I know everyone has been anxiously sitting at their computers staring at my website with their hand on the refresh button clicking to see if I have have done another review of one of my great culinary finds….
Well, click no further. Your prayers have been answered.
It was such a difficult decision for me to choose my next spot since it would be so hard to top the pure greatness that Shabu Hachi provided in my first review. It took some great contemplation from the comments left and disscusions with some of my closer dining confidants to come up with the place I choose next. One thing I hope the readers of my site will take from it is that I do not discriminate in my food selections. It is based on what my palate is craving from past experiences or what I am so eager to try for the first time.
I was sitting on the plane (row 27, seat d - in case you wanted to know) during one of our recent road trips, and was watching one of my favorite TV shows “No Reservations” with Anthony Bourdain. It is a food based show where Anthony travels around the world experiencing different cultures and trying the true indigenous cuisine. Through this show, my adventorous appetite has taken off.
This episode was about the many different tastes of Spain, which caught my attention for the lack of me actually knowing what Spanish food really was or tasted like. The search was on.
La Paella, let it sink in a minute….no, it is not a Mexican food restaurant. It is, what I have been told by one of my so-called dining confidants who happenened to live in Spain for six years, the closest thing to authentic Spanish food in LA. Well, I said, if that’s the case, I will not have to go to Spain now to try those mouth-watering dishes I saw while watching the episode of No Reservations.
No pressure Kenji!
So I set a date to go try this place recently after one of our games. Of course, I had a few people accompany me to share in the conquistador’s delights. We arrived at the restaurant, which is located at the intersection of La Cienega and San Vincente. I know, I know. Don’t worry. I didn’t go all Beverly Hills on you. It still sits on the Hollywood side of the road, which, if you weren’t aware of, Hollywood does have some of the best hole-in-the-wall quick-bite places per square mile (not an actual fact) that I have come to find. But that is another review.
Back to Spain.
The restaurant sits in an old converted bungalow house between a couple of other business and from the outside, it resembles nothing like I would have though a Spanish restaurant would look like. Then again, I don’t have any idea what that would be. So, we walked up a few stairs and entered the restaurant and we were greeted instantly by the hoste, who asked if we had a reservation. We did, so he looked us up and went off to prepare our table.
As we stood there for a minute it gave us a chance to look around the place.
There was soft Spanish music playing in the background. The interior walls of the place were all white, adorned with Spanish pictures and paintings and shelves with little nick nacks that represent Spanish lifestyle.
The host rushed back and quickly sat us. We were put in the front of the dining area in a nice quiet corner. This is one of those rare cases in which I was at a restaurant with a group of people and was not familar with anything on the menu, so needless to say, I felt a little out of my element when it came to deciding what to eat.
We sat for a moment and looked over the menu. Each of the items on it were in Spanish which, if you don’t speak Spanish, might cause a problem. But, they also had each dish in English right below the entree. Well, in this case I delegated the ordering to the person who claims to have lived in spain and is familar with Spanish fare.
We sat for a few moments looking over the tapas menus (some of you might already be familiar with Spanish food so you know what that is…if not, keep reading). Kenji made some recommendations and we agreed anxiously, just due to the fact that we were starving and needed some type of nourishment. And of course, we let Kenji order a couple of his favorites that might be a little more intimidating to someone unfamilar with the menu.
After we ordered our tapas selections, me and Kenji got into a very in-depth discusion of his time spent in Spain and the reasons that he went and stayed so long, since he is an LA native. It also provided a great learning experience for me to get to know a little bit of the history of Spain and where some of the dishes might have gotten their influences from. Ten minutes might have gone by and our tapas began to arrive at the table.
Tapas are similar to appetizer portions but many of them can be ordered to be eaten as a meal. Having a few amigos accompany me gave us the chance to try many of them.
First was ChampiŮones con chorizo (let me get out my Spanish/English dictionary to translate). It is mushrooms with Spanish red sausage. This was a great mix of sausage and mushrooms (a vegetable I can tolerate). The mushrooms soaked up the flavor nicely but unfortunately, the grease too. That would be my only complaint about this dish — that the sausage resembled Mexican chorizo without the spice but with the same grease.
I moved onto the Croquetas de pollo, what can simply be described as ground chicken deep fried in a corn meal. Nothing too special to say about this than other than that they do the job and stopped the hunger pains.
The Patatas Bravas might be the only dish that resembles Mexican food and that is because of the red spicy sauce smotheing the boiled potatoes. The little kick was a nice change from all the rest of the dishes, mainly because of my love for spicy food.
This next one is somewhat of a typical appetizer dish (except that its octopus and not fried, which, on a side note, what’s really the difference between the two? Same taste and chewieness). Pulpo a la Gallega. The octopus was boiled and topped with olive oil.
Well, I did say we let Kenji order for us and he wasn’t afraid to sneak this next one in, since he said it is one of his favorites. Boquerones en Vinagare. There is no disguising this one — it is sardines raised in vinegar from tadpoles to fish. I don’t know about the raised part, but if you like vinegar and that unique sardine flavor…enjoy!
All of you familiar with Spanish food might have caught on to the name of the restaurant, La Paella, which is a famous Spanish dish. It is truly the reason we came to this place…not for the tapas that everyone raves about. I personally didn’t see the big deal about them. I am going to start a new wave and from now on, start calling them tapatizers.
I didn’t mention before that we ordered this paella dish because I wanted some of you to be suprised that Spanish food is more than this tapatizer stuff! Paella Valenciana was the one that Kenji ordered. It is a dish based on rice and the seasoning of saffron and combines a little surf and turf for the substance. For the turf, it was chicken drumsticks that were boiled then sauteed with the rice and seasonings. For the surf, it was steamed muscles and clams with shrimp done up the same way as the chicken. Mmmm….
The paella was great! It tasted as great as it smelled, which in many cases can be deceiving for food. (I hate when food smell good but lacks the flavor to go with it – a one-punch fighter!) But in this case it delivered.
For my Spanish experience, it was worth the visit and trip to the restaurant. It is definitely a place and cuisine I’m glad that I have tried, even though paella looks kind of like a done-up hamburger helper meal! For this place, if you have not tried a complete Spanish meal then come here to do so. But if you have, you know what it’s about and even though Kenji won’t agree, it’s a one time visit for me.
P.S. The photos of all the tapas and paella are on my camera back in Arizona so I’m hoping to add them in the next couple of days.
UPDATE: PHOTOS ARE OBVIOUSLY NOW ADDED