Ibiza restaurants: Tradición Samar – Marisquero’s magic
Strolling beside the base of the timeworn walls of Dalt Vila is a must for anyone visiting Ibiza town – the scale of the Medieval craftsmanship laid bare for all to see; the stonework an accomplishment to be admired. If you’re fortunate while exploring, you’ll also stumble across Tradición Samar near Plaza del Parque, a restaurant specialising in seafood that lies beneath the historic monument on newly pedestrianised street, Calle Jaime I. Here, the menu is an ode to freshness, the service is impeccable, and if the location alone doesn’t entice you into its fold, the smell of recently fried garlic wafting on the breeze soon will.
Primarily centred around its outdoor terrace, Tradición Samar pays homage to the sea in everything it does. Its façade is an alluring shade of aquamarine; its tables are weatherworn, embodying sandblasted chic; sea pumpkins hang curiously from its ceilings and the extensive menus are made of paper that rustles when you read it – a true seaside experience, found in the centre of Ibiza’s busiest town. The idea is to ensure diners are whisked away to another world; one where the food found beneath the sea’s surface is the focus, and where the quality and natural essence of the ingredients are paramount.
With seafood held in such high esteem at Tradición Samar, it should come as no surprise that staff members are all masters of their craft. Brazilian siblings Malcolm and Elton Velasques head up the kitchen, each with years of five-star experience in preparing and cooking seafood. Meanwhile, out front you’re looked after by the restaurant’s onsite marisquero, or shellfish expert, Edgar Cardos, who makes cracking a lobster look easy, and whose expertise means choosing what to eat is a seamless process. He’s also on hand to help should you be nervous about trying some of the more unusual things on the menu – never had whelks before? Now’s the time to try one.
The role of a marisquero is one of great pride in Portugal, from where Edgar hails. His passion for seafood has been passed down through generations within his family; respect for his craft is something he learnt from his father, and his grandfather before that. “I was born and raised on the seashore,” he explains. “My great grandparents were sailors and my grandparents had a small seafood restaurant which always served fresh fish caught that day.” As a result, an appreciation for seafood was woven into his childhood. “I grew up fishing for clams, mussels and crabs. Fishing and preparing seafood was something I did every day in my adolescence.”
Watch Edgar at work and his skills astound – if he sees you struggling to open a clam or successfully recover the last of the sweet, juicy flesh of a lobster, he’ll be at your table in a second – happy to show you how it’s done or to just continue on your behalf. “What I like most about my job is meeting new people,” he emphasises with a smile. “And the look of satisfaction I get from clients when I help them.” Indeed, nothing instils fear in a diner more than a reluctant-to-open shellfish, so it’s a relief to have some friendly assistance.
Edgar’s passion for his art is palpable, according to him because he was destined to continue the family line by becoming a marisquero. “Proximity to the sea and all it had to offer my family was transmitted to me instinctively,” he explains. “While I studied table and bar service, I never really wanted to do anything else. My will always kept me tied to the breeze and sea flavours.” Luckily for Ibiza, the winds brought him to the white isle, where he shares his seafood savvy with diners every day at Tradición Samar.
Having a team of experienced individuals contributes to making Tradición Samar a destination restaurant in its own right, but the menu, of course, needs to back up that enthusiasm. “A good environment, passion and dedication all contribute to a great fish restaurant but freshness and quality are the main factors,” Edgar explains. So what would he recommend from Samar’s comprehensive menu? “Oysters,” he says, without hesitating. Tthe first time you try oysters is special.” Coming from a man of Edgar’s stature, one would do well to heed his advice.