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Mar 30, 2008 10:49 PM

Paella near New Haven, CT?

Where can I find authentic, satisfying paella near New Haven, CT? Casual atmosphere and low to mid-range prices are a plus.

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  1. Ibiza on Tuesday nights offers paella though at $29 per person, minimum of 2, I would not categorize it at mid-range prices.

    1. Omanel in Bridgeport.... see cover and article in recent CT Magazine

      1 Reply
      1. re: LenaNE

        I'll second Omanel for their very good Portuguese cooking.

        1909 Main St
        Bridgeport, CT

      2. My family is Spanish and there are few places outside of New York that offer a true Spanish Paella. I have found Costa del sol in Hartford to be the closest. It is excellent and the closest to my Spanish grandmother's. It is $42 for two which I think is reasonable. Jay

        1. Much as I love Ibiza, their paella is not especially authentic. It's typical American paella in style, with three dozen ingredients and as many different varieties of meat and fish (or justone or the other depending what you order) as they can fit in the pan. It's cooked well, with a nice crust, but that "everything but the kitchen sink" approach just isn't how they make it in Valencia. Unless you're at a festival, where they will sometimes make an enormous pan of paella with a lot of different ingredients (so there is something to please everyone, like putting chicken in your clam bake pit), you'd be hard pressed to find paella in Valencia with more than two or three meats or fishes (though very rarely will you see meat and fish together) and a few different vegetables.
          The paella they serve at Barcelona is much the same. It's very well prepared, but very American in style. I'm sure there must be somewhere to find the real thing, and now that JayCT has mentioned Costa del Sol I'll have to try it. I've never been able to find an actual Valencian approach to the dish outside of Valencia though, even in New York. If only one of these restaurants would realize paella is not a single dish, and maybe just do a paella del dia, that would make me very happy. I think I'll go into shock if I ever actually see a rabbit paella on someone's menu. Until then, I'll just have to keep carefully scrubbing my paella pan on a weekly basis.
          And that was my paella rant...

          10 Replies
          1. re: danieljdwyer

            Daniel - My family would make paella for special occasions and large gatherings (10 or more people). It always included chicken, chorizo, short ribs and clams. Sometimes it would have shrimp or mussels. A lot depended on what was avaialble and how fancy my grandmother wanted to get. Costa del Sol is run by a family from Galicia, but their paella tasted just like my Castilan grandmothers and that which I had in Spain. Jay

            1. re: JayCT

              I love Omanel - have been going there for years and love the food. For my taste, however, the dishes that are even better than the paella are the seafood "stews" - the mariscada, etc. Enormous portions of really delicious seafood, both in red and white sauces.
              I have had paella at Bistro Basque and while not absolutely authentic, it has invariably been tasty and reasonably priced (something like $16).
              They serve an absolutely gorgeous paella for 2 at bin100. We haven't ordered it, but the last time we ate there diners on both sides of us ordered it and it looked and smelled wonderful.

              1. re: JayCT

                Maybe it's being nitpicky, but I tend to think of authentic paella as Valencian, not just Spanish. Valencians are not Castillian, though the two are more similar than the more far removed Galician. Galician culture and cuisine are far more similar to those of Portugal, and almost completely lack the strong Muslim influence of Valencia.
                The paella I've had in Castille (really just Madrid) wasn't the same thing I ate in Valencia. In Barcelona a number of restaurants took the Valencian approach, but as Catalan and Valencian are more or less the same language this wasn't too surprising. The Castillian paella was, however, far closer to the Valencian than anything I've see in America. It was also delicious in its own right.
                I'm not knocking anybody's idea of good paella, and I've had paella I've loved that was nothing like anything I saw in Valencia. I just miss the delicious simplicity of paella dishes with a number of visible ingredients I could count on one hand (my favorite only had three visible ingredients: mussels, scallions, and rice).
                I guess it begs the question: what is authentic? And does authenticity matter?

                1. re: danieljdwyer

                  Could you expand on the differences between the regional Spanish paellas? Valencia vs Castillian...
                  I believe I only had a seafood paella once in Spain and I don't remember where. I don't remember it having any veggies.

