Authentically Spanish tasting menu from Chef Danny Lledó

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.

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