When I go for a review meal, I’m still looking for Excellent value, which means what’s on the plate must have a lot of visual and taste appeal — and what’s on the bill must be under €50. But last week I was looking for the usual high quality albeit with only €35 on my money clip.
It wasn’t that my review budget of €50 had been cut, it was just that I had spent €15 of it at a tapas bar. It is quite easy to find à la carte meals at 35 € in Palma but I decided to complicate the task by opting for an all-fish lunch. It is not so easy.
I knew it Sa Volta has some budget dishes on their menu, so that’s where I headed in my attempt to wrap up a meal with three fish dishes. A quick glance at the menu quickly made me realize that three fish dishes at €35 were just not there. But even so, I was going to eat a memorable three course meal and be well within the €35 in my pocket. However, thanks to a sharp-eyed waitress, I ended up eating four courses – three of which were worth 10. And the number on the bill was exactly €35.
My first course was an ensaladilla rusa, followed by grilled sardines. I then asked for a dish of cazón en adobo – and that’s when I knew my bill would be around €35 and that I would be on budget. After eating a large Russian salad and the five grilled sardines, the waitress said: “Cazón en adobo will be too much after these first two dishes. I’ll bring you half a portion of cazón. And those wise words meant I would have enough to pay the €35 cost for three courses and a dessert.
But it wasn’t just the quantity that made this a meal to remember and rave about – it was the first class quality of both starters and main courses. It’s worth remembering that many restaurants are more than willing to serve half portions of certain dishes, so we need to make the most of it. You obviously can’t ask for half a steak, but most places would be willing to, say, serve half a portion of meatballs on a bed of rice, mashed potatoes or couscous.
Some restaurants encourage their customers to ask for half-courses by printing the prices on the menu. The cost to the customer is that the price for the half portion is just over half the full price. But most people gladly take advantage of the half-portion offer.
Individuals who eat alone are particularly interested in small plates of food, as the full size version can actually get a bit boring. This is the case of the cazón en adobo today. Even when it’s as perfectly done as in Sa Volta, many diners would find it too repetitive. That’s when half portions are the way to go.
That said, however, I have to admit I’m not interested in half portions, although I accepted the small plate of cazón as it allowed me to have three courses and a dessert for €35. When I go for fish and chips it’s the jumbo size I want, never a small piece. If it’s a steak I’m craving, I want it to weigh 500 grams – and I wouldn’t mind sharing it. But I wouldn’t have shared the grilled sardines with anyone.
As I stood by the door of Sa Volta looking at the menu, a woman who came out said in a singsong Scottish accent, “You’re going to love it.” It’s very good. It’s very good and you will like it too. I’ve been going to Sa Volta for donkey years and the meals there have never been less than very good. times when they were great.
But this is the first time that I give a rating of 10 to three of their dishes. It’s not at all easy to get three 10s in a four course meal, and when that happens I’m always very happy because it means the dishes were perfect in every way and I had nothing to say about them.
As I wrote recently on the food page, no two cooks ever make the same Russian salad or potato salad. In the Sa Volta Russian salad the potatoes were cut slightly larger than usual, the cooking time was perfect, there were nice little pops of color from the chopped carrots and tomatoes and they used a good amount of mayonnaise.
The half portion of cazón en adobo was among the best I’ve ever had: the flour coating was absolutely free of residual oil and there was no sign that those pieces of fish had been fried.
I can’t find words specific enough to give sardines the praise they deserve. I have never had sardines that were in the same league as these. The caramelized flan was an old-fashioned flan, smooth in texture and rich in flavor.
Restaurant Sa Volta, Calle Apuntadores 10, Palma. Tel: 971-718440. Close on Sunday. The dining room is not very big and some days it fills up quickly, so it’s always better to book.
THE LAW PROJECT
I always write the prices in a notebook, but this time I did it on a piece of paper that I lost. I remember the sardines were €12.50, an incredible price for such an unforgettable dish. But I can’t remember the other prices, although I’m sure the total was €35.
They specialize in Mallorcan and Spanish dishes and the kitchen works to a very high standard.D.