We started the evening with a couple of tapas at Vuelve Carolina. Imagine an enormous narrow dining room, presided by a counter where you can pull up a chair for ten minutes, or stay all night. With its dim colors and modern flare, it almost has something of a New York air. And yet, we are in valence, in one of chef Quique Dacosta's restaurants. When we tasted the escabeche carpaccio and the tuna with peanut pesto, we immediately recognized his signature spices, always coarse, the maestro's impeccable textures, and his affirmed style.
We then climbed up the steps and found ourselves in a completely different atmosphere. El Poblet. A mix between a boudoir and a cabinet of curiosities. A whole new dimension; a powder-colored gastronomic restaurant. The atmosphere is extremely soothing, the welcome incredibly warm.
German Carriz Navarro and his wife Carito Lourenço are at the helm of this vessel, a delightful couple from South America who, beyond knowing how to incarnate Dacosta's Style, know how to set the tone. They won us over from the start with the amuse bouche, a crisp rice pasta with nori seaweed to be dipped in an amazing dashi broth. There was coarse arugula cream with hints of peanuts, absolutely addictive corn-smoked bread, and corvina ceviche ( a bit like daurade) served with peppers and corn, between crisp, spicy and smoky -- both a nod to their respective countries and a strong "Dacostian" touch.
We were delighted to discover a new version the Bloody Mary, a condensé of blackberries and spices to be eaten in one bite, like a bite of Spanish sunshine. The cream of Parmesan and veil of six different kinds of basil, served at the perfect room temperature, was as sensuous as the crisp sweetbreads and black trumpet mushrooms that followed. Even though El Poblet's cuisine is épa our and generous, it is never too heavy. The tender and ethereal Rouget filet was a marvel, just like the tapioca infused with fish broth and tender onions.
When we complimented the duo on their dishes, they smiled with such sincerity and joy, as only Latinos know how. We then devoured the "rice ashes" with chicken, truffles and black trumpet mushrooms with a spoon.
While the space is elegant, almost feminine, the cuisine is powerful. The desserts on the other hand are more girly, like the violets and yogurt, a risky alliance that was in fact remarkably balanced and cheeky. And the chocolate, mascarpone and coffee was irresistible.
El Poblet is neither completely different or the same; it's the ideal and (almost) necessary prelude before arriving in the village of Denia and discovering Quique Dacosta's space of expression.