For Saint Valentin we decided to go to one of the 4 Michelin star restaurants in Valencia. We chose ‚El Poblet‘ near Plaza del Ayuntamiento – near where we are currently living.
The evening started normally enough, but was about to become ‚different’…
We were greeted at El Poblet with the full gallantry of a fancy restaurant. Us and another couple were led into a nice room upstairs and my handbag got its own cushion to sit on!
We got our aperitifs and some luxurious ‚nibbles’ – mushroom ‚chips’ in the form and construction of a weird spiderweb sitting on real (inedible) moss. We decided to treat our selves and ordered a fancy (and quite expensive) Saint Valentines Degustation Menu with a wine pairing. Yum
In the meantime a third couple joined the room but even then there were more waiters than guests. The ambience was bit strange but it was about to become even more awkward. While we were studying our menus, looking forward to the food, all of a sudden the lights and music went off. At first we found it amusing and enjoyed the rest of our drinks in the romantic candle-lit atmosphere, but then there was no music so all three couples started to whisper. The quieter the guests were, the more chaotic the staff seemed. After some stressful running back and forth a nice lady came to inform us (each couple individually, one after another, although the remaining two couples could clearly hear the conversation) that unfortunately they wouldn’t be able to fix the problem tonight and regretfully they would have to send us somewhere else since they were not able to cook for us. Ohhhh…
We got a glass of Champagne and a promise that they would find us a nice restaurant for the night (which I assume was not easy given that it was already 21:30 on a Sunday and on Valentine’s Day). I have to admit we were a bit disappointed but decided to take the situation in good humour and see where this ‚adventure’ would take us.
After a while all three couples were provided with a taxi and a note detailing where to go, and another nice woman with a torch lead us downstairs.
Our driver took us to ‚La Salita’. We entered the restaurant and to our surprise we got a very nice table and not one ‚in a dark corner’ as we were already suspicious of. I have to admit I liked the ambience in that restaurant much more. Michelin star or not, for me not only the quality of the food plays a role but also a nice interior and a cosy ambience. In La Salita I felt good straight away. There was life, there were people, there was laughter, people looked happy and there was nice background music. Such a difference to the somewhat ‚empty and sterile’ ambience at Poblet. We were welcomed by a very charismatic waiter, a woman who seemed to enjoy herself in her job and were happy to discover that also here we could have a Degustation Menu. We placed our order – unfortunately without wine pairing – but with a nice bottle of red from Ribera del Duero (my favorite wine region besides Rioja).
The menu started with ‚the carriage of sweets’ (el carro de las chuches). Very creative – a wooden carriage full of yummy bites, such as:
- cornete de hummus de garrofón (cornet of garrofón hummus)
- galletas de cacao del collaret (cacao ‘del collaret’ cookies)
- corazones de foie (foie hearts)
- bombones de queso azul y chocolate blanco (blue cheese and white chocolate candies)
- ajoarriero (a kind of pastry made with cod, potato, garlic and olive oil)
- mejillón agridulce (sweet-sour mussels)
VERY nice!!!!! Amazing flavours and innovative presentation.
After that we were looking forward to more delicious dishes and we were not disappointed. What followed was a selection of little dishes à la nouvelle cuisine, beautifully presented and explained to us with great enthusiasm (both in Spanish and English).
I actually don’t know what was happening there in that restaurant but both I and my boyfriend had some kind of a ‚mental orgasm’ while eating the dishes. We both went ‚uhmmmmm’ after every first bite of each dish and then we were quiet for a while. I am an extroverted person who ALWAYS needs to share all her thoughts and impressions but here even I was silent – and that means something! It was almost like I had visions and images of different happy moments of my life – most from my childhood. I am not able to bring the sensations I had ‚onto paper’ but I’m almost sure that’s how enlightenment has to feel. It was heavenly! Ecstatic even!
All those amazing sensations were hidden behind quite pragmatic sounding compositions of dish names:
- Ensalada de invierno con mojama, ricotta y emulsion de pepino con mostaza verde
(winter salad with dried tuna, ricotta and cucumber emulsion with green mustard)
- Puré de berenjena ahumada con sardinas brasedas y sardajo (smoked eggplant puré with grilles sardines and ‘Sardajo’)
- Alcachofas, gambas y jugo de anisados (artichokes and prawns in anise juice)
- Brandada de bacalao con guisantes frescos acidulados y anguila ahumada (Cod ‘Brandade’ with fresh peas in vinegar and smoked eel)
- Cigala en su propia mantequilla con guiso de manitas y habitas tiernas (Lobster in its own butter with a juice of pork feet and tender broad beans)
- Aguachile de remolacha y pez mantequilla (‘Aguachile’ of red beet and butterfish)
- Vitello tonnatto de pastrami de vaca leones con apio encurtido (vitello tonnatto of beef from León with pickled celery)
- Corzo lacado con tallarines de boletus y celery con carbonara de moscatel (deer with boletus and celery with Moscatel carbonara)
- Ganache de chocolate empanada con crema inglesa de vainilla y regaliz (chocolate ganache with vanilla cream and licorice)
Bravo to the chef Begonia Rodrigo!
Another exceptional thing was the service. We had different waiters attending us during this evening but they were all amazingly harmonious. The work between them seemed to flow automatically. At no point was there a miscommunication, a long wait or even a smile-less face. Our wine bottle was not left at the table but somewhere else within reach of the waiters and we were wondering how that was going to work. There was one moment where my partner said to me – jokingly – ,I finished my glass a minute ago’… and in this micro-moment where we were on the edge of changing our minds about the amazing service, calling it ‚merely excellent’, the waiter came and apologised! Thumbs up!
At one point I went to ‚powder my nose’ and my boyfriend sat there alone looking around. He said that he realised the quick glances of the waiters going to his plate and his glass, making sure everything is ‚as it should be’, that he is satisfied and that his looking around isn’t an attempt to communicate with the staff, but was just the random look of someone sitting alone, exploring the room, while waiting for his company. Very professional.
At the end we got a selection of Petit Fours presented in a visionary manner hanging from a little tree, accompanied by a glass of Champagne on the house.
We left La Salita full and happy. The memory of the tastes and flavours and of the images and FEELINGS from my childhood stayed with me long after the dinner was finished.
PS: Begonia Rodrigo even prepared a poem for her guests for that special evening:
‚Y morirme contigo si te matas
Y matarme contigo si te mueras
Porque el amor cuando no muere mata
Porque amores que matan nunca mueren’
‚and to die with you when you kill yourself
and to kill myself with you if you die
because love kills when it doesn’t die
because the love that kills never dies’