                  1. re: Scargod

                    I can't claim to know that their even are distinct regional variations on paella.
                    I do know the dish originated in Valencia, the region in which the Moors began the first cultivation of rice in Western Europe (though there are disputes over the historical accuracy of both these claims). The books I have on paella focus solely on Valencia, though they do have recipes from restaurants in other regions of Spain. In Valencia, paella does not refer to a specific dish, and many paella dishes do not even have the term paella in the name (names like "Arroz de Chipirones y Ajos Tiernos" seem to be just as common as names like "Paella de Mejillones"). The word paella was used more as a reference to a preparation method (a dry rice, cooked in a wide flat pan) than a particular dish. I even encountered a number of paellas in Valencia that contained no saffron. I did not, however, encounter a single paella dish in Valencia that contained as many different types of meat and fish as the paella in America or Madrid. In both America and Madrid, the attempt seems to be to capture all that the many paella dishes of Valencia have to offer in one dish (or two or three dishes). It's sort of like in America you can get a pizza with the works, which has on it more or less all the ingredients one commonly sees on pizza in Napoli. Only in Napoli, you don't see that many ingredients on a pizza. The paellas of Valencia, like the pizzas of Napoli, tend to focus more on highlighting one or two ingredients. It's rustic fare, having begun as a food of the poor, and in Valencia it retains this quality even in fine restaurants. "Arroz de Chipirones y Ajos Tiernos" is the rice dish a fihmonger's wife may have cooked inthe spring, when the scallions first came out, and her husband had an excess of mussels that day.
                    I find the mixed paellas common her confusing. There are so many flavors it is difficult to enjoy any one thing. And the flavor of the rice is often lost under all the other ingredients. There does also seem to be a lack of vegetables, now that you mention it. Many of the paellas I ate in Valencia were focused on vegetables. The paellas I ate in Madrid did tend to have the many different meats and fishes, but were no so loaded with them. You could still taste the rice and olive oil, which get drowned out in America.
                    The other thing that is so common here that I hardly saw in Valencia is chicken in paella. Other meats were far more common. Chorizo also did not appear so prevalently.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      I was watching the dvds of Mario Batali's show On the Road Again (a pretty bad show overall, but that's a whole other thread). One of the few highlights of the show was episode 12, which focused on Valencia. It's worth watching to get an idea of the approach to paella you see in Valencia. The exact technique used, cooking over an open fire, is not the only way they make it. Most restaurants I knew used the stove and oven, but cooking over the open fire was common at home and at festivals. The festivals were a different thing, because the pan was so damn big it took several hours just to prep everything and get the fire and pan hot. Outside of that, what you will see on that show is exactly the experience of paella I had in Valencia. It has few ingredients, is cooked over very, very high heat, and the actual cook time is surprisingly short (though they obviously edited out some of the cook time, and didn't show the prep time). The attitude of the chef is also exactly what I remember from most Valencians: that rice they eat in the rest of Spain is just rice. Only this is paella.

                2. re: danieljdwyer

                  I couldn't agree more with danilejdwyer about the American style paella served in "Spanish" resturants. If the paella isn't already made when you arrive at the resturant it is just another rice dish with stuff in it and not true paella. Paella cannot be made to order. Successful "Spanish" resturants should make a seafood and a meat paella in a large pans and serve it until it is gone. Patrons could call ahead to reserve their portion. When it is gone, it's gone, everyone wins. If it was up to me there would be a law on what you can call paella on menus, but I am the Paella Nazi. I have given up any hope that resturants will be smart enough to make a real paella. Costa Del Sol would make a real one at the Taste of Hartford, but they don't serve the real thing at their resturant. I have read in the Hartford Advocate that on any given paella is half their business, they could very easily serve the real thing.

                  I will be having a real paella next week, prepared by my Spanish mother. I can't wait.

                  1. re: JohnPorriello

                    I'm curious what your differentiation between a real paella and rice dish with stuff in it is, and how that precludes making it to order?

