Ca’ Sento (NOW CLOSED)
Calle Mendez Nunez 17
Overall rating: 8-8.5/10
Date of visit: October 2009
Ca’ Sento was run by chef of the year 2004 in Spain, Raúl Aleixandre, and was at the time of my visit regarded as one of the best restaurants in Valencia. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed right as I was planning to revisit it (April 2012). Although I experienced a few problems with either the ingredients or the combinations, I have only had one meal in Valencia that could compete with it (Sangonereta). If I’m not mistaken, the sommelier was Aleixandre’s wife, who also won the price as best sommelier in Spain one year. At my visit, a quiet Tuesday evening with only one other table, she was the only real waiter there, although a man served one or two courses for me. Although I did say hello to Raúl Aleixandre when I arrived, he wasn’t cooking at my visit.
I chose the seven course tasting menu, which I believe was around €55.
Two coated salty almonds was served as a small snack before the meal began.
The first course consisted of three small elements: a ravioli with a bit of iberico ham (jamon iberico) on top, a small pastry ball that I unfortunately don’t remember what was, and a creamy soup in a glass. A very, very pleasant dish.
A sardine was served with a pleasant light soup and an incredibly sweet slice of spring onion. I don’t like sardines, so unfortunately this wasn’t so much to my liking, although the rest of the elements were indeed very nice. Sorry about the picture – I forgot to take a picture before I started to eat.
A big oyster was poached and then served with dried seaweed on top. This was actually the first time I had oyster. Probably due to the poaching, it didn’t have so much flavour. When I have later had oyster, I haven’t liked the flavour at all. Here it just seemed like a piece of food with no real flavour. The sea weed was not a very good combination. It turned to dust in my mouth, and when combined with the liquid on the plate, which I assume was some of the cooking juices or juices from the oyster shell, it became sticky and gooey. Both technically and taste wise this was the weakest dish.
This was luckily followed by the strongest dish. A slice of perfectly pan-fried and stunningly fresh hake was served in a wonderful Jerusalem artichoke soup with a mangetout. The fish is quite possibly the best fish I’ve ever had, and the subtle and sweet flavour of the soup was really a great match.
The main course was fideau, which is similar to paella, but cooked with noodles instead of rice. This was very creamy (whereas paella is a lot more dry, as the rice has absorbed the liquid), and almost resembled a risotto in texture. It was served with prawns, a few herbs and a bit of aioli on the side. It was well-cooked, had very pleasant flavour, and the prawns were firm and juicy, but there was simply way too much food on the plate. It was a bit of a struggle to get through that course.
The dessert was coconut sorbet with strawberries and a strawberry jelly. As I found out when I later moved to Spain, Spanish strawberries are unfortunately not very flavourful. This was also the case here, and the jelly was even more tasteless than the strawberries. The coconut ice cream had very pleasant flavour however, so all in all it was a mixed success.
As the finale I had a tiny donut. It was filled with liquid chocolate, and it sent me straight to heaven. The intensity in the chocolate flavour as well as that disgustingly good flavour that the pastry of deep-fried donuts admittedly has was really spectacular. I was literally in a trance for a while.
A mostly wonderful meal that has lived on in my memory for a long time (I’m writing this review almost three years later). The technique was excellent, the combinations usually worked quite well, and the produce was often of an extremely high standard (e.g. the hake). I was also very, very full when I left the restaurant (mostly on account of that enormous portion of fideau). The price represented brilliant value for money all things considered.
The restaurant seemed very negotiable when it came to changing something in the menu. My menu came with coffee, and I asked for something else, so they gave me the chocolate donut – and thanks God for that wonderful ending. They also had the a la carte option, and I overheard the sommelier tell the other table that they could choose any fish the restaurant had and then choose any cooking style that was on the menu. Those guests did seem somewhat difficult, and one of the women at that table said the fish she had was dry, so the restaurant swapped it for her. Service was smooth, pleasant, attentive and very talkative. All in all a great meal in a city and a country that, unfortunately, doesn’t always produce the best restaurants.
The bill with a glass of white wine and water ended on around €60 if I’m not mistaken.