monti otoño 2013

monti otoño 2013

Los mandarines y pontífices, la crítica gastronómica y la Red

Llevo en pocas semanas leídos ya media docena de descalificaciones, repletas de improperios, a la crítica, o simple opinión, gastronómica en la Red. Todas ellas de reconocidos comentaristas de los medios escritos de comunicación, algunos incluso críticos (en alguna ocasión). Alguno, incluso autor de meritorios Anuarios.

Es sorprendente el papel que puede deducirse que se pretenden arrogar: el de interpretes únicos de qué está bien y de qué no en el arte del buen comer y mejor beber. Como si el maltrato recibido en un restaurante o su deficiente calidad, nunca reseñados por ellos porque nunca lo sufriran por ser quienes son, no justificara un desahogo. Más: como si el lector de los mismos en alguna red fuera un subnormal incapaz de enterderlo como tal.

Ello además de otro elemento relevante que transcribo de alguien que sabe mucho más que yo aunque esté referido a la Red en general pero es de aplicación: "se echa de menos en su panorama algo más de acento en la vertiente creativa de la Red, que sin duda es importante. Hay gentes, que nunca habrían accedido a publicar en las ágoras que controlan los mandarines de la cultura y el mercado, que ahora publican y con mérito. Y si alguno lo hace por exhibirse es con el mismo derecho que tienen a exhibirse los pontífices de la opinión". Pues eso.

sábado, 1 de junio de 2013

Valencia, extraordinary cuisine beyond Paella

I have erased the post while I was posting that Restaurant 534 is now closed (nov 21013). I will reedit it as soon as I can. Valencia: extraordinary cuisine beyond Paella
Paella is the culinary dish that identifies Valencian cuisine. For better and for worse. For good because paella -real paella not jus a rice dish- is one of the most delicious meals you can have. And not all restaurants that claim to serve paella in the world they do. But in Valencia, or Alicante because the debate on where the best paella is cooked is as old as intense, you can eat the best paella in the world. No doubt about it!. And without requiring the orange firewood so beloved by the ones who come from overseas and don’t know a dime about our cooking.

But also the paella has harmed the Valencian cuisine. Its fame has buried the many possibilities that Valencian restaurant offer. And acctualy they do. The City has  plenty of other alternatives besids rice mainly based of the rich varieties of fish we have in this part of the Mediterranean Sea. Denia’s Shrimps for instance, are unique. As unique are several of ours dishes without rice. So, don’t stopt in the paella thinking it's all Valencia has to offer you!!.

Each year more visitors come to enjoy the City but also its restaurants. If you visit Valencia and you want to try a good paella it’s relatively easy to find good place to have it (better ask someone who is not the Hotel's Doorman). And keep in mind that there also bad paella’s restaurants, hundreds of them!!.  

But you can also eat in a wonderful way without rice. In my view it’s a pity don’t try some of the wonderful dishes we have and discover than Valencia cuisine is much more paella and today it is far beyond it. Nowadays Valencian gastronomy is perhaps the most innovative and less expensive in Spain. For sure it's not perfect, but it's much better than others which have all, or most- of the marks. 

Here are five possibilities that I would recommend to a friend. The first three with 100% satisfaction guarantee. The last two were sure bets until recently but my lasts visits have been less satisfactory than expected. In any case, both have credit enough for me to recommend them. But be aware: unfortunately increasing irregularity is one of the main threats of the very good restaurants we have in the City.

Definitely the best restaurant in town. A perfect combination of traditional and modern Valencian/Mediterranean cuisine prepared in a fully professional manner. Ricard Camarena is not in the media as some of his colleagues but in the kitchen, a place some ot his famous colleagues visit less than they should. Outstanding place with no if's. A few tables and a great chef:  perfect combination.

Only two considerations: the price is high in relative term for Valencia (around 100 € with a medium priced wine, more if you choose the Menu Degustación) and the strength of most entreés is high too. You should be prepared to pay for what you get although just an entreé (around 25-30 Euros) would be enough for most (80%?)  of us because the chef includes in the price several amuse-bouche based in the mediterranean tradition. In my opinion the only criticism is that he cooks a little too salty something too common in Valencia. But in Madrid or Barcelona for such high quality restaurant you will pay at least a 50% more. 

