Aponiente – Angel León, a great thalassophile

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How do I start to describe my experience at Aponiente? I get great joy from gastronomic experiences therefore I am always on the look out to be wowed but I have to say that very few times does an entire meal have the capacity to move you leaving you with a feeling of thrill and the knowledge that something truly remarkable is happening at this restaurant. That is the way I felt during our meal at Aponiente but the feeling lingered on with me way until the next morning when I woke up excited, reminiscing over the different perceptions  and tastes of the previous night. Even now that a couple of weeks of gone by since our stay,  I still recall that feeling.

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Excitement is perceived in the air as you arrive to Aponiente, this restaurant is located where salt pond farms used to stand but the area, over time, became a rubbish dump. Thanks to Ángel León, the land has recovered its hidden beauty. I feel that people like Ángel who have such a love and care for their hometown and such a commitment to make it better deserve so much support but he doesn’t stop there. He is in love with the sea, with sustainable fishing, giving discarded fish a whole new opportunity. I find his story, his goal, to be admirable. Ángel has been dreaming of different ways of presenting fish to his public and he manages to create an aura of magic which accompanies you throughout the dinner. It is not only that the menu is created using only fish (sea creatures) and vegetables but the way each dish is presented. The amazing platters that conjure up the sea. A meal at Aponiente is a not only a meal, it is an experience that lasts a life time. Let me share with you mine…

We started off with the most amazing shrimp cakes, they were paper thin and absolutely delicious. The problem now is going back to the other ones.

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Do you remember the packaging you get when you buy pastries at your local pastry shop? Here in Spain the cakes are usually arranged on a golden tray over a paper napkin and then wrapped in wax paper. That is just how our second aperitif arrived to our table.

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But this time they weren’t sweet pastries but salty ones. The eclairs were delicious especially the black one which had squid ink. The one to your far right is a plankton polvorón (polvornes are typical Christmas sweets)

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Next came an amazing presentation, because when you see it, you immediately think that you are going to get Spanish sausages but you can’t believe all that you see because here the eye plays a trick on the palate because if you weren’t told otherwise you would believe that you are having sobrasada, lomo and all types of typical Spanish cold cuts but what you are really having is fish. Ángel León, who is a true ecologist and worries about the sea, takes disrecarded fish which is fish which is caught in fishing nets but isn’t commercialized because it is not the species the consumers are looking for. He takes these fish and discovers their potential proving to the diner that these fish can also be tasty.

Next came the halófilo taco (halófilo refers to organisms which live in areas where there is a great concentration of salt) This taco was like biting into the sea but where the salt and flavors are perfectly balanced.

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The grilled sardine

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Around now the baker came to our table, here is where we were all surprised because Aponiente has its own baker and I have to say that we would all get excited when he would come to our table with his bread basket.

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An omelette made of tiny shrimp and discarded fish from la Roteña

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Can you imagine a salad that tastes like the sea? Well, here you can. It is fresh and it opens your tastebuds. Saline bushes and sea snail salad.

Royal sea nettle,  I just wanted to keep eating this. The magic behind these plates in my opinion is that since the inspiration and the produce mostly comes from the sea, you have the preconception that once you have a couple of dishes it is all going to feel monotonous but that is where I was wrong. Each plate is a world of flavors, so well-balanced that they leave you craving for more.

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Mussel cold soup

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I am an oyster lover and normally when oysters are dressed up in dishes I am totally against it. I love oysters to be opened and served because normally everything else that is added takes away from the oyster’s delicious flavor but here the oyster is actually enhanced and I find that so very hard to come across.

Lobster cocktail

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Marine cabbage

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Albur rablé (albur is a fish which is 10 cms long and is found in freshwater which is close to sea water)

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Pasta and plankton

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Melosidades (which in Spanish means a mix between smoothness and stickness)

Press cuttlefish. It was beautiful to see how this dish was prepared, the time it takes to prepare it and how quickly we ate it. Even the actual plate was beautiful.

The first dessert was the eye of a fish, but not to worry, it was actually a sorbete.

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The second dessert was a mix between beer and coffee.

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Juan Ruíz Henestrosa is in love with El Puerto de Santa María and he is passionate about sherry. These wines can only  be produced in this area and their taste and characteristics make them so unique that once you try them they immediately seduce you. Juan prepares a wine pairing which isn’t an ordinary pre-established set pairing but one that is catered to your needs and likes, therefore enhancing the meal and making your wine experience so very unique.

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Maybe the stars were aligned just right that night or the moon inspired the tides, all I know is that it was one of the best meals I have ever had. Thank you to all the team at Aponiente for such a memorable experience.

Aponiente

Francisco Cossi Ochoa Street

11500, El Puerto de Sta María, Cádiz

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