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When traveling to Spain try the Mussels in Valencia

Order Valencian Mussels and a glass of wine in one of the city’s oldest restaurants

When I walked into the dark, small corner bar I smelled wood. Old barrel wood that gave life to wines and vermouths. Once inside I sat on a high bar stood surrounded by wood barrels and took a deep breath. I’d been walking for a couple miles throughout Valencia, Spain, and had a hankering for mussels and a cold, crisp glass of white wine. So what better place to go than one of the oldest restaurants in Valencia, Casa Montaña, which opened in 1836.

Valencian mussels are available during the summer months. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Valencian mussels are available during the summer months. Photos by Christine Willmsen

As the waitress and even the menu described, these aren’t your average mussels and nothing like the typical mussels we find in the United States or in the Seattle area where blue or bay mussels, also known as Foolish mussels, are glued to rock beds.

Valencian mussels also known as clochinas are available only from May to August. When I opened the bowl, steamed poured out and small orange mussels appeared. The mussels were briny, fresh and dense, packing a flavor punch unlike their meatier sisters and brothers on the coast of California. I appreciated the fact that the dish was no frills. Just mussels in a bowl for about $5.50

That’s what some of the food in Spain is like – simple. While the country has a reputation of modern cuisine, with layers of flavor that often look like a masterfully painted plate, other restaurants and bars like Casa Montaña let the fresh food shine.

imageI sipped a glass of dry Albariño and nibbled on goat cheese with carmelized peppers ($2) and Txistorra red sausage ($2.50) for the finale of my lunch.

Casa Montaña is open most weekdays and Saturday from 1-4 p.m. and 8-11:30 p.m. I hope when you’re trekking through Spain you’ll think of this little bar as a place to stop at in Valencia.