Eat with the Fishes in Valencia, Spain

Posted on January 3, 2011

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Eat with the Fishes in Valencia
by AnneLise Sorensen

The Valencia region is called “El Levante” after the rising sun – this is the part of Spain that wakes up first. Paella originated here, and a juicy orange is named after Valencia. But these days, it’s the experimental seafood and revisionist rice dishes that are establishing it as a culinary destination.

Follow the crooked streets of the old fisherman’s quarter to Ca’ Sento, where cheeky chef Raúl Aleixandre, a protégé of El Bulli’s Ferran Adrià, experiments in what has become Spain’s culinary signature: Recreating familiar tastes via unfamiliar (and, yes, sometimes bizarre) methods. Or, as Adrià puts it, cuisine where “nothing is as it seems.” (His scented foams are the best-known example.) Here, airy puffs of rice and an artful mound of cuttlefish and cauliflower arrive at the table. It’s only when the waiter pours black cuttlefish broth over it that the dish yields the unmistakable sea-scented, short-grain flavor of paella. Aleixandre also teases out seafood’s natural juices with unique pairings, like green-apple ice over oysters.

Chef at Ca’ Sento (Photo: ADN.es)

Eat with the fishes at the aquarium-ringed Submarino at Calatrava’s City of Arts & Sciences. Sample creatively prepared catch, like fat red shrimp in a crustacean caramel, while fish dart past your table.

Submarino Restaurant

A giant upright fork spearing a wine cork marks Burdeos in Love. A glance at the wine-lined walls, and the priorities are clear. First, select a Spanish red – some robust Riojas have a weighty finish reminiscent of a fine whiskey – and then a dish that can hold up to it, like thick cod with a parmesan mousse.

If you can’t find it in Valencia’s Mercado Central, it probably doesn’t exist. The massive Modernist market has everything from eels twitching on beds of ice to acorn-fattened haunches of jamón ibérico de bellota. Spain’s famous ham is pricey, but a fat-streaked slice melts addictively on the tongue like butter.

Valencia Oranges (Photo: HickerPhoto.com)

Travel Transforms: We’ll go with chef Ferran Adriá’s quote on this one:
“Nothing is as it seems.”

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