Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Owner Pilar Casellas and family, including her son Chef Gunther Auerbach Casellas run La Albufera, a small Spanish restaurant known for their specialty paella and small plates of tapas.
Recently relocated from Calle Viena in Colonia Versalles La Albufera's new location, at Aquiles Serdan #242 on the South side of Vallarta, is long and narrow with Spanish posters and local artwork adorning cheerful yellow and red walls. The dining room is small but comfortable and the convenient equipales lend a warm touch.
As in their former locale, you will be served personally by the family, who make you feel truly at home. They also own and operate the Mexican restaurant next door, Molé Rosa.
On a recent visit during the May Restaurant Festival, (a.k.a. Vallarta Restaurant Week) our group sampled La Albufera's appetizer offerings:
Mini Spanish Tortilla: Round thick tortilla baked and topped with Iberian eels, sliced red bell pepper, onion and mushroom. It was delightfully mild, light gold and tender.
Arugula and Beet Salad: Mixed green salad was enhanced with arugula, chunks of beet and little morsels of goat cheese. The greens were dressed in an orange-caramel vinaigrette.
Creamy White Gazpacho: Served in a martini glass, this was an imaginative presentation. The "cocktail" was a creamy green-white gazpacho of puréed heirloom tomatoes garnished with a straw and speared olives on a toothpick. The soup was tangy sour and packed a slight heat.
Española was represented with dinner choices:
Traditional Paella Negra: Fresh mussels, shrimp and clams surrounded a black rice, colored by squid ink, with peas, spices and herbs. Deeply rich and colorful, it was a good representation of this national dish.
Mussels: A generous portion of black Baja mussels encircled the plate with al dente rice and a light Champagne-saffron sauce. This was a plentiful bowl of seafood.
Butterflied Filet: Beef filet was stuffed with chopped artichoke hearts which had been jarred in herb olive oil. The sauce was a combination of sweet and sour and red wine reduction. Meat was very tender and moist.
Dessert course brought these temptations, tasted by all:
Cardamom-Basil Sorbet: Fruity spicy sorbet incorporating a Jamaica reduction with the spice and herb. It was topped with a dollop of creamy whisky sauce.
Deep-fried Pastry: Spanish pestiños, originating in Madrid, similar in appearance to deep-fried ravioli or Greek loukoumades, were light, crisp, golden and sweet from honey-rosemary sauce. Although all diners had relished their dessert, two ordered this creation since it was the crowd-pleaser. Finely minced Castilla nuts (Nuez de Castilla) were mixed into the syrup. Some guests said this dessert alone was worth a visit here.
White Chocolate Mousse: The smooth mild mousse was enlivened with Spanish Patxaran (Pacharán in Spanish) a sloe blackthorn berry-flavored liqueur with anise, coffee and vanilla commonly drunk in Navarre, the Pyrenees and the rest of Spain. It was red, fruity and exotic.
The roots of Spain show in this family operation. They are not just "going through the motions," but cooking according to traditional recipes. The result is a tasty delight to those aficionados of Spanish cuisine. If this is unfamiliar territory, follow your palate and try something new.
La Albufera is located at Aquiles Serdan #242 on the South side of Vallarta. For more information, call (322) 293-5530.
The author was supplied one choice in each of the 3 courses on the special Restaurant Week menu and this review is in no way connected to his independent restaurant guide, "Puerto Vallarta Restaurant Guide Beck's Best", where write-ups receive no compensation.
Vallarta Restaurant Week 2011 continues through May 31st at some of the most recognized restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. For a list of participating restaurants and reviews click HERE.