                    1. re: danieljdwyer

                      I could be wrong, but as Wikipedia says, a true paella has a depth of flavor and usually has a crispy, caramelized, toasted bottom, called socarrat, which gives it some of this depth. Having eaten paella in Spain and having made it a number of times, I would say it is not possible to do anything approximating authentic paella in under two hours. It's also fantastic reheated. What I have been served on several occasions is just a rice dish with some ingredients thrown in; nothing really complex or cooked a long time till the flavors melded.
                      My last lunch "paella", at Scoozzi, two months ago, was a pretty tasteless concoction, thrown together quickly, with a lot of chicken added at the last minute and absolutely no soccarat.

                      1. re: Scargod

                        The way that I learned to make paella in Valencia can be executed as a single serving (those small paella pans make it develop the crust pretty quick) in more like an hour, with a perfect crust - though I'll fully admit that I've never timed it and I drink wine while I cook Spanish food. If you drown the rice out with meat, seafood, and vegetables, which all release liquid into the rice, then you slow down the process substantially.
                        In restaurants in Valencia, the rice, and whatever is mixed into it, is usually cooked about 90% of the way before the start of service. When an order comes in - and I use the expression "order comes in" loosely, as often paella is the only option, so it's more, "once the party is seated" - the rice and mix ins are put into the pan with whatever it is that will top them, and additional cooking liquid if the toppings won't give up enough liquid, or if the toppings are to be cooked separately, or only added on at the last minute. This then goes in the oven to produce the crust. For a party of four, it can be ready about half an hour from the order being placed, with a perfect crust.
                        On the opposite end of the spectrum, when I was lucky enough to get a job at a Valencia day festival in a village on the lagoon, I was right next to the giant paella pan, and it took over five hours for that paella to be ready. Unfortunately, when cooked in that fashion, no crust develops on top, and, as the pan is so deep, most servings get none of the bottom crust. That's also the only paella I ate on the east coast of Spain that had the dozen ingredients you find in a usual paella in America - though the sausage used was the more Catalan style, which doesn't dominate the flavor so much as the chorizo styles you can find here.
                        I could be taking the wrong meaning from "complex" and "flavors melded", but I'd say that is sort of true. There should absolutely be a depth of flavor, but you should also be able to taste every ingredient individually, including the rice and the olive oil, which you rarely can here. If saffron is used, then you should be able to taste the full flavor of that. The flavor of saffron is destroyed by long cooking. Also, often in a shellfish paella, the shellfish can only be added at the last minute or they'll be way overcooked. The stuff on top also is often not eaten in one mouthful with the rice; sauces are very commonly served with the paella, aioli especially, to eat with the stuff on top. And, while the flavor should be complex, the dish itself should not be. It's peasant food; the Valencian equivalent of pizza.
                        So, if by "flavors meld" you mean that the rice should carry all the flavors, then I absolutely agree. But I would describe the typical paella here as having strongly melded flavors in that the dish has a dozen kinds of meat, fish, and vegatables, but the whole thing just tastes like chorizo (usually not especially good chorizo either).
                        I'm pretty sure Ibiza makes paella by the method I saw in restaurants in Valencia, and it does come out cooked perfectly, with a nice crust. Where they lose point in my book is that their approach is the Madrid conceptualization of paella - the three types of paella: de Valencia, de mariscos, y mixta. These are the meat lovers pizza, seafood lovers pizza (if that even exists), and pizza with the works of the paella world. I probably ate three dozen completely different kinds of paella in eastern Spain, and none of them resembled the only three varieties that seem to exist in America. I mean, hell, in Valencia you can even get paella made with noodles instead of rice - technically called fideuĂ , but, like any other single pan dish in Valencia it is casually referred to as paella.

                3. Four of us just had a very satisfying lunch today at Pacifico. While I have not tried it, I like virtually everything else they do and have eaten there on numerous occasions.

                  They have vegetarian and seafood paella. I think the seafood is $24 "for two".

                  I was not that impressed with the paella at Barcelona.