763 Main Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
Phn 845 452 5924
El Castillo Espanol Restaurant is now closed.
Our Wednesday night crew has been going to El Castillo Espanol for many, many years. In order for a restaurant to become one of our favorites, it must meet a few minimum requirements. First it must have a bar. Stop your snickering; we have a good reason for the bar prerequisite. If all of the stars are in alignment we will have anywhere from four to eight people for dinner each week, coming from Dutchess and Ulster Counties. We need a place to collect and wait for everyone to show up after work. Sitting at a table by yourself is not fun, so we frequent restaurants that also have a bar. Over the years this has caused us to miss out on some very good restaurants for the lack of the said aforementioned bar. One that comes to mind immediately is the old Busy Bee, a wonderful restaurant that we rarely went to. Perhaps if it had a bar would still be open? Or not.
Castillo has a small but very nice bar. If you are the first to arrive you might have to shoo the owners' children off of your bar stool, as the bar area also serves as the TV viewing area after school. Not a problem. We will typically start with a bottle of white Rioja, and more often than not have a platter of appetizers at the bar. This tradition was started by the owners, who almost always bring us out a mixed platter filled with calamari, chorizo sausage, baked clams and sauteed shrimp. For normal people this would be dinner, but we are not normal. Ask almost anyone.
After everyone has collected and had a glass of wine and a little tapas, we retire to the dining room to one of the round tables. This is the second requirement for inclusion on our list of favorites – a round table. Sometimes we start with four, and end up with six or seven or more. Someone - I won't mention Steven's name - is almost always late. Only a round table (and a server with a sense of humor) will allow you to expand like that.
Next comes the salad, which also shows up automatically, as the kitchen knows we want a big family style bowl of mixed greens and tomatoes, dressed simply with a good olive oil and a little vinegar. Wonderful stuff. The menu at El Castillo offers an eclectic mix of Spanish standards – paella , a traditional Spanish pan rice mixed with chorizo, scallops, shrimp, pork, chicken, lobster if you ask, whatever the kitchen has handy. Meriscado is a seafood stew, prepared in a spicy tomato diablo sauce, or verde – with parsley, onions, garlic and a little sherry, or my favorite – ajillo, with just garlic. Early in the evening, someone will ask if the kitchen has pulpo – octopus. For some reason just about everyone in our crowd loves pulpo. If they are out of pulpo, we leave disappointed. If – God forbid – we are informed that there are one or two orders left, tempers can flare. Now we have to choose who gets the pulpo. Better if they are completely out. We love all things cephalopod – octopus, squid, cuttlefish. I've never eaten a nautilus but I assume they are just as tasty. Books have been written about cooking “inkfish” as the fishermen will call this delicacy. It is difficult to master, as anyone who has had a plate of rubbery calamari will attest to. To tenderize the meat all kinds of tricks are recommended – cooking with a cork in the water, freezing the meat first, boiling and then chilling the meat, and then boiling and chilling it again. In Mediterranean countries people with lesser work skills are assigned the task of throwing octopus against the rock jetties to tenderize them. A stimulus program with delicious results. Served en su tinta – in their own jet black ink as a companion sauce - is a wonderful briny treat. Here at El Castillo, they are simply grilled with a little olive oil and paprika, and served with roasted potatoes. Tender, sweet, fabulous. One of my favorite preparations.
Entree orders with my crew are usually predictable. More often than not Dennis (Sleepy) will order the churasco ($23.95) - grilled flank steak. George (Grumpy) and Frank (Doc) will order a fish platter. Bob (Bashful) is less predictable. The restaurant's chicken dishes are worth trying. The pollo con arroz y chorizo ($15.95)– with rice and spicy sausage - is first rate.The kitchen does a nice broiled trout with grilled shrimp ($21.95) and a red snapper ($17.95) broiled and served with a garlic sauce. Around the table the accompaniments will include plates of homemade fried sliced potatoes, Spanish rice, and if you ask – sauteed vegetables, usually broccoli and carrots. It is the perfect family style meal to mix, match, share, and enjoy.
El Castillo Espanol is one of those places you would drive right by if you did not know all of this delicious stuff was going on inside. It's on Main Street just west of Arlington. It's in an old church, and still looks very much like an old church. The new owners have upgraded the dining room interior over the last year, and have done some work on the entrance and parking lot. They still offer occasional Flamenco dancing on weekends for entertainment. Free entertainment or not, the restaurant is one of the best values in the area. If you stop in on a Wednesday night, you might see us at the round table. I'll have a Rioja blanco, por favor.