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Jan 4, 2011 11:10 AM

Paella (Valencia & Madrid)

We are planning to take a side trip from Madrid to Valencia this March in order to take advantage of the new (fast!) AVE service and seek an excellent paella experience during this trip. We will most likely be in Valencia mid-week (Tues - Thurs). We are not at all opposed to renting a car for the day to make a visit (i.e., El Palmar, El Saler).

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    Paella Valencia - Chicken, Rabbit, Conches (snail in shell), Vegetables, Board beans served on saffron rice in steel cooking pan brought to table. Wooden serving spoons.
    Starter: Ensalda Valencia - romaine, chunked tuna, green tomatoes, green olives, smaller green pepper olives, radish, hot pickled peppers, hard bolied eggs, white onion.
    Locals made up most of diners. Make reservations.

    1. You can’t do Valencia without sampling it. We headed for the port area, to the aptly named Passeig Neptun, a sort of Paella Mile, which backs onto the town’s Malvarrosa beach. It’s bristling with tourist traps laid for the unwary but I had it on good authority that L’Estimat was the place to go: loads of local colour, huge, noisy Spanish family parties and decent food.
      At its gloriously Baroque best, made with round-grain Bomba rice from Valencia’s Albufera lagoon, based on an intensely jammy sofregit of onions and tomatoes, selectively studded with shellfish, snails, rabbit, chicken or sausage and perfumed with saffron, paella valenciana is a triumph. L’Estimat’s, based on shellfish (marisco pelado), was a bit of disaster. Part of the deal with proper paella is that it comes to the table with a flourish in its enormous, eponymous pan for the assembled company to feast on in unison. Ours was produced furtively, then whisked away again to reappear dished up unapologetically on plates. And cold. We sent it back but its moment had passed, enthusiasm for paella was cooling visibly and the members of the party who were feasting on merluza (hake) a la plancha with some gorgeous hunky fries - fish and chips by any other name - were looking understandably smug. Maybe your experience will be better - would love to hear!

      1. I'm also planning to head to Valencia this winter, principally to sample the rices and other local fare. We will be staying in the center city, but from my preliminary reading, it looks like it is necessary to travel to El Palmar or further into the Albufuera for the best paella/arroces.

        (Crossed ElEstimat off my paella list based on Sue's comments...)

        Can I have your thoughts on La Matendeta and L'Establiment? Is it at all possible to get to these two places by bus and if not, what is an approximate taxi fare? Any other recommendation for MesaChow and myself?

        1. I wanted to update this thread with another recommendation I received. I was on Twitter the other night and saw that Chef Jose Andres was tweeting. So I sent him a tweet asking for his recommendation for the best paella in Valencia. He responded immediately with Restaurante Levante. I'd run across this name before, so already had the website bookmarked. Their original location is out of the city in Benisano, and they just opened another location in Valencia (near Turia metro). I then emailed a well known blogger (who is very familiar with the food scene in Spain) with the same question and he agreed with Levante. He suggested that we should try to original location if at all possible. So, a little more research and I discovered that Benisano is actually at the end of the yellow metro line, Lliria. It appears they are known for their traditional Paella Valencia that mrdtp described earlier.

          We have 3 days in Valencia, so I look forward to trying out several of the spots mentioned here. I'll be sure to report back when we return.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MesaChow

            This looks like a good tip. I always liked Jose Andres! Further investigation reveals that Benisano is about 2.2 km from Lliria Metro. There is a bus: 145a. No idea how often it runs, though. Perhaps there are taxis, too.



            Looks like we have quite a few possiblities now..

          2. We visited Valencia earlier this year. I thoroughly reviewed this board to try to find THE place for paella. Went so far as to tweet Jose Andres and ask a friend to contact a friend in Alicante. The friend in Alicante said "oh, just go anywhere, all the paella is good in Valencia". Jose Andres tweeted back with the answer of Restaurante Levante. We ended up with 3 paellas in 3 days. All were delicious, but none stood out head and shoulders above the rest. We stayed in the city and did not venture out to la Albufera or Benisano (original Levante location) as we had originally intended.

            Casa Roberto – An old-school place full of local groups (mostly men, one couple) for dinner. When we made our reservations, they asked what paella we wanted, which surprised me a bit for our 9pm reservation. We requested paella de mariscos as our first authentic paella. It was delicious. Beautiful head-on shrimp. Lots of seafood and shellfish. The service was warm and they sent us off with a “Casa Roberto” logo souvenir wood paella spoon with their name on it.

