On C/ Sueca, the aroma oozing from Kaña Makan is so warm and thick; you could spread it on toast. This is all the advertising it needs: with such a smorgasbord of choice in Ruzafa, why not let your nose decide where to eat? The toasty spices grabbed me by the nose and hauled me off the street.
Once inside, you’ll find a clean, bright bar with a young and relaxed atmosphere. Upbeat rhythms play underneath the buzz of conversation. Near the open kitchen, the warm orange wall is livened up by a mural framing a clock the size of a hula-hoop, and delicate hanging lamps cast shards of multicoloured light onto the tables. Around the back walls there’s space for exhibitions – on this occasion, acrylic paintings of iconic rock covers by Elena Pérez Ayrault. The pieces form an installation for the MUV Festival – and a clue about owner’s Azam’s other love.
Founder/owner/chef Azam Kirco is driven by two passions: hospitality and music. Like many of us, he came to Valencia as a short stay – in his case, to do a Masters in Law – and liked the city so much he stayed. Azam did qualify for the bar but now he’s behind the bar instead prepping and serving his unique fusion tapas.
Kaña Makan Ruzafa is the sister bar of Kaña Makan Cedro across town, which Azam established in 2010. In 2013, he opened this, the sister bar. The name? It’s a Spanish-Arabic pun: Arabic fairy tales begin with ‘kan yama kan’, similar to ‘once upon a time’ and so, with caña meaning ‘beer’ in Spanish and makan meaning ‘place’ in Arabic, it’s both whimsical and clever. If you’re Spanish-Arabic bilingual, claro. Eating and drinking at Kaña Makan is simple, with simple hours (open every day 19.00h – 24.00h), a simple drinks selection (but lots of different té aromáticos) and a simple ordering system. Our server María explained how it works: take a menu sheet and pen, tick what you fancy. María collects the sheets; Azam compiles the orders. It’s super- easy for non-Spanish speakers – there’s no asking or pointing, just read the simple descriptions and tick.
Filling in the form is like bingo crossed with voting at a particularly busy election. The choice is between 14 different montaditos y tapitas – these words have no direct translation in English: they mean nibbles of stuff. Stuff on slices of baguette; stuff wrapped in a soft tortilla; stuff to dip bread into. And also an intriguing special, montadito del chef, plus pan, salads and sandwiches.
I could happily live on Middle Eastern food alone so several of the items were familiar: falafel, humus, baba ganug and kufta all rang a bell. But sujuk, sfiha and kube? Not a Scooby.
I explained my ignorance and Azam whizzed over the special montadito for us to try the unique flavour of carne picada de ternera. The beef mince arrived in a puddle of hummus and olive oil, with triangles of flatbread for dipping. I couldn’t identify the unique flavours in the meat – aromatic and sweet like keema lamb in Indian cuisine. Azam told me the spice mix is Armenian and confessed he didn’t know exactly what it consists of. Ha! It’s the ultimate secret recipe.
The other montaditos arrived. Bits and bobs on bread. Or wrapped in bread. The gamba was just that, a singular prawn perched between two discs of cheese, on top of a slice of baguette. But it was a damn fine juicy, garlicky prawn. This is a cheap way to both fill up and to try different tastes: each montadito costs just one euro. If you’re eating light, the flatbread and hummus is all you’d need.
As we unpinned the falafel and kufta wraps, we contemplated how to pin down what we were eating. It’s certainly informal finger food, Spanish-style. But with Middle Eastern flavours. To understand Kaña Makan, you need to understand Azam. He grew up in Syria so the flavours of his homeland are the DNA of his food. Thrown in his Armenian and Lebanese heritage, stir in Spanish culture and here you have it: Kaña Makan’s fusion tapas.
This is not a restaurant with starchy tablecloths, fine glassware and solemn candles. This is not a place you bring your grandmother on her birthday. This is a place for friends who want to share an afterwork, eat with fingers, explore some exotic tastes. The food is to share but it seems more important to share conversation. The interior is set up to foreground this – benches, perches and small tables, to cluster around and talk. Azam will supply the food, but you’ll have to bring you own plans, ideas and stories. And every good story starts with once upon a time…
C/ Sueca, 61, Ruzafa
C/ Explorador Andrés, 24, Plaza Cedro
Shared Tel: 96 015 07 96
Open Monday-Sunday:19.00h – 24.00h