Camarena has an other restaurant nearby, Canalla Bistro, but without relation with the above mentioned. The menu is completely different and although prices are lower, the result is not as atractive as expected (by me). The main reason is that he is not the one who cooks. He has repeteated several times that he is very proud of this second local, but in my view he sees it (from decor to dishes) in a quite subjective way. Problably what he has in mind and sees is not exactly what the rest of us experiences visiting it.

534 Aleixandre has now closed the restaurant (2nov 2013). Not a surprise. As we say in Spain what it can't be cant' be and furthermore it's impossible. (I have been back and has been near discusting; like being ripped) 
Chef Raul Aleixandre closed an expensive restaurant (Ca Sento an institution in Valencia's gastronomical history) and opened this 534 (the Spanish risk premium the day he opened it I read) with another philosophy. Great product quality as usual but much more moderate prices. With his demonstrated savoir faire success was a sure bet. The local is full almost every day and reservation is a needed option on weekends. If you visit 534 you will realize why. Just an example: prices in the wine list are spectacular. Some of them less than a 10% higher than in a wine shop.NOT ANY MORE.

The speciality there is fish but most of the dishes are great. Try, for instance, the mollejasris de veau- if they are still in the menu (there are not). They are one of the best you can find everywhere (including France).  The price is not low but such quality comes at a price. For 60€ (appetizer, entrée and dessert) without wine you can have an extraordinary meal. Just a consideration: oyster served are Valencian oyster; not my favorites; if fact I completely dislike them.  In any case, like the americans, without any relation with real oysters
Like Camarena, chef's Aleixandre owns another restaurant in the Old City Center (Trenca dish) but don’t get confused. The relation between them is none. This second one is just a tapas bar, quite noisy, with tapas not always well imagined nor cocked, and with a less that a poor service. The only advantage is price -about 30 €- but without quality.

Nacho Romero is another very good chef that dedicates his time to the stove instead of spending all day in the media. And it pays in a very good quality. His restaurant is not in the city center but Valencia is not New York:  a taxi solves the problem. 
It is worth the visit; especially at night when he leaves aside the menu with rice (although to choose from the "carta" is always possible). His rice dishes are very good but there are better in the city while some other dishes he offer are outstanding. Again I will highlight the fish dishes nad his stews. Service is very good but with two big restrictions: His father, in charge in the eating room, is a fan of Nacho Romero's cuisine. So strong that his advice is void, because everything is more than perfect. And the seconf but: if you see Ruinart champagne offered by the glass,  and you ask for a coup of it don’t expect a normal coup. All what I got twice was less than half coup (for a small price of 7 €, that’s true). So, I am not ordering champagne in Kaymus anymore. 
Owned by a young couple who has been gained a deserved place in Valencia restoration. It has a good balance between quality and price and Medina is a very professional chef. However, in my last two visits I noticed the starters much less attractive than usual and, also, lower product quality. However I would recommend Apicius between the whole bunch of places in Valencia. Besides the fact that it's impossible to specify here what to eat because on their website they don't mention what dishes are offered. An information that shoukd be a must at any restaurantweb. Too common this lack of (information?) in Valencia without any justification. (Price for dinner about 60€ with wine). 

Much near the City center than the above Lienzo is an excellent restaurant ... sometimes. The dishes are always the same but cooking is not. Sometimes they are sublime others seem reheated. The same goes for the service. Sometimes I had to ask for some more wine three times, in others everything was perfect. As the good times that have been much more than the regulars, I still recommend this place between the so many that offer much lower quality at the same or hiher prices. Price around € 50. What I find unbearable is the head waiter (dont confuse him with the owners who are sometimes in charge). Always he has tried to make me eat more than I wanted (the portions are small, you must try this, etc....). But just ignore his fatuous advice, and all set. 

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