            Restaurante Levante (Valencia) - The new outpost of the original Levante location in Benisano. Large, modern space with very knowledgeable, friendly service. We requested the traditional paella Valenciana and it did not disappoint. The chicken & rabbit were incredibly flavorful and the whole dish was delicious. Ok, maybe it did disappoint just a tiny bit; when the waitress brought the pan to our table she made mention to be sure to get the “socarradito”, but sadly there was none. Despite that, it was still an excellent dish. The croquettas were wonderful as well, I particularly enjoyed the tuna. I don't know if they cook the paella over wood as the original location does, but given how good the chicken & rabbit were, I wouldn't be surprised. There is also a small retail wine shop in the restaurant. We asked for a nice local wine to accompany the classic paella, and thoroughly enjoyed the recommended bottle of Rafael Cambra “Uno”. After the meal, they provided a taste of a delightful local Alicante dessert wine that made an excellent gift for my friend who had lived in Alicante. Since we’ve been home, I’ve seen the original Levante (in Benisano) featured on the show “From Spain With Love”, where they mentioned that they offer paella cooking classes occasionally.

            La Pepica – Anchors one end of “Paella Mile” (Paseo Neptuno) on the beach with a very large airy dining room decorated with vintage photos on the back wall. I did not go into this with high hopes (we really only ended up there because it was raining which put a damper on our exploration of the downtown area), but was very pleasantly surprised that the paella a Banda was really excellent. As a bonus, we finally got some socarrat in a pan, a ring of that crunchy goodness all around the edge of the pan and a little in the center. They also have an open kitchen so we were able to really appreciate the high heat that is needed to cook paella properly. Once again, the friendly servers sent us home with souvenirs – a postcard with a vintage photo, a logoed salt shaker and a couple of their wooden paella spoons.

            In my original post I indicated that we were considering renting a car. However, rates were coming in around 100 euro for the day, so we scrapped that idea. When we travel, I always chat with the taxi drivers. Our taxi driver to La Pepica pointed out another place a couple of doors down that was his favorite. He also explained that the taxi drivers in Valencia are like independent contractors so if you wanted to go out to La Albufera you would just talk to a taxi driver to establish a price and they will take you to the restaurant of your choice, wait for you (enjoying paella of their own at his/her favorite place, I’m told), then bring you back to the city. I failed to ask for an example of what that might cost and wish that I had.

            10 Replies
            1. re: MesaChow

              Hi Mesachow,

              We just got back last month from 3 weeks in Madrid, San Se and Barcelona and I'm already working on a 3rd visit next year!

              I enjoyed most segments of From Spain With Love. Planning to visit Monastrell in Alicante, Ca Sento and Restaurante Levante (both in Valencia). From Rte Levante's website, it appears that there's a place in town at this address:

              Avd. Maestro Rodrigo, esquina Avda. Manuel de Falla (junto al río).
              Teléfono: 96 065 11 52

              Is this what you mean by 'the new outpost' ?

              1. re: Aleta

                Yes, that's Levante's new location in Valencia. I think it opened in February, and we visited in March. If we would have been in the area longer and had our own car, I would have made the trek out to Benisano to visit the original ( especially after seeing that episode of From Spain!).

                Last year we visited Barcelona, San Se and La Rioja, this year Madrid & Valencia. I'd love to visit Galicia & Portugal next year...we 'll see. Alicante is a nice beach town. Happy planning!

                1. re: MesaChow

                  Thanks, MesaChow.

                  From Erica's link to a Google map above, I've been able to figure out how to get to Benisano and back by public transport. The 145 bus runs hourly and takes about 45 minutes. The restaurant is only a few minutes away from the bus stop. After dinner, it'll be too late for the bus but I'm sure the restaurant can call a taxi for a 2km ride to the metro station.

                  Exact details about the bus, the bus stop and its departure time are in the link here:

                  I'll probably be lazy and just go to the Valencia location but the info above is for more hardcore paella fans! Too bad rental cars are so expensive in Valencia! I priced one the other day for a daytrip to the hot springs and was very surprised at the 100 euro figure too. That's MUCH more than Barcelona or San Sebastian. At that rate, it might be cheaper to hire a taxi driver to take us to Benisano!

                  1. re: Aleta

                    I was also coming up with a daily rental car figure exceeding 100 euros. We mainly opted for the Valencia location so that we could visit the aquarium early in the day and still have time for a leisurely lunch (without the stress of the extra travel). I also hope that this information is helpful to that next intrepid traveler who does venture out.

                    1. re: MesaChow


                      One more question for planning purposes, please. Do you know if the Levante in Benisano is open for lunch or dinner? Many thanks.

                      1. re: Aleta

                        is it ever open?? we were close by so we went there monday and tuesday both times were closed. ended up going to casa roberto and la pepica. I have some pics on my blog

                        1. re: 0piston


                          I don't know about Monday but on the Restaurante Levante website, there is a notice about Tuesdays. Sunday should be a busy day for a paella restaurant; I wouldn't be surprised if they had their rest days on Mon and Tues.
                          <Los martes este local permanece cerrado>>

                          1. re: Aleta

                            I couldn't find the hours of operation on Levante's website either (except for the note about Tuesday). We visited the Valencia location on a Wednesday at 2:30, so at the least, they are open during the day.

                            1. re: MesaChow


                              Thanks again. That's useful to know.

              2. re: MesaChow

                yay! So happy to find this thread! Thank you for testing all three "big name" paella places! I kind of want them all :) Muchas gracias.