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Valencia Restaurants

Albacar
35 Calle Sorní
Eixample
Valencia
Spain 46004
Tel: 34 96 395 1005

One of the only notable paella restaurants in the city center, Albacar turns out delicious Valencian staples like arrroz a banda (seafood with rice and potatoes) in an elegantly modern dining room. Chef Tito Albacar adds a dash of creativity to traditional dishes; a "poor" dish like pig's trotters and ears with black pudding, for example, is elevated by the addition of a truffle vinaigrette.

Closed Sundays. No dinner on Mondays.

Bodega Casa Montaña
69 Calle José Benlliure
Port District
Valencia
Spain 46011
Tel: 34 96 367 2314
www.emilianobodega.com

In the shabby-chic former fisherman's district of El Cabañal—ripe for a makeover given its proximity to the new Port America's Cup marina—this neighborhood bar with its bottles-and-barrels decor has been selling champañet (mistelle brandy mixed with soda water) and cask-poured wine since 1836. Today, it's the most authentic tapas bar in town, and always crowded (especially between 8 and 11:30 p.m.). Some of the offerings include tangy Santoña anchovies, cod croquettes with pine nuts, and michirones (spicy fava beans).Wine is taken seriously: There's a top-notch by-the-glass selection, and regular themed tastings are organized (participants are even asked not to wear perfume or aftershave).

No dinner on Sundays.

Ca' Sento
17 Calle Méndez Núñez
Eastern District
Valencia
Spain 46024
Tel: 34 96 330 1775

One of Valencia's most creative restaurants is hidden behind a discreet door in a down-at-the-heels neighborhood south of Avenida del Puerto. The decor, which incorporates scorched, sawn-off tree trunks and walls embedded with jagged glass, isn't exactly restful, but it's an appropriate metaphor for chef Raúl Aleixandre's audacious cuisine. Aleixandre uses Valencian flavors and ingredients in daring ways: A single raw oyster is paired with iced apple and lime foam; a fillet of ventresca (tuna belly) is caramelized and served in an eggplant sauce. But diners who want traditional paellas can also get their fix here. The black-clad waitstaff can be a little stiff and awkward; they're at their best, paradoxically, when the place is full.

Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Casa Carmina
4 Calle Embarcadero
El Saler
Spain 46012
Tel: 34 96 183 0254

The fishing village of El Saler, seven miles south of the city center, is known among Valencianos for its traditional paella restaurants. The best of these is Casa Carmina, a favorite of local writers like Ferrán Torrent. The decor is nothing special, but the rice, baby eels, anchovies, and cod croquettes prepared by Mari Carmen and Mari José Batlle can't be beat. This is also one of the few places that serve one of the oldest and most authentic paella dishes: arroz con judías y nabos, a soupy concoction of rice, beans, and turnips that is a great winter warmer.

Lunch only. Closed Mondays.

El Alto de Colón
Mercado Colón, 19 Jorge Juan
Eixample
Valencia
Spain 46004
Tel: 34 96 353 0900
www.elaltocatering.com

Built in 1916, the Mercado de Colón is an iconic Modernist market hall in cast iron and red brick; in 2003, it was transformed into a Covent Garden–like plaza by London-based architects BorgosDance. The makeover sacrificed some of the market's salt-of-the-earth credentials, but this top-floor restaurant is still an atmospheric place for lunch or dinner. Chef Enrique Barella's cuisine is contemporary but based on traditional Valencian recipes and ingredients, and immaculately presented. Go for lunch (try the sticky rice with seafood), when sunlight streams through the tall windows.

Horchatería Santa Catalina
6 Plaza de Santa Catalina
Old Town
Valencia
Spain 46001
Tel: 34 96 391 2379
www.horchateriasantacatalina.com

Want to blend in with the locals? Then you'd better develop a taste for horchata, a sweet, milky, nonalcoholic drink, served cold, that is made from chufas, or tiger nuts (unlike the Mexican beverage of the same name, which is rice-based). Most bars will serve you a glass, but to really do the drink justice you should sample it in a horchatería—a café entirely dedicated to the horchata cult. In Valencia's historic center, the Horchatería Santa Catalina is the best; as a ceramic inscription outside the shop declares, it's been going for dos siglos (two centuries). More colorful majolica tiles adorn the elegant main dining room, where perfectly coiffed matrons sit chatting while they dip long donuts called (we're not kidding) fartons into their horchata.

 

 

La Pepica
6–8 El Paseo Neptuno
Port District
Valencia
Spain 46011
Tel: 34 96 371 0366
www.lapepica.com

In his bullfighting memoir, The Dangerous Summer, regular client Ernest Hemingway wrote that "Dinner at Pepica's was wonderful"—and the recommendation is still valid today. The family that runs this huge paella restaurant on Arenas Beach, next door to the Port America's Cup marina, is now into its third generation; since 1898, it's been feeding local and international celebrities, from toreros and artists to film stars and European royalty. The seafood paella might be pricey (dishes made with fresh lobster often are), but you'd be hard put to find a more assured version of Valencia's trademark dish. In summer, ask for a table on the beach terrace.

No dinner on Sundays.

La Rosa
70 Paseo Neptuno
Port District
Valencia
Spain 46011
Tel: 34 96 371 2076

Many locals swear that La Rosa's rice dishes are even better than those of its neighbor, the more famous La Pepica. They're certainly cheaper, and the restaurant's long dining room and beachfront summer patio aren't swarming with tourists. Instead, Valenciano families come for unusual paella variations like arroz meloso con ortigas de mar—a creamy paella made with an underwater plant known as sea nettle—and plates of fideos negros, inky black spaghetti served with squid. Service is fast and professional (a bit of a rarity in this slow-paced neighborhood), and the wine list is surprisingly extensive.

La Sucursal
118 Calle Guillem de Castro
Old Town
Valencia
Spain 46003
Tel: 34 96 374 6665
www.restaurantelasucursal.com

Part of the IVAM contemporary art museum (though with its own separate entrance), this avant-garde eatery has an appropriately arty, minimalist style: stark white walls, cherrywood floors, dark brown boxy chairs. The menu here appeals to fans of Catalan superchef Ferran Adrià, the guru of molecular cuisine. Like Adrià, Sucursal chef Enrique Medina is keen on foams, and likes to serve dishes deconstructed into separate bowls and glasses. But though the combinations are audacious—for example, oysters wrapped in truffle gelatin, served with celery purée, fried artichokes, and arugula—they are also delicious. There are 28 different mineral waters on offer, and the wine list is immense. In November 2006, the restaurant opened an offshoot, Vertical, on the top floor of the new Aqua shopping mall (19 Calle Luis García Berlanga; 34-96-330-3800).

Closed Sundays. No lunch on Saturdays.

Riff
18 Calle Conde Altea
Eixample
Valencia
Spain 46005
Tel: 34 96 333 5353
www.restaurante-riff.com

Chef Bernd Knöller may be German, but his understanding of local traditions (he's lived in Spain for more than 15 years) has made Riff one of the city's most popular Mediterranean restaurants. The airy, light-filled dining room, decorated with plants, gauzy screens, and art installations, is usually filled with foodies. Knöller's seasonal menus display a real sense of theater; in April 2007, he debuted an eight-course "Black Is Beautiful" tasting menu at €69 ($94), with a monochromatic lineup of dishes like skate in red wine and lamb ribs roasted in black sesame seeds. Going à la carte will set you back a bit less; at lunch, there's a great-value three-course business menu for €25, which can be combined with recommended wines by the glass for another €10.

Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.