We had three favorite restaurants in Valencia (check out our write-up of Valencian restaurants and full list here). But what do our three favorite restaurants have in common ?
The answer is Juan Eduardo Guerrero.
Chef Guerrero was the chef in our first favorite restaurant, Apotheke - also a speakeasy bar, located in La Grand Via area of Valencia. I had stumbled upon a review of this restaurant while reading random blogs one night. I did not want to go off of a famous list, but rather use real reviews from real people who also happened to love food. We had no idea what a treat we were in for ! Che Guerrero also ended up giving us a hand-written list, at the end of the night, of his favorite bars and restaurants in Valencia. The ones we picked from his list turned out to be our other favorite restaurants on this trip.
Carrer de Ciscar, 18
Upon arriving at the speakeasy restaurant, we saw there were no windows, but there was a door with a small wooden opening at the top. We rang the doorbell in hopes of getting a response. A woman finally popped her head through the small opening awaiting a reply and we told her we had reservations (there was no code word listed anywhere so that was my safest bet).
Walking in, the interior was very whimsical and full of antique furniture and decorative objects. It was clearly very thought-out. Usually faux vines and faux architectural materials come off as cheesy, but whoever did the construction for this project knew what they were doing, so everything looked very authentic. Their menu consisted of craft cocktails, tapas, a few main courses, and desserts. We did our best ordering off of the all-Spanish menu. My French skills helped with most of the food terms, and for the rest, we got some help from our server, Osiris. I had a gin-based drink with pomegranite and rosemary syrup and soda water that was so delicious I got two of them. My husband had a mezcal-based drink that they presented very theatrically by burning a sprig of thyme instead of a bell jar, unveiling it as they came to the table.
Both our server and the mixologist were wonderful and made a huge effort to provide great customer service all evening long. We ordered two tapas and one main course to share. Our first tapas course was taken out to us by the chef himself, Juan Eduardo. It was such a treat, because he spent close to 20 minutes both telling us the story behind this first dish and then preparing it right in front of us ! There is something so special about tableside cooking. Juan Eduardo explained that he is Mexican-Spanish and that the guacamole he was about to prepare for us was a recipe from his Mexican grandmother. He told us that this will not taste like any guacamole you’ve ever had because guacamole is meant to be prepared and eaten right away due to how much the acid breaks down the avocado in a short time. He used a mortar and pestle made from volcanic rock to first make the first paste (he had a much better term for this paste…but I can’t remember) with onion, serrano chile, cilantro, salt and lime juice. He said that if this part is good, it doesn’t really even matter how good your avocado is. (Fun fact : there was also a twist to this part of the recipe, but it’s his grandmother’s secret, so I wont give it away here – you’ll just have to go see for yourself. At the end, he added the avocado and placed the final result in an oblong white dish with a gold-plated interior which he then served with homemade tortilla chips. It was mind-blowing, honestly. I am ruined for your everyday guacamole and I blame Juan Eduardo for this (but am also thankful for opening my eyes to what guacamole can be…). See picture below.
Our second tapas dish was a baked goat cheese wheel served with a pepper sauce and pine nuts. It was very tasty and well-presented, but hard to live up to the guacamole epicness. Then there was the main dish that was shared at the end – duck risotto. Absolutely gorgeous presentation in a clear bubble-like bowl decorated with sauce droplets and edible flowers. The duck breast was perfectly cooked and tender. The only part of this entire dining experience that I was disappointed about was the risotto itself. I have had many risottos, but this one just had an odd acidic flavor that did not mix well with the others.
That being said, I think this restaurant should be packed every single night of the week because their drinks and tapas are top knotch. Thank you Apotheke!
SERVICE : 5/5
PRESENTATION : 5/5
AMBIANCE : 5/5
FOOD : 4.5/5
DRINKS : 5/5
TOTAL SCORE : 24.5/25
Carrer de Calatrava, 19 (lunch, Guijuelo Iberic pork with sweet potato cream and violet onion chutney. My husband had bull's tail which was quite good) A restaurant recommended by the chef from Apotheke, it was another favorite during our stay. The pork was unlike any pork I've ever tasted. Very refined cuisine, small portions (which in my book is a good thing), and very good wine.
Carrer del Comte d'Almodóvar, 1 Bajo Izq (brunch, as if it were not obvious - and we ordered the item labeled 'brunch') This meal was one of are other favorite moments, and also a recommendation of the chef from Apotheke. With brunch you get : a pancake, bacon, the best scrambled eggs you've ever tasted, and home fried potatoes. After, you get a piece of cake or yogurt. I went with the yogurt, and was not disappointed. I'm pretty sure they make their own yogurt and granola...dear God it was amazing. The crowning glory was the mimosa we ordered. The orange juice was literally to die for - Valencia oranges anyone? Lastly, the coffee was smooth, strong, and quite heavenly.
Hope you get a change to try some of these places on your next trip to Valencia. If so, let us know what you thought! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org