Paella in Madrid or Barcelona?
Leaving for Spain next week and we had to cut out Valencia due to time constraints.
My question is which city should I try great authentic paella (the rabbit/snails variety) ?
We wll be hitting:
Madrid - 2 nights
Seville - 1 night
Ronda - 1 night
Granada - 2 nights
Barcelona - 4 nights
So far i'm thinking Madrid or Barcelona is best bet since we have more time there. I read recommendations for El Ventorrillo Murciano in Madrid and that is the sort of place we're looking for - not too touristy or upscale. Also saw Eto's wonderful post on 7 Portes in Barcelona - but wondering if its too touristy?
Any thoughts would be great, thanks!
PAELLA in BARCELONA:
We wandered around the various Paella options around the beach area of Barceloneta. Initially I really wanted to sit outside, however the restaurants with tables outside, the hosts were incredibly snooty, there were definitely tables available but insisted that we could only be seated in 45 minutes. We decided to forego the beach view (and blowing sand) and eat at Can Ros - we were quite early so we got a table easily.
We were very happy with this decision. It was near the end of our trip, so we decided to just go for it and ordered the deluxe Fisherman's paella platter and the grilled calamari. It was FANTASTIC! I preferred the paella here to Madrid's, maybe because the seafood was so fresh and the rabbit in Madrid was a bit dry. We ate way too much but it was very memorable.
We just are back from Madrid and had an outstanding set of paella at a restaurant called "El Restaurante Paella Real" or something like that. It was recommended in Rick Steves, often a hit or miss proposition, but this was very good. It is right next to the Opera and the Opera metro stop.
I'm not an expert on paella, but in my opinion the 2 key ingredients are 1. the quality and preparation of the rice and 2. the quality and preparation of the ingredients. In this regard, Paella Real had average 'toppings' (not to make it sound too much like a pizza parlor) - we ordered the seafood variety of about 15 different choices, and there were just a few large prawns, mussels, little tiny 'lobsters' and veggies - perfectly fine but not particularly exciting. However, the rice was dreamy! Each nugget perfectly textured, perfectly oiled, perfectly seasoned, a little chewy but not undercooked, never mushy, not steamy or moist like some places we tried. The crispy bits were heavenly and the the entire creation was irresistible.
Order requires a minimum of 2 people - about 15 euro per person. Total meal cost around 70 euro for 2 and we were sated for about 8 hours. We almost went back the next day but they were closed (on Mondays).
Now for our own paella at home we brought back several kilos of Bomba varietal rice from the Calasaparra region of Spain, supposedly the absolute premium of premium varieties for making the perfect paella, and having to do with its capacity to absorb liquid without losing its texture or individuality. We are really looking forward to it!
This is definitely way overdue, but I thought I would post pictures of where we actually ended up going for Paella in Madrid and Barcelona!
PAELLA in MADRID:
Thanks to Buttefly's recommendation, we hit El Ventorillo Murciano. Started with an amuse bouche of Empanada y Tomates Fritos. We loved the Atun Ahumado (Tomato with Smoked Tuna). That was a lovely start. The Paella we got was with Rabbit, artichokes and snow peas - it was pretty good, and although it was a bit salty for me, we finished it all! It's a nice quaint restaurant and the service was excellent, very friendly, and tolerant of our horrible Spanish. Near the end of the meal, our waiter finally turned on his English to explain our dessert options - his English was soo good, we were a bit embarrassed at trying to practice our guidebook Spanish !
We are probably going to do a paella lunch in Barcelona - leave Madrid for tapas hopping. I'm leaning toward the ones in Barceloneta - so we can walk that area and people watch on the terrace. I think we're flexible with the idea we might not be able to get the authentic Valencian paella here - we'll make it another time to experience the real Valencia!
Now I just have to decide between Kaiku, Can Ros or Can Roja. Which one is best for its paella and price?
In Madrid you have fantastic paellas and all sort of Mediterrenean rice-dishes ("Arroz a banda",the wonderful "Arroz senyoret" etc)at "Samm" -Carlos Caamaño, 3. Teléfono: 91 345 30 74-
Believe me,it's well worth the visit.That's where local culinary experts go to have good rice,
* If you can read Spanish,take a look at the review that strict and famous culinary critic Fernando Point did on "Samm" for the newspaper "El Mundo" .
I disagree about SAMM. First off, its WAy out of the way and if you dont have a car it will be a expensive cab ride and Second, its too expensive and foo-fooey, you know, very upscale.Not my thing. I would stick with "Valencia" near Argüelles, for all kids of paellas and rice dishes and more reasonable prices
I haven't been to Samm (though it's not terribly far from the Pío XII metro stop), but El Ventorrillo Murciano is the real thing--nothing touristy about it. It's a low-key place, but tiny, so reservations are necessary.
Thanks for the links, can't read spanish but did use the google translation tool and tried to read thru the lines of poetry that came out of that execution:from Samm's review:
"Many steps over frightful arrocerías with zenithal heat furnaces…" sounds like an epic paella experience!
Unfortunately, Samm is going to be out of the way since we won't have a car.
