Valencia Eats: La Chipirona Menú de Mediodía
A few days ago, I finally had the chance to try La Chipirona. I'd noticed its modern exterior along Avenida del Antiguo Reino de Valencia and had been curious about the place, but didn't make a visit until Friday.
Their menu features certain fusion items that usually are a big turn-off for me, more for the overt trendiness and lack of originality. For example, albondigas in Thai red curry sauce is something that seems to appear on multiple menus around Valencia. Or check this out: "Bao de cerdo: grilled, spicy minced pork falafel a la Robata, served with our delicious home-made bao steamed bread, feta cheese and pan-fried mushrooms and miso." They used all of the trendiest key words drawn from around the world - bao, falafel, robata, miso - but how is a falafel made out of pork, and grilled a la Robata? Why don't they just call it a barbecued meatball? It makes me cringe.
But, I'd heard really great things about the restaurant, and I visited during lunchtime, when they had a very good value menú de mediodía set menu: 3 starters, a main course, dessert, and bread for 16.50€.
The first starter was a smoked sardine served in a pool of sweet corn soup, and topped with pickled onion and piparra peppers and drizzled with basil oil. The sardines were predictably salty, but the peppers and onions gave the right bite of spice and sharpness, and the sweet corn was a lovely, creamy contrast. In fact, I kept mopping up that corn sauce with bread.
Next up was a causa made from "papa negra," or black potato, a prawn confit with tarragon, and dots of avocado puree. The prawn was perfectly cooked to a delicate, sweet bite, but the potato was a big miss. The problem is that in Spain, people often make mashed potatoes in a Thermomix or food processor, over-developing the starch and thus turning the potato into glue. This was some serious elementary school craft paste, which was a pity because the concept and flavors could have been amazing.
What was amazing was their profiterole filled with carbonara sauce. This was absolutely delicious. The puff pastry was a bit firmer than usual, and it encased a creamy, bacon-y interior that was pure indulgence. "Thankfully" one of my dining partners didn't eat meat, so I got to split an extra one!
For the main course, there were three choices: an "arroz montañés" rice stew with pork ribs, shiitake, and rosemary, a cod in seafood sauce with pimentón aioli and toasted almonds, and an Iberian pork belly roasted at low temperature with violet potato puree, sweet potato, and hollandaise sauce. I love Valencian rice dishes in general, and especially like the ones with meat, so I went for the arroz. This choice was reinforced when the friendly waitress enthusiastically recommended it, while warning that the cod portion was a bit small.
When the rice dish came out, she came equipped with a grater and a cylinder of tuétano, or marrow, and she proceeded to grate the marrow on top of the rice. Wow!
The shiitake came raw, but we pushed it under the rice to cook it a bit, while waiting the traditional couple of minutes for the rice to rest after cooking.
This was absolutely delicious. It was deeply meaty, with the shiitake and rosemary and surely the marrow providing extra oomph to the flavor. And the serving size, which was just for me and my friend sitting across from me, was sufficient for four! In our table of five, the three others ordered the cod, and they all helped themselves to the rice after they were done with the cod - even the "vegetarian!" It was that good. And plentiful.
For dessert, there were two choices: their "Cachondeo de chocolate" and their "Tiramisu Chipirona." The chocolate dessert was a chocolate-in-three-ways kind of thing, with chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate sauce, etc. It was good for chocolate lovers.
I wasn't disappointed by my "tiramisu," which was more like a quenelle of coffee ice cream floating in a mascarpone cream base, with crunchy cookie bits providing textural contrast. Creamy, crunchy, coffee - what's not to like?
The excellent lunch was marred by just the one miss of the pasty causa, and I think those who ordered the small-portioned cod were rather thankful for extra helpings of rice from my side of the table! The service was efficient and discreet, and I really appreciated the waitress for giving her honest opinion of the rice and portion size of the cod while we were ordering. This was all topped off by an attractive dining room, and an ample terrace is also available. And the quality of food truly surpassed the reasonable 16.50€ price.
I'm happy to say, that despite some of the cringe-worthy menu descriptions (which could certainly be delicious), that La Chipirona has landed on my list of places to which to bring guests when they come to visit Valencia.
Calle Maestro Gonzalbo, 29