I want to cook paella. Beforehand, I need to eat it somewhere to get an idea of the balance of flavors, etc. (I cook better this way than just reading a recipe)
My limited research led me to either Babalou or El meson. I think that I might like el meson's menu better, but I read that babaloo has a better version of paella.
Also, thinking of bringing our 6yo if that is a factor. He knows how to behave at a nice restaurant, but didn't know if babalou was a good setting for him.
Any thoughts or other recommendations? Driving up from Rochester.
I have taken my 4, 7 and 9 year olds to El Meson and we all had a great time. There are some tables that are in kind of separate booths and sometimes on Friday nights they have live music anyway so it's kind of loud. I've never been to Babalou but it is definitely on the list now.
I would recommend Taberna del Alabardero on 18 Street (between H and I). It's not cheap -- about $30 per person, but they make it for you on request. But wherever you go, make sure they make it on request. I wouldn't waste my time and money for paellas that are pre-made -- even portions of it. Rice dishes don't age well. With paella, you want to taste invidivual ingredients.
Unless you pay 30 bucks per person for a custom-made paella in a restaurant, I'll bet you can make one at home that can beat those in restaurants. You may not hit it the first try, but what works for me is to have good ingredients, and having trusted recipes (go to latienda.com for some good ones). Paellas are are normally cooked in one pan -- avoid those that have you prepare the rice in a separate pot as they are suspect. And don't forget to put the entire pan in the oven for about 10 minutes to let the rice set. Good Spanish recipes include this step -- very import for the home cook as we don't have the wide burners or grills on which to heat the pans.
I've had both and El Meson's was a little better, but they really are comparable. Paella can take a while to make so if you have a wee one get your order in right away and order appetizers to fill some time. Depending on when you go El Meson's probably a little more child freindly. Babalu has a reputatin for being pretty loud, but my understaing is that may have change. It's been a while since I have been there.
This isn't the most useful of replies, but.
I have never had the paella at either joint, and never been to Babalou, but el meson has never disappointed me. They also tend to have a generous half price wine schedule.
Paella is also scary easy to make, so I wouldn't lose any sleep about getting the best sample. Of course, you need to cook the way you need to cook.
If you are coming up just for that, p'raps you could find something to stretch the day and hit both places? Maybe the 6yo would like to see Frog and Toad at the Children's Theatre...
thanks, the menu looks good. BTW check out their wines by the glass prices....Pretty decent, but lower cost wines. They are charging 70-80% of what I can get an entire bottle for Retail. They must be marking these up 600% over cost. Not bad if you can get it.
Am I getting spoiled having a wine cellar?
You and me both. For some of their by-the-glass wines (like the Five Rivers PN), a glass is over 100% of the retail-on-sale cost. Ouch! For this reason alone, I'm never going to Palomino. This pricing policy drives me crazy.
El Meson has a nice wine list - better matched to the food - with a slightly smaller markup. Not that much smaller, though - Mpls/St.Paul is BAD for wine-by-the-glass prices.
But that's another thread...
P.S. I've never had the paella at El Meson, but I've loved everything I've eaten there. I think you'll be pleased.