Casa Valencia is also a bit far for us.
El Ventorillo Murciano might work for lunch after Prado/Reina Sofia visits since it's sort of within walking distance ... correct?
When should reservations be made for lunch- can it be the day before, or is that taking too much chance? For this week Friday?
Thanks for your help!
I'm not sure how far in advance you would need to call (I haven't been there for lunch). But it is a miniscule place. It is within easy walking distance of the Reina Sofía and Prado. Here's a map (the Reina Sofia is in the bottom right corner):
P.S. If you google the restaurant name (El Ventorrillo Murciano), you should be able to find some info in English.
For seafood paella, I would normally recommend Can Ros in Barceloneta, but doing a search for the paella you're looking for (in Spanish) I found this interesting tidbit from Las Provincias newspaper, which I'll translate for you:
"Paella is a dish that, in the strictest sense, we demand be of the highest quality, and that is hard to find. The best chicken/rabbit/artichoke, etc paella we discovered in Madrid, in a restautant specializing in the dish: Samm, which isn't listed in the phone book (Tel. 913453074). Throughout the entire peninsula, it can only be topped by the rice with rabbit and snails found at Paco, in Pinoso, deep in Alicante."
I'd seek out this Samm (which this article says is located on an "anonymous street" off the M-30 freeway: http://www.elmundo.es/metropoli/2004/...
) if you have the chance, hit Alicante!
Casa Valencia in Barcelona is a good bet for Valencia style paella. Here's a review I wrote for Barcelona Metropolitan (www.barcelona-metropolitan.com) (all rights reserved!)
"Where can I get a decent paella?" is a question I'm often asked and "Valencia" is often my reply. My new, rather more helpful answer is "Casa Valencia" – one of the many casa culturales in town that cater to the needs and nostalgia of Spanish immigrants to Catalunya. Its menú always includes a paella and other rice dishes among the starters. The paella valenciana has liberal helpings of rabbit, chicken and pork and, most authentically, Valencian butter bean-esque garrafóns. Arroz al horno combines saffrony rice with pinenut-studded blood sausage, floury potatoes, caramelised garlic and crusty chickpeas. Valencians, with their fecund huertas, really know how to make vegetables shine in a dish.
Though rice is undoubtedly king here, equal respect was given to my fish soup – a simple yet successful blend of a saffron-bright thin broth, flakes of mackerel and soft rice – and my partner's hake santurzi-style. This comprised a thick slice of hake trunk, moistly flaking from the bone, in a light but piquant braising of olive oil, sherry vinegar, chunks of garlic and a spicy Basque pepper. Ok, so we weren't in Valencia any more, Toto, but it was a pleasant trip.
Portions are rather filling, which perhaps explains why desserts are such a letdown. The kindest thing that can be said for them is that they're not bad for shop-bought. Watch out for the tartas – some pack quite an additive-laden punch!
Casa Valencia, C/Corsega 335. Tel: 93 237 2759
Open: 1-4pm, 8-11pm every day
Menu del dia: E10 for three courses and drink, inc IVA.
I don't know what you were smoking, but I wish I had some before I ate at Casa Valencia on Saturday night. I was hoping that I somehow got the address wrong, or otherwise mixed up, but no, we ate at the one at 335 Corsega, upstairs--why did we have to ring a doorbell to get in?
I guess our first warning sign was that there was nobody else in the dining room. I know, you're gonna say that we were probably there at 7pm like all the other touristas. Nope, we were there at 9pm and the three of us ate without a single other person in the entire dining area (on a Saturday night!). Most of the waitstaff were watching the game on telly in the other room.
Our server was very friendly and spoke decent English though we mostly communicated in Spanish. I ordered the Paella Valencia and there were bits of dry rabbit and chicken and yes, the incredibly large garrafons, but it arrived lukewarm and looked like it was prefab. My friend ordered the Arroz Negro and it was a bit bland but edible. My girlfriend was told the only vegetarian option for her was a salad, which came without any sort of dressing or even olive oil, though she seemed to do okay with that.
You were quite right about the desserts--they even forgot to take the wrapper off of my friend's bizcocho!
How you could recommend this place is beyond me, seriously. We had fresher food on the airplane. There are so many better restaurants in this town, most of which we've managed to discover just walking around away from anything vaguely touristic.
And now that I've thoroughly trashed your recommendation, I have an alternative suggestion for a restaurant that we fell in love with we ate there twice:
Gran Via, 603
93 301 65 24
We ate there for lunch twice and not a tourist in sight. The servers were very friendly and remembered us from our previous visit. Quite decent paella though their specialty is in their variety of Tapes. Not too expensive (unless you get the Pata negra which seemed a bit steep at €18). You could very easily eat a hearty lunch for €15/person if you knew what to get, and they had lunch specials which were closer to €12. It's right near the Passeig De Gracia Metro, one block west (red awnings with jamon hanging in the window). It's not a super-fancy place but there are no pictures in the menus (though there is a very limited English menu; be warned that you'll have to know what you want in Spanish) and the clientele is definitely upscale. So don't go walking in there in your Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and chacos!