Gazpacho Cracker with Dried Cod, Tuna Mayonnaise
Tomato Foam with Prune, Tuna Belly
Watermelon and Passion Fruit
Puff Rice with Iberian Creaking Bacon, Red Pepper
Cod Brandade with its ‘Pil Pil’
Scalded Coca with Salted Mackerel, Smoked Green Pepper
Taco of Lamb, Yogurt, Mint
Sandwiched Tikka Masala and Anchovies
Cheese and Onion Bread with Local Olive Oil
Oyster with Celery Ice Cream, Raifort Sauce
Cauliflower, Dried Octopus, Prawn and its Juice
Sea Urchin, Cucumber, Herb Foam
Mackerel Tartare, Sherry Wine, Quail Egg, Prawn Foam
Valencia Salad with Capella
Grilled Octopus, Pork Jowl, Beef Sauce, Artichoke
Small Pastry of Turnip and Cuttlefish
Duck Margret, Smoked Eel, Buckwheat Pasta
Apple, Celery, Ginger Water
Turbot with the Juice of his Thorns, Fried Capers
Red Shrimp of Gandia cooked in Sea Water
Garlic Confit Egg, Basil Noodles, Baby Eels
Crust Rice, Iberian Pork
Madrid Style Tripe
Caramelized Torrejas with Milk Ice Cream, Coffee Soup
Fig with Fresh Cheese, Idiazabal Cake
Double Espresso, Coffee Ice, Financier, Custard, Chocolate, Rum Horchata
Located in the small seaside town of Daimus and garnering one star in the last several Michelin Guides it was immediately following a substantial Paella lunch in Valencia that the GPS was pointed for Casa Manolo by Manuel Alonso, the original plan to taste a higher grade of Seafood and Rice quickly set aside after one look at the elegant dining room and €89 Tasting Menu.
Occupying its place along the beach since 1985, the all-day bar and outdoor seating area originally managed by Alonso’s parents before he and his brother took over the space and opened a more formal dining room in 2011, it was just moments before a 15h30 reservation that parking was found along a row of high-rises approximately two hundred meters from the restaurant, a reservation confirmed with broad smiles after entering the door guarded by a large statue of Bibendum.
Making way through the Bar area, the menu there favorably priced and full of seafood specialties befitting Casa Manolo’s embrace of the local terrain, it is after walking up two stairs that guests find themselves inside the starred restaurant overlooking miles of ocean, the menu expectedly focused on a fisherman’s bounty but certainly not for lack in terms of exotic ingredients and creative, global ideas.
Listed like many of the region’s tasting menus, a rollicking progression of small bites followed by composed plates with fast-paced service and thoughtful portion sizes intended to keep the guest consistently entertained and never overwhelmed by any single dish, it was immediately upon noticing that Alonso’s Crust Rice was part of the tasting that the decision was made to go all-in, wine deferred in favor of house-filtered water and the two-hour meal beginning quickly with a crispy amuse flavored like Tomatoes and Herbs with Dried Cod and briny Mayonnaise.
Moving next into the menu itself, a total of twenty-two courses plus two bonus plates added by Chef Alonso who proved to be a gracious and friendly host despite limited English, Casa Manolo takes a unique approach to presenting its classic dishes as a series of bites, the Tomato Foam with Prune and Toro eating as light as a cloud but quickly washed away by the assertive flavors of “Summer in a glass,” the Rice Crisp with Pepper and Pork Fat another luscious bite as was the local Salt Cod packed into a small Fritter with a dollop of creamy Sauce.
Taking reference from the Chef’s travels in the following small bites, both the miniature Greek Taco and clever Tikka Masala Brioche unexpected bites for the region while a toasted piece of Bread topped in cured Fish and Green Peppers was another highlight, the current season’s collection began with house-baked Bread flavored with Cheese and Onions before rolling into a chilly Oyster topped in Celery Ice Cream and Horseradish Foam, the follow-up of Cauliflower and Air Dried Octopus elegantly presented and made all the more delicious with a tableside squeeze of Prawn’s Head Stock.
Listing the following course as simply “Sea Urchin,” the actual composition a sweet and briny Custard with finely diced Cucumbers and Herbs that worked quite well in terms of taste and texture, those shying away from fish flavors would be well advised to avoid the Mackerel Tartare, though for those who enjoy such things the composition is one to behold with silky Fish mellowed by sweet Sherry beneath a slick of Yolk and Sea Foam.
Next offering a deconstructed Salad with marinated Fish beneath a vibrant Vegetable Mousse it was here that Alonso served what would prove to be the meal’s most impressive progression, the streaked plate of Grilled Octopus and Pork Jowl with Demiglace expectedly rich followed by a palate-cleansing bite of bitter Dim Sum before moving into a twirl of housemade Pasta blended with the tender duo of smoked Eel and Duck.
Drinking a glass of infused water to once again refresh the palate, follow-up plates of meaty Turbot and a sizable Shrimp simply boiled in Sea Water showcasing Casa Manolo’s ingredient quality in a manner that Quique Dacosta would just a few hours later, those seeking Chef Alonso’s best plate need look no further than the confit Egg served beneath Basil Noodles and slippery baby Eels, a bold kick of Garlic and shaved Cheese bringing disparate flavors together with no one ingredient overwhelming the others.
Happy to taste Chef’s Crust Rice, the traditional Valencian dish beneath a crispy cap nicely prepared with plenty of Saffron and slices of aged Ham, another menu highlight was the €5 supplement of Tripe, Morcilla and Sausage cooked as it was by his mother – definitely not a dish for those afraid of a little funk but otherwise worth making a special visit for as a full plate of slowly simmered meat is available on the a la carte menu for just €18.
Requesting substitution of one dessert, a decision made as much out of a love for French Toast as from a personal dislike of Cantaloupe, suffice it to say that Casa Manolo’s Caramelized Torrejas is as trip-worthy as the Eels, Tripe or nearby beach while the deconstructed Cheesecake was also quite good, two final surprises found when the restaurant presented its Horchata infused with Rum and “Iced Coffee” as a fresh shot served next to Ice Cubes made from frozen Espresso.