Eating in El Saler (Valencia) ? VÍ vid Recommends Arroceria Estibador.



South of Valencia, across the new river bed, ( built to avoid floods like those which caused death and destruction in the City in 1957) , is the Huerta Sud and the Albufera Natural Park. This very rural area is highly agricultural in its nature, here start the rice fields.

Most tourists exploring the area head straight for El Palmar famed for its restaurants.

However fewer know that the family friendly beaches at Pinedo and El Saler are also a good bet, or that there are several restaurants on the road running just behind the beach which separates it from the fields beyond. This stretch of beach and the two towns are just 10 minutes by car from the City of Arts and Sciences and a bus service also runs down this road.

Finding ourselves in El Saler this week we went to  L´Estibador, one of the restaurants which fronts right onto the beach.

From outside the temptation is to think it is another of the `chiringuitos´ for which Valencia´s beach front is famous. Any such thoughts disappear as you walk through the door into a very well-appointed reception area with views into the restaurant itself.

VÍ vid in the Chill-out bar

VÍ vid in the Chill-out bar

Inside a bright airy restaurant opens up, with well-appointed tables. We were shown first to a chill out area and offered aperitifs whilst we sat in comfy armchairs enjoying the views out onto the beach, the blue-green sea glistening and sparkling in the summer sunshine.

Overhead an ample number of fans kept the air circulating freely and our drinks cool but we were offered refreshers before moving to the table.

We had been greeted by the Restaurant Director and Somellier, Lester López Estrada and it was he who showed us to our table which looked straight out over the beach.

Lester López Estrada, Restaurant Director

Lester López Estrada, Restaurant Director

The restaurant offers both a set-price menu meal ( currently 22€) or an A La Carte menu with an average spend of just under 40€ a head.

Lester chose some dishes from the A la Carte option for us we and started with a take on a Valencian salad, with local Perello tomatos, anchovy, Boqueron and salazones shaved over the top. This was a fresh and appetising dish, top quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar being available to the taste of the individual diner, the sweet tomato contrasting well with the salty salazones and the fish.



With this we drank Menade Verdejo an organic white wine from Rueda which was fresh and clean and complemented the dish perfectly.

There are dishes which have to be tried, either because they contain your favourite ingredients or because they sound too good to be missed.

Carrying on with the `entrantes´, the next dish was  tuna, cooked at low temperature, aubergine colour in the centre but perfectly tender. This is served with a salsa and  emulsion ( pesto, a salsa  of garlic and almonds with pickled  onion and tomate confitada.) The combination of flavours and textures make this dish unforgettable.



Next we tried a signature dish Octopus from the Brassa . The Brassa is neither a barbecue nor a grill. It is a wood based fire over which food is cooked giving quite distinct flavours to the food , different to  charcoal. It is a very important part of Valencian gastronomy. The Octopus was accompanied by  papas arrugadas, an emulsion of piquillo peppers, served with a garnish of crumbs of aubergine and black garlic. Again, the octopus was perfectly tender matching well with the textures and flavours.



With this we drank an Albariño, Pazo  Barrantes, voluptuous, citrus, floral with pears. Elegant with a long finish.

Our fourth entrante was foie,  on a panettone base with a confit. This was sweet, concentrated and a perfect way to prepare for the main course to come.

Foie mi-cuit

Foie .

The wine chosen to accompany this was from Lanzarote, a white blend of Malvasia and Moscatel from Bermejo. It is some time since I have tasted white wine from Lanzarote, a former favourite holiday destination. This wine was aromatic and fresh on the nose. In the mouth it was complex and spicy, but not so full or rich that it competed with the foie. Excellent choice and probably the best of the three whites!



Our main course was an arroz, rodaballo and gambas. In season it is served with ajos tiernos ( green garlic) .

The key to all seafood rices is getting the stock right first in which the rice is cooked. In this case a bigger paella pan is used with a thinner depth of rice. The stock is built up in stages by adding the ingredients and concentrating the natural flavours. It is however more difficult to obtain a good socarrat as the difference in cooking time between this and burning the rice is minimal! This dish was superb, it was a combination of flavours to die for and the first time I had had turbot cooked this way. A Repetir!

The wines

The wines

As we ate we spoke  to Lester about the wine selection. All the wines we had tasted were from outside Valencia but the wine list contained a good selection of Valencian wines. He explained that the restaurant enjoys a mixed clientele and at times when local families are predominating then many local wines are sold. But they also have a lot of visitors from the rest of Spain who know the wines much better from Rioja and Ribero del Duero for example. He aims to satisfy all tastes although he conceded that more Valencian wines could be sold with recommendation.

We were also joined by Nuria Sanz who owns and runs the restaurant with her mother and family. She explained that they had tried many of the local rices that make up the base for their dishes but had decided the local Bomba variety was the best, being consistent and of a high quality.

With Nuria Sanz

With Nuria Sanz

For Nuria, her clients always come first and her philosophy is that they should be treated as if they were in her home.

We moved on to dessert, an ice cream ravioli with carpaccio of pineapple, very elegant!

Ravioli and carpaccio

Ravioli and carpaccio

This was served with Casta Diva Moscatel Miel, a highly concentrated wine from DO Alicante.

Finally, with the coffee we were introduced to Chef Pascual Leydet who explained his philosophy was to use the traditional  cuisine of the seaside but with modernist touches. We had no doubt that this was being fully achieved.

We can only recommend this restaurant very highly. Attention to detail was perfect. Plates, knives and forks were changed with every dish, the tablecloths and knapkins and glasses were all of high quality.

For the waiting staff nothing was too much to do for the customer.

This was one of the best dining experiences we have had and we will be going back!






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