose

.Spain and Peru Meet at Santana Row’s Suspiro

music in the park san jose

Returning to Santana Row is a refresher course on the realities of urban density. Traffic circles and circles the outdoor mall en route to underground and overground parking garages, adjacent freeway onramps, office parks and, just across the busy way, Westfield Valley Fair. A stroll through the row’s towering grids of cold glass and cool steel reminds pedestrians that sentient robots will feel right at home there once all of humankind disappears.

On a recent chilly spring night, a small band played outside of Zazil for hours despite the wind and a series of gray clouds swirling in tumult above them. After we were seated inside Suspiro at a plush sage-colored booth, another party of diners walked in ready to party. The leader of the group wore thigh-high boots and a black T-shirt cum mini-skirt with a slogan that declared she was the birthday girl. The al fresco music reverberated against the concrete while champagne corks popped out of bottlenecks.

Suspiro’s menu may or may not qualify as chaos cooking but the various dishes are a combination of competing Spanish and Peruvian flavors. An ensalada de tomates ($16) veered toward the Spanish coast due to a raft of brown anchovies shipwrecked amongst tomato wedges, dill fronds, petite pickled peppers and slivers of red onions. With closed eyes, the salad might also qualify as California cuisine.

The beef filling inside an empanada de carne ($15) was delicious with or without the addition of a bright yellow huancaína cheese sauce. But the sauce work went overboard on a plate of anticucho de pollo ($18). This chicken skewer arrived sunken into a pool of corn purée, was slathered with huancaína sauce and then smothered by a green foam splayed out in the shape of a snake. One of the chefs also took the time to dot the plate, three times, with purée circles. It was an unnecessary nod to El Bulli’s style of modernist plating. Decorous dots for dots’ sake.

Causa de cangrejo y camarón ($22) will provide some diners with textural challenges. More of the omnipresent huancaína flowed on top of a lightly coated tempura shrimp, a crab meat salad and a mashed purple potato. Without a truly crisp top layer of fried shrimp, the dish ate as soft on soft on soft. A lovely seaweed veil of decorative tuile provided the only instance of crunch.

A mixture of pork ribs and chicken in our paella de carne ($28) came out well done on a darkened bed of chewy rice. Well done cooks are my preference—but I hadn’t made that request. That’s something diners should be aware of before putting in their order. In this case, the chicken was particularly scrumptious, spiked with rosemary, and without any bits of uncooked skin or gristle.

One of the mixologists is from Barcelona but the drinks menu is also a fusion of “Spanish herbs and botanicals interact[ing] with native Peruvian fruit.” The pata negra ($16), with vermouth, bourbon, amaro and a shiso leaf, paired well with the starters. A nonalcoholic maracuyá ($9), with mandarin soda, passion fruit juice, lime and mint, was just sweet enough to offset some of the paella’s burnt notes. We finished the meal with a smooth suspiro limeño ($14), a Peruvian blancmange suffused with the innate tartness of a passion fruit.

Suspiro, open Sunday–Thursday 11:30am–10pm and  Friday–Saturday 11:30am–11pm, Santana Row, 3060 Olsen Dr., Suite 20, San Jose. 408.703.3886. suspirosj.com.

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