Madrid Eats: The European Version of “New American” at Bar Tomate

The moment I walked out of the Serrano metro station and onto Calle de Serrano, I felt like I had arrived in a new city and not Madrid. The area was quieter and less crowded in comparison to the chaos of Sol and the Gran Via. Also, there were so many more high-end designer stores (Burberry, Chanel, Dior, etc.), which are unfortunately out of my budget but still make for good window-shopping. A few minutes on Calle de Serrano made me realize that I had found my new favorite area in Madrid: Salamanca!

Three of my favorite restaurants in Madrid are in Salamanca and this particular post is about Bar Tomate (you can read about Restaurante Ten Con Ten here and Restaurante Tepic here). These three restaurants are all on the pricier side, and are all also formal sit-down places (well, not formal like no jeans-no sneakers, but they have a fancy schmancy vibe to them). Funny enough, all three of these restaurants are on the same street, so if you are planning a trip to Madrid and want to eat in Salamanca, you could walk into all three restaurants before deciding which to eat at.

I often find myself eating at restaurants that I found on Instagram and subsequently feeling disappointed. Just because a meal can make for lots of likes on the ’gram, doesn’t mean it necessarily tastes good, as I have learned first-hand (I’m looking at you, Two Hands and by CHLOE.). When coming to Madrid though, I had very few sources for finding restaurants because Yelp isn’t as popular outside of the U.S. and because I didn’t know which websites and blogs were trustworthy. That’s why I found myself trying more discovered-via-IG places than I would otherwise, Bar Tomate being one of them! Here is my review of this restaurant based on three different visits.

Tomate means tomato in English (+5 points for your Hogwarts house of choice if you figured that out on your own) and the restaurant’s name teases the heavy presence of tomatoes in their menu. To echo this theme, the restaurant has many red, porcelain accents around its dark space, as well as large windows and birch wood fixtures.

On my first visit to Bar Tomate, I arrived at 6pm, a normal dinnertime for me, but early for Spanish standards. For this reason, the restaurant was open albeit with a smaller menu. This menu still provided lots of options though, and I ended up ordering two appetizers to make one larger meal.

I started with nachos to satiate my Mexican cravings at the time. The pile of chips, salsa, cheese, and guac was a perfect appetizer portion and had plenty of peppers to provide all the spice void from Spanish cuisine.

Next, I had an order of grilled clams. Yes, nachos and clams makes one weird combo, but both items had lots of flavor and were well cooked so I don’t regret anything! Bar Tomate’s bread was heavenly and great for dipping in the garlicky clam sauce.

For dessert, I had a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. Simple, yes, but all the items on Bar Tomate’s dessert menu are (well except for the tomato ice cream). A warm brownie (or soufflé or chocolate fondant cake) topped with vanilla ice cream is quite honestly my favorite dessert so I enjoyed it whole-heartedly.

Although I don’t oft order the same thing twice, on my second visit to Bar Tomate, I got the nachos and brownie dessert again because they were both so good the first time. Fortunately, I mixed it up with my entrée and ordered a pizza with dried tomato, burrata, and basil (“mixed it up” might be a bit of a generous description though, I know, because it’s kind a simple pizza). I was full from the nachos though, and knew I wanted dessert, so I ended up only eating part of it and taking the rest with me to go. Unfortunately, the restaurant only had a huge pizza box that, after some walking around outside in the rain, I ended up having to throw out.

Round three at Bar Tomate took place right as they were getting busy for dinner (ie. 9pm). As such, I was given a seat at the bar. This time, I skipped an app and went straight to the entrée: truffle grilled rigatoni, as recommended by the bartender. When the plate arrived I was honestly surprised. It was a huge serving of cheesy pasta, with some truffle sauce draped across the side of the plate… It was pretty much macaroni and cheese with a little truffle flavor. Regardless, I mixed the truffle sauce into the cheese sauce and starting eating. The sauce was very rich so I kept eating and eating, even dipping bread (remember this place’s bread is heavenly) into it.

Definitely not the most aesthetically pleasing pasta... Definitely not the most aesthetically pleasing pasta…

After eating about half of my plate of the world’s richest decadent pasta, I decided that I hadn’t had enough cheese (or frankly, food in general), so I got a cheesecake for dessert. It was a small piece of cake with lots of berry toppings and was good ’ol piece of cheesecake.

This last visit to Bar Tomate was about a month ago and you might be surprised to know that I haven’t been back since, especially considering I went three times in a one-month period. Well, the last meal actually scarred me a bit. I ate so much of the aforementioned rich pasta that it really weighed me down and made it hard for me to fall asleep that night. And then the next morning, the taste of the truffle sauce was so strong in my mouth and my head that I didn’t eat anything else until the afternoon, when the lack of food had started to give me a headache and fever. I have never had a problem like this with food before, but the feeling was so unpleasant that it has left a bad taste in my mouth (both literally and figuratively) about Bar Tomate that I have not been back. It wasn’t Bar Tomate’s fault as much as mine for ordering and eating something that isn’t entirely my taste, so be smart orderers and eaters wherever you go, my friends!

Overall, Bar Tomate is definitely a place worth visiting for what I consider to be “New American” cuisine. The ambiance is sophisticated, yet suitable for all ages, as is the food on the large menu. Service at Bar Tomate is just fine. I find that as a solo diner in Spain I receive less attention than I do as one back in the U.S., but then again it could just be general slower pace of life here that keeps me constantly waiting longer than I would like for the check!

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