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Jan 14, 2013 10:33 AM

Paella in NYC?

I have only heard negative reviews that articulate how various establishments fail to rise to the occasion. I must have missed something. Where is the great paella?

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  1. Soccarat in Chelsea is not a bad place to start.

    1. We've been enjoying the Paella at El Charro Espanol @ 4 Charles Street for more than 20 years.

      1. I had DELICIOUS paella at tertulia

          1. I doubt there is enough demand for great paella in New York City. Most people in NY will tell you that paella is a rice and seafood dish, but true paella is actually rabbit and chicken (and rice and beans). And no chorizo.

            Great paella is highly dependent on a knowledge and use of particular rices and the particular beans of Valencia, and skilled cookery techniques, including the kind of pan used and whether or not is cooked outdoors using orange wood. It is actually rather hard to get great paella in Madrid, even -- and you're not necessarily guaranteed great paella in Barcelona either (and be careful what tourist trap you might walk into in Valencia!).

            In Catalonia, paella is often ordered by an entire table to serve a large family. The dish doesn't lend itself to one-unit cooking or NYC restaurant eating preferences for all diners ordering individually, with maximum variety, so they can all taste each other's food. Catalonian tapas flatters NYC ideas of exciting dining. Hard to pack 'em in serving paella.

            That doesn't mean you can't get tasty adaptations of paella dishes in restaurants in NYC and NJ, adjusted to meet American expectations, but don't be surprised if people who've been to Catalonia tell you they don't meet the test of a great paella.

            Every time you get an urge for a great paella, put $40 in a jar and have a salad instead. In not too much time, you can take the savings and go to Valencia...

            3 Replies
            1. re: barberinibee

              Wow barberinibee, that was great! Way more info than any comment I have read in months! Is there anywhere in the US that you have had the rabbit/chicken version with the proper rices?

              1. re: NYJewboy

                No. I wonder if there is any part of the US where one finds enclaves of immigrants from Catalonia. I can't think of any, but I don't know. Even so, I think you still might need to go to Valencia because it is likely that, as with other immigrant transplants, the food morphs into something only resembling the original, given the inability to obtain the homeland ingredients. I don't think that is "bad". Good cooks aim to make delicious dishes, and if they need to change the spices because the beans or chickens aren't the same, they do. But you do get further and further from the classic, which is often the product of literally centuries of trial and error.

                In the meantime, you might see if you can wrangle an invitation to Sunday lunch with this professor whom I just came across online while looking to find an authentic paella recipe for you. He's such an enthusiast, he just might appreciate your quest:


                But even if he doesn't invite you to Sunday lunch, if there is anywhere in the US serving great or even good paella, he probably knows where it is.

                1. re: barberinibee

                  PS: Apparently there was a cohesive Catalan-speaking community in NYC in the 19thc,, even though the preferred destination of the "new world" was Cuba or Puerto Rico. There was a local a Catalan restaurant on Liberty Street which served, according to a Catalan-language newspaper published in NYC at that time, “dishes in the style of our land, well cooked and presented, and there is always wine, sausages, canned fruit, olives and other Catalan products”.

                  Other hotspots of Catalan immigration were the Mississippi delta, and for some reason, Ilion, NY (worked for Remington?), as well as Savannah, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, and SF.


                  It does seem to me that many Puerto Ricans have names closer to Catalan names than classic Castellian Spanish names, so maybe there is a paella tradition that could be traced through there, or Cuban restaurants.