October 3, 2018
Coherence, opinion and territory
In the Valencian Community, which has become one of Spain’s top gastronomic regions, is a restaurant that stands out in its own right. This charming place called L’Escaleta – at the foot of the Sierra Mariola and with views of the peak of the Montcabrer mountain – is nestled in the lush surroundings of the town of Cocentaina in inland Alicante, and is where the chef Kiko Mya works.
Born in Cocentaina in 1976, Moya took over the family restaurant – together with his cousin Alberto Redrado, a sommelier – at the start of the 21st century after it had just moved to the current premises. It was previously an eatery located in a semi-basement, founded in 1980 by his parents and uncles. Local and international recognition arrived quickly.
Of the highest technical level, Kiko Moya’s cuisine is firmly rooted in this terroir, and combines produce from the land with that of the nearby and generous Mediterranean Sea. Ingredients, such as corn and garum coexist in a single dish; as do salted meats and saffron; blanquet and red prawns; sepionets and façedura de dacsa; oysters and wild mustard (which he gathers himself from the side of the road). Not to mention his superb rice dishes, which here are literally ‘square’, made in rectangular iron trays and finished off in the oven. He makes them dry (with game and wild mushrooms; with roasted peppers and a special Ibérico pork shoulder cut); al pilpil (with hake cocochas/throats, of course); or creamy (with tendons and black truffle).
At L’Escaleta – unlike most restaurants of this category – they offer an à la carte menu, but the best way to get to know Moya is to choose his long tasting menu (€125) called ‘Saboer’, in what is a fusion of the Spanish words saber [to know] and sabor [flavour]. This is not simply a succession of extraordinary dishes, but a discourse brimming with rationality, restraint and sense, unfolding in a fascinating story with an introduction, body and conclusion.
P.S. If you would like to discover more about Kiko Moya and L’Escaleta, watch the documentary Y en cada lenteja un Dios [A God in Each Lentil], which captures the history, philosophy and day-to-day life of the restaurant. Directed by Miguel Ángel Jiménez – who also wrote the script together with Kiko’s brother, Luis Moya – it offers a gastronomic stroll through Cocentaina, Jávea, Pego, Madrid, Barcelona...