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Valencia (ii) – Food Focus 1: Palo Alto

Review websites such as tripadvisor have easily become the best friend of the tourist, but often the enemy of the hospitality industry, which so easily falls victim to the foul mouths of internet trolls who would never complain to a restaurant’s face (so to speak), but unleash their cowardly fury online to the detriment of the business’s future trade. And yet, when a restaurant knows its stuff and presents a brilliant service, this is more often than not reflected on the said review websites. It is for this reason that before visiting a new city, I tend to check out the top 10 or 20 restaurants as reviewed by visitors on tripadvisor, and more often than not make a few reservations as a result. For Valencia however, I had insufficient time to scan through the various Valencian offerings, and decided to take Valencia like a bull by its horns, and leave my restaurant reservations to chance.

Imagine my surprise then when, after stumbling upon this little neighbourhood gem, Palo Alto C/ Conde de Montornes 30, and enjoying every little expectation-exceeded detail, that I should find said restaurant is only at number 406 of 1266 tripadvisor reviewed restaurants in Valencia! To be fair to them, they only have one review, and that review is a full 5 out of 5 which, while not surprising, should be replicated many times over. I hope therefore that in writing this review, I will play a small part in lifting Palo Alto far up the tripadvisor rankings and into the hearts of Valencia visitors henceforward.

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We were quite lucky to chance upon this restaurant. Always on the lookout for something quirky (and always ensuring that I avoid any restaurant which 1. has waiters/ maitre d’s standing outside beckoning/ forcing tourists inside or 2. those whose menu comprises 80s-style yellowing photographs of ideal dishes, to which the actual presentation bears very little resemblance) and heading back to the hotel after our traipse around Valencia’s fine art museum followed by another around the Jardines del Real, I was attracted to this place by the unique interiors (special admiration went for the variously angled wood suspended from the ceiling like a continuous wave rushing along the shore, complete with oversized lightbulbs hanging at differing heights) and the very reasonable menu. For only 44.25 € each, we would get 5 courses, bread, a bottle of wine, water and coffee. Bargain.

Delicious wine, all included

Delicious wine, all included

So turning up later at the allotted time, we found ourselves attentively looked after from the start. Pleasant waitresses asked us whether we would like white or red wine, and on choosing the latter were given an excellent tempranillo rioja “Valdemar, 2011” which far exceeds the normal plonk one may be given as a house wine or as part of a set menu. Smooth and perfectly chilled at the recommended mid-teens centigrade, this wine flowed like liquid velvet upon the tongue, slipping down the throat in perfect unison with the food.

Speaking of which, each and every course of our sampling was delicious, flavourful and each uniquely different. The first, a panfried foie gras with a reduction of pedro ximenez sherry, honey and raisins was a perfectly balanced dish. The reduction had been taken a little too far, with the result that it was a tad sticky in between the teeth, but the sharp sweetness was a beautiful accompaniment to the rich creamy saltiness of the foie.

Foie with a sherry reduction

Foie with a sherry reduction

Onto dish two, a beautifully presented salad of super-fresh scallops, sitting in their little mermaid bikini shells surfing the waves of a verdant salad, dressed in a citrus vinaigrette and topped with that much needed “crunch” supplied by crushed pistachios and crispy iberico ham.

Salade of Scallops with iberico ham and crushed pistachios

Salade of Scallops with iberico ham and crushed pistachios

There were two mains, the first a dish of hake  (or “merluza” in Español), served on potatoes with a basil and garlic purée. I could smell the pungent garlic as the dish wafted over from the kitchen (or rather the garlic vapours did) and relished the potent mediterranean flavour. My mother found the garlic a little strong for her more refined anglicised palate and perhaps wisely left a little of the sauce to the side – had I done the same, I may have better appreciated the more delicate flavours of the subsequent main, a tornado of beef wrapped in bacon and served with mushrooms and asparagus. What can I say other than it was delicious, tender and perfectly cooked?

Hake with a garlic and basil sauce

Hake with a garlic and basil sauce

Tournado of beef with bacon

Tournado of beef with bacon

Ok, it's meat juices I know, but the marbling is beautiful

Ok, it’s meat juices I know, but the marbling is beautiful

Finally, onto the unctuous spongey chocolate cake with a strawberry reduction – perfect for the Valentines weekend, although for obvious reasons this was not at the forefront of my mother’s or my mind (!). I can barely remember quite how delicious this cake was, such was my unapologetic embrace of over half of that delicious tempranillo, and my undeniable intoxication by a meal which was, in every detail, on point. Having almost forgotten how reasonably priced this set menu was, the final bill of 88 € came as something of a shock, but was worth every centimos. Palo Alto – may you rise to the altos of tripadvisor. You deserve it.

Chocolate cake with strawberries

Chocolate cake with strawberries

Palo Alto in on the C/ Conde de Montornes 30 which is a few minutes east of the Cathedral and close to the bed of the old Turia River.

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