Canalla Bistro by Ricard Camarena
Kir Royale – Cava and Cassis
Nigiri Sandwiched Beijing Duck / Roast Chicken Croquette / Creamy Crunchy Cod Fritte and Miso
Russian Thai Salad, Peanuts, Brown Coconut, Herbs
Squash Ribbon Salad, Green Mango, Parmesan Cheese
Iberian Pork Pressa Tiradito, Fried Quinoa, Spicy Sweet Potato
PizzaJapo with Chinese Cabbage, Bacon, Bonito, Mozzarella, Okonomiyaki Sauce
Katz’s Style Pastrami Sandwich alla Canella
Roast Apple Ice Cream and Biscuit Mousse
“The Amazing Banana”
Caramelized Torrija with Milk Ice Cream
As in many European countries, dining in Spain on a Sunday becomes largely a question of “what is open?” rather than “what is best?” and with a flight leaving Valencia early the following morning the situation seemed even more limited than usual, most places offering Paella closing after lunch service and every Michelin Guide spot in town dark all day, Chef Ricard Camarena’s Canalla Bistro fortunately standing in for his eponymous Starred space and fairing very well.
Described as the Chef’s most eclectic restaurant, his reputation at both Ricard Camarena Restaurant and Mercat Central’s CentralBar built on local sourcing, good Produce and Fish, Canalla Bistro sets out to take guests on a “gastronomic trip around the world” to some of the Camarena’s favorite countries, the 20h00 opening finding a queue of locals in addition to a few out of town visitors from Russia, Slovenia and the United States.
Bridging the price-point of his other two restaurants, the intention here to be both globally inspired and affordable to all, it was shortly upon entering the Bar area of Canalla that reservations were confirmed by one of two men before guests were handed off to a team of servers, the seating tight amidst kitschy decorations including everything from chalk artwork to bathroom signs, Chef’s whites and bicycles.
Similar to many gastropubs in terms of volume and energy, the music sometimes too loud and the conversations of others often difficult to ignore, it was with both Food and Beverage menus in hand that parties ranging from one to twelve guests were invited to explore for several minutes before placing orders, the offering of several “half-portions” a welcome sight that eventually led to eleven items being ordered in addition to a brisk Cava-based version of the Kir Royale.
Now open since 2012 and only improving with time according to many, several whimsical service pieces including an enormous ear of Corn plus a Pig’s Head used to serve plates around the room, it was with three small bites from “A Very Different Kind of Fried” that the meal got underway, both the fried Baccala and Chicken Stew Croquetta hitting all the expected notes while the Nigiri Beijing Duck was curiously delicious with shredded Meat shielded from the fryer by a wall of Vinegar-scented Rice that took on a crunchy shell without becoming oily itself.
Moving next to two Salads, the descriptions and half-portion availability making each more appealing than the typical pile of greens, it was with both plates served simultaneously that a “Russian Thai Salad” competed with thinly sliced Squash for center spotlight, the former both sweet and spicy with the toasted Coconut playing well off flavors of Tomatoes and Peanuts.
Growing in heft and portion as the meal progressed, the order in reality enough that two adults could have left happily sated for under €100 total, it was with item number six that Camarena and team presented several slices of roast Pork with crispy Skin amidst a tangle of Greens plus toasted Quinoa and orbs of mashed Sweet Potatoes, everything about the dish pure comfort Food while the follow-up thick-crust “PizzaJapo” was an odd but delicious way to present Okonomiyaki with the salinity of Bonito flakes given added depth by way of Mozzarella and Bacon.
Previously winning a Sol Repsol award with special mention of the housemade Pastrami, a Sandwich intended to honor Katz’s Delicatessen performing well in terms of the fatty Beef’s texture and spice profile but doing the classic a disservice by adding Cabbage and toasted Cereal Bread instead of the Lower East Side Rye, it was with half of the dish packed up to go that three Desserts were presented to finish the night, “The Amazing Banana” a visual replica of the real deal but made entirely of Fruit Mousse and White Chocolate on a bed of Peanut Butter and Chocolate Crumble while the Roast Apple Ice Cream presented its Fruit in no less than five textures alongside subtle toasty notes, the Caramelized French Toast more straight-forward with eggy Custard at the center and a restrained sweetness that was absolutely delightful.