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Quique, la evolucion y el origen

In Denia, the 2018 menu. Dacosta focuses on the continuous progresses of a unique cuisine, the result of great raw materials

I hope the 45,000 inhabitants of Denia, between Valencia and Alicante, will not be offended but in my opinion, this expanse of sand and sea with plenty of soulless large hotels, is only interesting because Quique Dacosta arrived here in 1992. Originally from Estremadura, between Madrid and Portugal, he was then in his twenties. Any following professional success, in an overcrowded town during the summer, is less relevant in the eyes of those who prefer niche tourism.

However, one must also say that gastronomic tourism doesn’t have churches and museums, sunrises and sunsets, beaches and mountain tops as its distinctive traits.

Quique Dacosta

Quique Dacosta

What counts are restaurants and taverns, wine bars and cafes, places where you can dine, or have a nice drink, and more often than not you won’t find these kinds of establishments in places that are significant for other reasons. Of course if beauty was all around, the pleasure would increase, but it would be a matter of adding pleasure to pleasure.

Dacosta’s place has been by the coastal road for over 25 years. The restaurant was once named after the neighbourhood, El poblet. But then he grew so much – he was among the speakers of the very first edition of Identità Golose, in January 2005 in Milan - that he preferred to use his name at the entrance, instead of sharing the name with a very different kind of place. A right choice given that what you can find created and presented here, you won’t find from any of his colleagues.

All this with a delicacy that is also a cross for Quique: red prawns from Denia. They’re excellent, just like the ones from Mazara in Sicily or San Remo in Liguria. They dominate every menu and I wonder if they’re really all from the nearbt sea. For sure Dacosta took care of them for years on end and never neglected them. However, while in the past you’d sit at the table already awaiting them, this is no longer the case. At least not for me. The expectations for the menu called La evolucion y l’origen were such that I forgot about them. So I was surprised when during the third act – there’s a total of six – between cheese whose texture was so changed it looked like a napkin and monkfish with its liver enhanced, they served a prawn from Denia wrapped in red paper. A beautiful play on colours and an even more delicious crustacean.

 José Antonio Navarrete and Giovanni Matromarino

 José Antonio Navarrete and Giovanni Matromarino

La evolucion y el origen is a journey that seemingly sounds like many other journeys. Yet, think about it, people always speak of traditions in evolution, of what we have behind us and innovations emerging in time. Not the Spanish chef. He focuses on variations, his ideas on the origins of matter and of cuisine come second. First he gives space to the present, to what is meaningful for him today. We’ll find out later by riding which waves, if we do want to find out, as who says that in the past that product or recipe were better. For sure, they were for the people of the time, but it’s unlikely this applies to us now.

Superb sturgeon bottarga

Superb sturgeon bottarga

Dacosta’s staff – including the formidable Italian maître Giovanni Matromarino, working there for 12 years now, and sommelier José Antonio Navarrete – start taking care of you in the déhors outside, when you’d binge on mussels, who cares about small morsels. And then they don’t walk you straight to the dining room, but to the private study, an open view workshop, ready to enjoy the so called Primavera of almond nougat and fish preserved in salt. Forget salt the way it’s used to preserve salted cod. In this case, it enhances flavours and textures. I was already happy and satisfied at that moment. Then came the craveable rituals of the dining room. Six acts, not all of them with such an autonomy that they can be considered a meal in its own right, but all of the highest tasting value.

Quique Dacosta
Carrettera las marinas, km 2 with Calle Rascassa 1
Dénia (Valencia)
Tel: +34.96.5784179
Closed on Monday and Tuesday, always open in July and August
Holidays: 11th December – 31st January
Tasting menu: 210 euros

Cibi Divini

Restaurants from all the world told in Il Giornale by Paolo Marchi from February 1994 to the winter of 2011. And since the spring, for the readers


Paolo Marchi

born in Milan in March 1955, at Il Giornale for 31 years dividing himself between sports and food, since 2004 he's the creator and curator of Identità Golose.

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