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Can Manel la Puda

Paella? “Eh.” My usual reaction. Paella? “Aargh!” The response from the Italian guy sitting near us. Talk about gusto. He maniacally downed his plate of rice in mere minutes, then pumped his fists low and close to the table while briefly shouting like a pirate. I couldn’t help but admire his enthusiasm. He’d spent practically the entire time between ordering and receiving food, explaining how great paella is to the other backpacked, beachy guy sitting across from him. I didn’t even need to understand Italian to figure out what he was talking about.

CanmanelValenica may rule when it comes to this famous dish, but we had to at least try paella once while in Spain. There are countless renditions, but the pervasive style in Barceloneta, the coastal strip of the city, is paella marinara with seafood. Touristy, overpriced restaurants dominate this area. Can Manel wasn’t expensive (€12/$15 per person for the paella), it might’ve been middling, but I wouldn’t have known any better. We were enjoying ourselves despite dining al fresco (something I hate in NYC). The cava and beers probably didn’t hurt our disposition either.

Normally, I’m not crazy about rice dishes that aren’t Asian (a weird bias, I know). I imagined that Barcelona, while not known for its paella, might still outshine anything I’d tasted in the U.S. and this did prove true. I was curious about squid inky arroz negro, which was also on many menus, but no one else seemed to be ordering it. I think 90% of the diners were brought seafood paella. The cooks must be bored to death.

Paella_1 You’re shown the finished paella in the cooking vessel and then it’s taken away and divvied onto individual plates. I did notice some tables kept the pan and were serving themselves like they’d feel cheated if they didn’t witness what was happening to every last grain. I’m not that high maintenance. People were also very fussy about where they were seated. I was just happy in Spain because they gladly offer four-seaters to couples, a practice not practiced here.

The rice was chewy in a good way and the additions were just enough, not excessive. Pieces of fish and squid were plentiful and one giant prawn, a mussel and one cute langoustine (I’d never seen one of these shrunken lobster creatures in the shell) were placed on the side. The overall consistency was moister and oilier than I’ve had in the past. Good oily, not greasy, which seems to be a Spanish hallmark.

Can Manel la Puda * Passeig de Joan de Borbón 60, Barcelona, Spain

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