Amazing... Seems like too small a word to describe the experience at Riff? Maybe if you add "innovative" or "attention to detail" or simply "fresh" & "creative" you'd come close.
A German chef in Valencia Spain, serving two Americans who just arrived not long ago from Athens. Yes it's a mixed bag of cultural mashups. However it did no hinder us from trying to get a fantastic meal late in the evening after having just got into town. Chef Bernd Knoller and his wonderful staff were more than happy to welcome us, and it's that type of hospitality that started off this wonderful meal.
After having been through many find kitchens of his home country, Chef Knoller found himself at Akelarre under Pedro Subijana, one of the forefront of the new Spanish cuisine. This being the gateway to Spain with some other ventures along the way, he opened Riff, which would be our first taste of Valencian food.
From the outside you see a stark foyer with a long white hallway, minimalist art on either side. We're seated at a two top not that far away form the kitchen. The Riff staff are buzzing around us providing us with all the things we need before our meal. Chef himself comes out, speaks to my friend about his food allergies and we agree that we want Riff's Menu Degustacion:
-Oysters with frozen seaweed
-Salad from small calamares, aioli,
black trumpets and watercress
-Summer truffels with pine nuts
and Joselito ham
eggplant and basil
with humus from fresh peas
-Roast lamb with spices
and dried tomatoes
-Hot mousse au chocolate
with olive oil and salt
-Strawberries, almonds and orange sanguine
If you've had enough food in Valencia, you know that the Arroces dishes and their artichokes are very special in this region. As all of the Spanish regions do, Valencia has a character all of its own and Chef Knoller, despite being German brings the Valencian spirit in his cooking. In fact if I didn't know he was Germain, I wouldn't known any better! He obviously brings the touches of the Michelin star kitchens he's been through and it definitely shines. The staff are very professional and more importantly they are very warm and welcoming. Often when you see places of this design and caliber you think that it will be a cold experience but that couldn't be farther than the truth here. A grand experience all around and a gem of a restaurant.
I'm not sure why but when you try to enter the restaurant the door is locked so you have to buzz to get into the building. Once you get in, the ambiance is simple and clean. The lights could be dimmed a bit as it was very bright inside. The staff struggled a bit with speaking English but they tried very hard and were quite friendly. The chef actually took our orders and also came to say goodbye at the end of our meal.
We tried the...
Fried egg with Iberian bacon, herbs and peas
"Dirty" rice with squid ink
Venison with eggplant and cumin
Monkfish with coriander, cinnamon and pea hummus
We also received an abundance of amuse bouches which we devoured. Overall we thought the food was fresh, seasoned well, and cooked to perfection.
I enjoyed yesterday a wonderful evening in the Riff. I was looking for a one-Michelin-star restaurant in Valencia and first didn't realize that there is a German chef. It was then a funny surprise when it turned out that Bernd Knöller is also from the northern Black Forest in Germany and once was an apprentice in the Ochsen in Höfen, a typical Black Forest inn well below Michelin star levels. He is now since about 20 years in Valencia and developped himself towards real culinary mastership. I placed the order for the Riff Menu Snacks & Tapas and was very excited. The restaurant is looking elegant all in beige and with some wood and making immediately to feel comfortable. The real agenda started after several amuse-bouches with tartar with white tuna fish with mustard, mushrooms and trout roe. It was excellent and certainly already one of the best dishes. We continued with Autumn with wild mushrooms, a combination of its very own served in a high bowl. It developped several completely different and rich aromas and textures. After some thoughts where the territorial foundations of this cuisine could have been I tasted the Red dorade with crunchy seeds and tartare of mussels a phantastic fish in the typical style of Valencia bedded on tiny mussels. Then creamy rice with pine nuts and Iberia pork fat was an excellent risotto with filmy slices of fat imprinting their aromas into the rice while dissapearing in glossy transparency. Now I was quite sure about the spanish elements in Bernd Knöllers cuisine which was continued with Iberia pork with sweet onions. The menu culminated in a marvellous dessert hot mousse au chocolate with oil and salt. A tiny breath of olive oil imparted astonishing flavors to the mousse and it was a perfect finale. The service had the best attention. The list of wines is long and includes not only vinos blancos allemane from Germany but also all kinds of spanish tintos with a lot Ribera de Duero and La Rioja and many other proveniences. This restaurant shall be highly recommended. It offers the art of cooking at the highest levels. And for all those who want to learn more about Hotel Ochsen in the Black Forest in Germany they can read my Qype review which I wrote some time ago.
This user has arrived from Qype, a European company acquired by Yelp in 2012. We have integrated the two sites to bring you one great local experience.