January 12, 2023

This booking was a bit of a gamble. Reviewed were mixed and I chose it mainly because I love Spanish cuisine. I'm extremely glad I did, though there was plenty of unevenness in the experience. 

The unease starts right from the top. You're walked up the stairs to the dining room and stopped in front of the kitchen where the Chef finishes off a flatbread and presents you with it and a glass of vermouth. He then stood right there, inches away, and watched while you ate it. It's a sign of a narcissistic chef, buffered by the force of his name into the restaurant's. (It's not "Xiquet". It's "Xiquet by Danny Lledó".) This was not a comfortable welcome. He was very affable, though it was I that made the small talk lest silently eating the (delicious) bite was bathed in awkward silence. I was quite glad to move on to my table.

The space is small (the photo above is the entire dining room) and oddly stark. White on white. You sit down to a completely empty table (again, as in the photo above). Ultimately, this was ying and yang for me. This is clearly intended to be as if you were eating in his home, that he is taking you to his hometown. But who's home is so stark? The brand would be better served with a far warmer environment. This disconnect was ever-present, including the service which was uneven and at times stunted.

When presented with the amberjack/yellowtail dish, it was introduced as "hamachi". I asked if that was the same thing? (I honestly didn't know.) The server looked quite flustered and provided an awkward answer. (The rabbit dish was introduced as having duck in it. I'm still not sure if it did, or if that was in error.) I will give him high marks for coming back to the table with a complete answer "having done some research". Nice follow up, but an awkward experience.

Some really excellent other notes of service. My (small) water glass was always kept full, napkin was folded when I returned from the restroom, and my table's 2nd chair was removed for this solo diner. (I have such a pet peeve when that is not done.) The front of house staff was earnest and trying, checking a lot of boxes. But you did feel the effort. Which you shouldn't.

OK. Now, throw out everything I said above. Why?

Because the food is out of this world.

With a few exceptions, every dish was creative, authentic, varied and delicious. The information cards provided for each dish did a great job of explaining not just the dish itself, but the dish's meaning and place in the Chef's life and upbringing in Valencia. The card brought great depth to the experience, unlike Atomix's use of them which seemed a bit gimmicky.

The cooking here is stellar. If I were to have a complaint, it's that it's too much food. I hit that point where I was secretly begging to reach dessert. And then begging dessert to stop. Not at all because the food wasn't delicious! It just felt like too much. Which absolutely translates to generosity that befits the vision of the place. If I was in Chef's home, he would likely be giving me too much food too.

It also fit because it was clear he has a story to tell. He truly wants you to experience his homeland. And you do - all varying parts of the same. Despite the service issues, you do come away feeling that it was a wonderful experience and they care very much that you had an excellent time. While the service is 1-star, the food is definitely 2.

As is the wine. Their sommelier won Michelin's Sommelier of the Year award this year! The pairing was absolutely outstanding, from the quality of each wine and how they were selected and paired with each dish. This included an upgraded white burgundy that blew the doors off.

The disconnect between the food and the rest of the experience (service & environment) provides an imbalance to this restaurant that prevents you from truly settling fully into it. But it's a great meal. I'm incredibly glad I came - and you should too. It's one of the more authentic meals I've enjoyed and that part was fully felt. That the food was so dang delicious just brings it to a terrific height.

Chef Danny shaving truffles on my flatbread welcome
The result. It was yummy!
Vermouth from north of Valencia
Cards are presented for each course, much like Atomix which is known for theirs. I thought the write-ups on each card was outstanding - right to the point, helpful, educational.
These cards, on the flip side, make up a Spanish card game called La Brisca. Really neat gimmick.
They even give you a card box to keep them in. If you come every 3 months, they change the suits. So, in a year, you would have the full set.
Goose barnacles, pickled veg. This was delicious. The pickling on the vegetables was outstanding.
A close up of the barnacle - a sea slug that clings to sea walls. The left side is a shell, the right is the meat which you eat and pull out of the shell.
House aged tuna loin
Marinated olives. Yum!
Oyster, smoked shallot air, prickly pear granita. One of the best oysters I've ever had - both the oyster itself as well as the accenting flavors.
This dish was a miss for me. The creamy custard merged texturally with the uni, kind of washing them both out. The caviar didn't provide a salty/salinity punch through. The sauce (made from cauliflower, uni and dashi) provided the same flavor profile.
What a rebound! The yellowtail was incredible and paired with buttermilk - I never would have guessed it was such a great match. The marcona almonds provided just the right textural contrast. Phenomenal dish.
This add-on is a special shrimp only found in Spain. Xiquet is the only restaurant to import it in the whole of the states. Known for its sweet and extra juicy head. Cooked to perfection with olive oil and just the right amount of salt. I've never had a better shrimp. Indescribably delicious. I almost asked for a 2nd.
Eel, paprika, potato pillow, intended to be a deconstructed fisherman's stew. Served with...
Eel broth. Nice dish, but that's all.
Turbot, grilled radicchio beurre blanc, smoked trout roe, garlic. This one didn't seem like a Michelin level dish to me. It was well cooked but the individual segmented parts is quite old school. And it was VERY salty, which was all in the super crisp skin. So salty it damaged my palate a bit. The dish balance was way better after I removed the skin from the equation.
Palate cleanser of graham oatmilk ice cream, gingerbread cookie, malt espuma, toasted oats. I raised quite an eyebrow when this arrived, but the darker flavors of oats, malt, ginger...it worked really well! Yummy too.
Rabbit, seasonal mushrooms alicante rice (the rice from paella), shaved matsutake, rabbit/mushroom broth. This was crazy delicious. A huge bowl would be amazing on a chilly winter day.
The partridge (far right) was delicious, like soft, juicy chicken. Terrificly seasoned. The persimmon (far left) was brightly acidic. Nice contrast. The fois gras was cold so it ate like cold fat. Yuck.
Ribeye from a dairy cow. The extra age (of the cow) adds umami to the beef. A delicacy. I found it tough for a ribeye but did have a nice depth of flavor to it. Again - perfectly cooked.
Showing the full iberico pork loin wellington...
Sliced in front of you and adding jus...
The resulting dish. It was outstanding. I was so full, I didn't even get through half of it, though I really wish I could have! Show-stopper finale that delivered.
Loquat (like a firm plum) sorbet, pear compote, cava sabayon, almond crumble. Even completely full, I scarfed this down. It was so delicious.
A celebration of (Valencia) orange flavors, prepared 12 ways, including misted over the plate from a perfume bottle. Creative and authentic. Really nice dish. I didn't love all of the flavors, but absolutely love the concept.
Final bites.
The dining room - this was from my seat.

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