At Bellmónt, a Loyal Clientele Comes for the Stunningly Authentic Spanish Cuisine
The first thing you notice at Bellmónt is the appetizing scent of a red oak wood fire, quietly glowing in a 14,700-pound iron oven that owner Sergio Bellmónt imported from Pereruela, Spain, when he first opened five years ago. It is just one of the many authentic Spainish elements that Bellmónt fastidiously maintains at his elegant, yet neighborly, restaurant on Miracle Mile.
“I source all the food myself, and it’s the best of its kind in the world,” says Bellmónt, who acts as maître-di and executive chef. “All of the fish is from Spain, as is the ham.” Their cured ham, Jamón de Jabugo from Huelva in southwest Spain, may indeed be the best in the world, and is reason alone to dine here; it is dark and deeply flavorful, having been aged five years from acorn-raised pigs. It is an expensive delicacy, but when balanced in the Table Mixta with Manchego cheese and Ibérico sausage ($37), it is exquisite.
As much of the menu as possible comes from Spain, where Bellmónt was raised in a large family in Madrid. While all of his relatives have remained in Spain, Bellmónt settled here with his Peruvian wife Claudia and their five children. “I tell my mother that, at the very least, I am bringing some part of Spain to America,” he says. The food provides a culinary map of Spain. The piquillo red peppers, for example, come from Asturias on the north Atlantic coast. You can enjoy them in a wonderful light tapas dish where they are stuffed with goat cheese from La Mancha in the central part of Spain ($15). (The anchovies, likewise, come from the cold waters of Navarra in northern Spain, while the octopus hails from the waters of Galicia, on the Portuguese border.)
Also on their tapas menu are Spanish croquetas, a distinct upgrade from the type you find in Cuban cafes around Miami. Those at Bellmónt are round, with a lighter breading, and filled with pastes of either north Atlantic cod, Ibérico ham, or spinach with Manchego cheese ($11). They are savory and creamy and melt in your mouth, a soft warm filling with a delicate crust.
Among the entrees are a number of standouts. One is the Cantabric sea bass, again from the cold Atlantic waters of the coast of Asturias (the Cantabrian sea is also known as the Bay of Biscay). These grilled fillets, served with a bed of fresh sautéed vegetables, are perfectly browned on top with a thin, but crunchy skin on the bottom. If you love seafood, this will win your palate ($32).
Another standout dish – which does not come from Spain – is the Solomillo a la Piedra, a nine-ounce tender- loin of Iowa aged beef that is served with a “hot rock,” a small hot slab of volcanic stone from Granada ($39). The idea is to cook the meat on the rock as you slice it, sprinkling it with a bit of sea salt that is provided. It is a fine and fun way to eat a superb cut of meat. And you can use the slab to heat your baby lamb chops; from New Zealand, they are about the only other dish that doesn’t come from España.
Returning to the motherland, we also tried Bellmónt’s Paella de Mariscos, filled with calamari, mussels and clams from Spain’s northern coast, and shrimp and lobster from its southern coast ($25). It has a rich tomato broth, but uses pasta instead of rice, which makes it lighter and less pasty. You will have to wait 25 minutes for this tasty dish, but that is brief compared to the four to five hours you will need to order Bellmónt’s signature dish, its suckling pig roasted in the wood-red oven. A whole pig will set you back $230 for four or $260 for six (so bring two more friends), but it is a unique dining experience that regularly attracts large tables of diners; to date, Bellmónt has served more than 2,500 of them.
The wine list at Bellmónt is, as you’d expect, all Spanish, most ranging from $30 to $60 a bottle. We were very happy with a 2013 red 12 Linajes Roble ($46), comprised of tempranillo wine from the Ribera del Duero growing region in north central Spain. Desserts are likewise from the panoply of Spanish flavors (flan, almond ice cream, hazelnut paste). We tried the torrijas, a log-shaped Spanish-style French toast with cinnamon, honey and wine ($9). Easily enough to feed four of us, and deliciously decadent.
In terms of interior, Bellmónt combines the feeling of a family-run neighborhood restaurant with formal, fine dining. There is a large forward bar with hanging hams, and another smaller one backed by two TV screens broadcasting Spanish soccer. This is combined with white table clothes and warm, drop-down lighting. Somehow it works, creating a pleasant space where the food is clearly the focal point of the experience – and one that you will not regret. Bellmónt is a shrine to Spanish food, a place for your taste buds to travel. It is a unique, memorable and – for its clientele – a dining adventure worth repeating.