Tasting fideuà in the home of fideuà
Down the coast from Valencia, the home of paella, is Gandía, which lays claim to fideuà. I'm not sure how many people in Valencia know (or would accept that) that, but in Gandía they call fideuà, "fideuà de Gandía or "fideuà gandiense." Fideuà, as you may have learned from my previous post, is made in the same paella pan, but with noodles and seafood. The story (as told by the Gandía Tourism site) is that a fisherman from Gandía was out on his boat and wanted to make a paella. But lacking rice, he made it with noodles instead, and I suppose the seafood that he had captured. Sounds plausible.
So of course when I came down to Gandia for the first time, I wanted to try the fideuà here. A local recommended this restaurant, right across the street from the beach. It's not a big place, and even in the lowest of low seasons - end of January -, reservations were recommended and the restaurant was quite full. (In fact, a lot of restaurants in Gandía were completely booked for dinner, later that night.)
Parsifal offers a lunch set menu for 16.90€, not including beverage. The set menu is a great value, given that just one ración of fideuà can run almost as much in Valencia. For starters we could choose between mussels, or a plate with mojama (like tuna ham) and escalivada (smoked eggplant and peppers). Since we were four people dining, we got half and half. There was also a plate with toasted bread, aioli, and grated tomato.
And those weren't the only starters!
There was also a mixed platter of fried seafood. This included calamari rings, tiny fish called salmonete (red mullet), and my favorite as always, chipirones (tiny squid). The little tentacles get extra crunch being lightly breaded and fried!
With this much food, we were almost ready for dessert by now, but the main event was yet to come.
The fideuà came right out, with a prawn, a cigala (langostino), and mussel per person, and the fideos (noodles) mixed in with tiny diced cuttlefish. This is standard fideuà, or fideuà de Gandía, but on the menu I was surprised that they also offered fideuà of land animals like duck.
lThis was just delicious. You can see how thin the layer of noodles are. This drew raves around the table. I think this is the biggest difference between paella or fideuà from this region, versus what I see being prepared on Food Network or in cookbooks. The latter is often cooked like a casserole, which it essentially is, but when it's cooked in a deep baking dish or wok, the texture comes out differently. Maybe a bit too mushy, with none of the wonderful crusty socarraet that develops on the bottom. I think perhaps noodles (or rice) cooked in a thin layer can more easily stay al dente, yet absorb all of the flavors of the broth it's cooked in. Maybe someone can prove me wrong.
Finally came the dessert, or coffee if you were too full. I can never refuse dessert, so I went for it. They only offered ice cream, but had quite a few flavors to choose from. Usually ice cream at these types of restaurants is kind of an afterthought, with that fluffy supermarket-bought ice cream in generic flavors. But my dulce de leche ice cream was dense, creamy, with rich ribbons of dulce de leche. A wonderful end to a wonderful meal.
I can definitely recommend Parsifal. Not only was the quality of food excellent, the price was supremely reasonable, and importantly, each course was served in a good tempo, something often overlooked.
Passeig Marítim Neptú, 60