Samaruc, Denia Spain
Denia is a small town on the Costa Blanca of Spain but has a probably the highest concentration of great restaurants. Samaruc is just one of the many but definitely our favourite.
Ismael Bilbao is a very talented chef who created the ideal tasting menu. Although his English is very limited, his sister Lourdes, who manages the restaurant, told us that he worked under his mentor Santi Santamaria, chef and owner of El Raco de Can Fabes in Barcelona before coming to Denia and opening his restaurant. Santi Sanatamaria championed locally sourced traditional Catalan food, perfectly prepared and presented at his restaurant and brought new attention and respect for Spanish cuisine as the first chef in Spain to gain three Michelin stars . Santamaría’s passionate adherence to the simple preparation of organic seasonal ingredients is obviously ingrained into Ismael's own culinary style.
The restaurant has a feeling of hominess with touches of the sea with seating for 25, Chef can provide individual attention to each guest as he is a one man kitchen. The tasting menu changes every couple of weeks allowing Chef to showcase local and seasonal products. I had the opportunity to try two different menus during our stay.
I would say that the highlight of my trip to Denia was to be invited to spend the day in the kitchen with Chef. He is a gentle soul that has spent the last 25 years honing his passion for taste and flavours. His goal is to present to you what each ingredient has to offer. The marriage of the ingredients and the intense flavours is his way of expressing his love of cuisine. He had me taste everything each step of the way so that I knew why he chose ingredients throughout his menu like eggplant puree that came alive with smoked artichoke powder.
We spent the final half of my time prepping one of his new menu items, Pan Chino. This was a small bun stuffed with cheese and fresh cherry half, steamed, then deep fried and accompanied with cherries macerated with orange liquor, beef broth and rosemary, flamed, pureed and cooked in his prize possession (a Thermomix). The simple but elegant presentation reiterated his cooking philosophy "it is all about the best flavours not the theatre when it comes to cuisine". With chefs like Ismael in Denia, it is no wonder that this town has the outstanding gastronomic reputation to rival anywhere in the world.
The cover photo of this blog is a whole beet roasted then cut into a cylinder with the centre removed. The cylinder was laid on and stuffed with a beet and raspberry puree garnished with micro greens and beet powder. The roasting of the beet and the addition of the beet powder brought out an intense flavour of one of my favourite vegetables.
A Different Onion Soup, was visually appealing as well as delicious. We were presented with three roasted onions
The surprise was inside the onions, Chef had concentrated the onion soup to an almost gel and inserted it back inside the onions. Amazing flavours that left you wanting more.
The most standout dish appeared called Dried Air of Pumpkin and Foie Gras. Lourdes arrived at the table with a wooden box carved in the Morish motif and when we were asked to open the box, it revealed two macaron morsels on a bed of seeds. The idea was to gently lift the bundle and press the seeds into it then pop them in your mouth. The Pumpkin air quickly dissolved leaving the foie and seed combination. This dish hit all the senses.
Trout with it's wild Herbs brought you back to what Denia is all about.....fresh fish and amazing cooking. The roulade of trout was cooked to perfection, rolled in wild herbs while sitting on a bed of slightly pickled veg and topped with a crisp purple potato tulle .
Marine coral with anchovy in vinegar emulsion was a visual reminder of how beautiful and delicate coral is. Tapioca pearls were puffed to resemble coral and then dotted with and emulsion of pickled anchovies.
The squid ink pancake married all the best flavours of the sea with an outstanding burst of sunshine in a smoked tomato water marshmallowy cube.
Emperor of the sea was a local fish wrapped in a grape leaf and dotting the plate was ginger and mustard puree. A dehydrated grape leaf delicately balanced on top of the fish.
The fish was complimented with a perfectly crispy cheese empanada.
With chefs like Ismael in Denia, it is no wonder that this town has the outstanding gastronomic reputation to rival anywhere in the world.