Food just tastes so much better when it is prepared with love. Nothing beats the kitchen of el padre and la madre, especially when their cooking- and plating skills are of a gastronomic level and their dishes are full of creativity. It is just that what you can taste at Restaurante Casa Piolas in Algarinejo in Spain.
Olive trees, winding roads and natural beauty
Casa Piolas is located in a small village in the Andalusian hills. Between Cordoba, Granada and Malaga, in thé olive oil region, endless winding roads through the beautiful countryside will take you to Algarinejo. Just when we were starting to wonder if this restaurant was in fact a real one and if we were not hopelessly lost, a couple of small, steep streets took us to the heart of this picturesque town. Besides the fact that the destination Casa Piolas in itself is highly worth a visit, the path to the location is also worthwhile. What a beautiful area!
Welcome home at Casa Piolas
The reception you get here is incredibly warm and friendly, you feel immediately at home and instantly welcome. Via the bar, where you can enjoy tapas, wine and other simple delicacies, you get to the restaurant part of Casa Piolas, which is anything but standard and immediately reveals that this place is managed by creative minds. Although the interior is quite austere, small elements create a playful and cozy atmosphere. The walls are decorated with various paintings; vintage candleholders can be found on the tables and old vinyl records are turned into placemats. At the same time, classic chairs and white tablecloths remind you that Casa Piolas is a restaurant with quite a lot of tradition, yet the whole makes it clear that you are at the right spot for a fine dining experience without the need to be stiff or rigid.
Creative chef and kitchen
The driving forces of this place are chef José Caracuel Gamez and his wife Teresa. They stand for a local approach that explodes with creativity, tradition and quality. “Our history is reflected in the way we cook”, Teresa says. The restaurant has been a fixed value in the area for four generations already. Although José Caracuel and his wife are not afraid to put daring, unknown flavors on someone’s plate, they do stay faithful to their parents’ and grandparents’ heritage as they have taught them the tricks of the trade.
When we ask them whether obtaining a Michelin star is one of their ambitions, Teresa answers with a smile. “It would of course be nice to get such an accolade, but we already find it awesome that people from all over the world find their way to this spot and give us raving reviews on sites like Tripadvisor. We continue to further explore our creativity in the kitchen and want to spoil our guests as much as possible, “the lady of the house says.
The Casa Piolas menu starts from the ‘Slow Food’ philosophy that Carlo Petrini started to defend actively in 1986 as a reaction to the ‘fast food’ culture. The concept places a strong emphasis on the promotion and use of regional products and traditional food made with respect for man and nature. Moreover, gastronomical enjoyment is a social thing. When you enjoy a meal together with friends or family, the culinary experience is a lot more intense. In short, the slow food movement breaks with all contemporary trends where everything needs to be quick and easy. Here, everything is about truly and passionately enjoying in a sustainable way. At Casa Piolas, they like to work with as many local products as possible. These are bought from people with an extensive know-how and with whom the team has a personal and close contact. They have for example their own olive oil in cooperation with Orodeal.
The ultimate gastronomical experience at Casa Piolas is the degustation menu. The experience is first and foremost expressed in terms of time and only later in terms of courses, which is respectively 150 minutes and 15 courses. For those who are less hungry or that need to keep an eye on the time, there is a gastronomical menu of 120 minutes or a short menu of 6 courses. There is a special menu available for vegetarians or people who prefer vegetables.
Local appetizers with meat and olives
We start with a plate with different appetizers based on olives as this is a very important product for the local economy. This way, the chef honors this green and black gold. We are already sipping of our house aperitif, which is a glass of vermouth along with the obligatory olive.
The appetizers consist of a tray with green and black olives with herbs, a dish of black olive caviar, a praline with an outer surface of gel and an olive oil filling and an Oreo biscuit based on black olives. The last one has by the way the same effect as the classic Oreos, which is the uncontrollable urge to eat more than one.
After that, we get a washing line with dried meat. The different types are from the area and show the diversity of the product. We are true Jamon-fans, so we are absolutely crazy about this great appetizer. The meat is accompanied by crispy toasted bread and a small dish of Orodeal, the signature olive oil of Casa Piolas.
‘Olive Tree’ is the title of our third bite. A real olive stump serves as a plate, while the different elements of the dish reflect an olive tree. The stump is made from chocolate and serves as container for the duck liver filling. Nuts and oranges are the complimentary flavors while cress is responsible for the green foliage at the top.
Cheese to start
The previous dish was quite sweet and would therefore be perfect at the end of a menu. However, the chef clearly thinks that classic rules are there to be broken as he serves cheese as the next dish, which is also quite rare at the beginning of a menu. We try a lot of great cheeses and are still hungry for more afterwards. 🙂
We get again cheese to continue, but this time it is a Montefrio goat cheese in a warm preparation with red fruit and walnut. Very tasty.
Funky fish dish
There is more refinement in the tuna tataki, served on a beautiful stone and with a pair of tweezers instead of a fork, another nice and playful element. The fish is accompanied by sesame, soy, wasabi, ginger and pickled vegetables.
Pretty in pink. That is very true for the ceviche of sea bass, which at Casa Piolas is Ceviche with a thin slice of prawn cracker, herring caviar and olive oil .
Plenty of spectacle with the smoked eel with apple and duck liver as the dish is smoked inside a bottle. The smoked taste dominates at the first bite, but when we get to the second one there is more balance between the smoke, the freshness of the apple and the fat of the smoked fish and the duck foie gras.
Roasted octopus with mashed potatoes is next.
One of the most impressive dishes on the menu is built around the theme ‘sand and sea’. The chef presents a dish with a surface of shells, sand and stones with seabass, algae, ham and a sauce of tomato and mint on top. The dish is finished at the table by creating some kind of smoke effect with sea aromas and spreading this over the plates.
Meat & sweet at Casa Piolas
Then there is pork, slowly cooked at a low temperature. This way, the meat has the chance to become very soft and almost buttery. On top of the meat we can find a coating of viscous red fruit accompanied by a red fruit chutney.
The first dessert is called ‘fried milk’. It consists of a milk based cake with a scoop of milk ice. The whole is topped with a burning sauce with a delicious taste and quite some alcohol.
Brownies & cheesecake may sound like quite boring desserts, but that is not at all the case at Casa Piolas. The classics which are exquisite dishes of themselves are finished with a damp created in some kind of lab sleeve by pouring liquid nitrogen on meringue, with a spectacular steaming goblet as a result. A nice extra touch, without touching the brownie and cheesecake flavors.
A glass with orange, herbs and ice gets its finishing touch with a layer of cava. It’s a deliciously fruity and refreshing dessert with zing.
To finish off, there is a cup of coffee and a range of quirky titbits, like a gin & tonic jelly with espuma. The chef manages to translate the bitterness and freshness of a gin & tonic in a dessert, which is nice! A chocolate truffle, a gummy with olive oil and a white, soft anise sweet conclude our meal.
Casa Piolas in short
Of course we also tasted some nice wines. Just have a look here.
What an enthusiasm and creativity, combined with courage and taste, and all of that at a bargain price and with a very warm reception, not to mention the beautiful surroundings. If you are in Andalusia, Casa Piolas cannot be left out of your ‘to do’ list.
We combined our visit of Casa Piolas with a series of other nice experiences in Andalusia. In Cordoba we visited restaurante Choco and hotel Casas de la Juderia, we tasted wine in Sedella and to spend the night in a real Spanish villa, Casalejo was the perfect spot.