Monday, February 2, 2009

Spain: Don't Think There's Pain in Barcelona

My love for Spanish food stems from the family dinners we used to have at El Cid back home when I was younger. In fact, El Cid was the family’s favorite restaurant and it was the one “gweilo” restaurant that my grandma approved of. We liked it so much that we would put up with the obnoxious escalator plan at Festival Walk just so we could eat there. Yes, the fond memories of pan con tomate, chorizo, their salt-baked whole fish and of course…paella del mar.

But alas, all good things must come to an end. When El Cid closed down their Festival Walk branch, we were all devastated. I was deeply traumatized and haven’t had Spanish food again since, for fear that it would be brutally snatched away from me again. I didn’t want to be hurt again…so I blocked out Spanish food altogether.

Well, two nights ago, I decided to re-embrace Spanish food. My wound still hadn’t healed completely but something at the back of my mind kept telling me that it was time to be brave and eat Paella again. Be brave. So off we went, Sunny at the wheel, driving us all to faraway Glendale.

About forty minutes of Los Angeles traffic later, we finally arrived at the way-too-small parking lot in front of Spain. Another hole-in-the-wall place with a garish red interior and a mini “market” inside. Just the kind of setting that usually promises good food. There was a healthy crowd and we were quickly seated and menued. The Paella de Mar ($24.99 for two person order, extra $ for larger portion) was as good as ordered and we decided to order two tapas on top of that – the ensulada de atun/potato salad with tuna ($6.49) and the champignones al ajillo/mushrooms sautéed with garlic ($7.49).

We enjoyed both the tapas. The potato with tuna tasted like regular deli-style tuna salad but I was fine with that because a) after all, it IS salad with tuna…what else would I expect? And b) I love deli-style tuna salad. But I think I loved the breadbasket most :). Crunchy crust with a pillowy inside…I ate it by itself, I ate it with the tuna, I ate it.

But all came to a halt when the Paella arrived at the table. After all those years, here it was again in front of me – deep yellow and flecked with the treasures of the ocean. No joke, Spain was REALLY LIBERAL with the seafood – mussels, clams, prawns, scampi, crab legs, squid, fish…you get the idea. I put several spoonfuls onto my plate. Waited…and then took my first bite.

How stupid was I to have abstained from Spanish food for all these years? All that Paella-eating-time wasted. OHMYGAAAAWD it was sooooooo good. Every granule of rice has soaked up the rich flavor of the seafood broth and saffron. Literally, you don’t actually need to eat the seafood to taste the seafood! Add a squeeze of lime and it turns into something I will never ever tire of eating. The seafood was well-cooked…especially the white fish. The bite-sized chunks were so tender I could feed it to a newborn baby (but I won’t…I’d feed it to myself). We kept eating until we were stuffed…and even then we kept eating. And we STILL had leftovers. WTF?

(LOVE in rice form)

The total came to about $60 for 3 people with tips and tax. I didn’t know but they added an extra half order to our Paella so it was actually $37.99 instead of $24.99. I thought the tapas were probably a little expensive for the size and for what they were (I mean, almost $8.00 for a small bowl of mushrooms is a little much). But given how much of the paella we had left over, I reckon, the next time we come here (which we definitely will be doing), we can just order one tapa and a two-people portion of Paella and be set.Yes, we WERE stuffed, but we’re also gross pigs so we drove out to West Hollywood and had dessert at MILK. I couldn’t do the giant brownie sundae again (but mmmm…so good) so I had a slice of chocolate banana bread ($2.50). Awesome!

FOOD: 5/5


SPAIN ($$)
1866 Glendale Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90026

(323) 667-9045

MILK ($)

7290 Beverly Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90046

(323) 939-6455

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