Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Barcelona Eats: Can Ros

After a few nights of nouveau Spanish cuisine, we were hurtin' for a paella. We asked a few locals where one can get a good paella in Barcelona, and the inevitable answer was always "go to Valencia." That just plain wasn't helpful, Spaniards.

Now that we live in The Age of All Info All The Time, a quick search landed us at Paella Professor. If you've got a whole blog devoted to one dish, I figure you gots to be a pro. Dr. Paella assured us Interpeeps that good paella does indeed exist in Barcelona, and mostly in Barceloneta. It's no coincidence, then, that this was the second most popular answer when we asked other locals.

Barceloneta is basically the port and beach part of Barcelona. The port side is a hop, skip and jump from Born, and features a big mall, a museum, and, uh, boats. The beach side has a W hotel under construction that looks like it could easily have been in Dubai, clubs that line one end of the beach, and the Gehry fish.

The contemporary architect that gets bagged on most seems to be Gehry. Fair enough, but he's payin' the bills, which is more than most people can say. Dude took this fish to Tiffany's and has enough cash to buy the Elephant Man's bones from the Estate, so there ya go, haters. This fish is in the middle of an odd mini-mall complex that has mostly nice nightclubs/lounges as tenants.

As you'd expect, then, the whole area features high with seafood joints, and that inevitably means paella. The one tricky thing about finding a good paella in Barcelona is every single place has one, mostly to draw in the tourists. There's a lot of crappy paellas: it's common to find a paella with exactly two shrimp, two mussels, two clams, two blah blah get the idea. It takes the soul out of it, and a good paella is a pretty soulful thing. Can Ros was recommended on a few different lists (including Paella Prof). It's located on a quiet side street that takes you from the port side to the beach side, and it feels more like being in a small beach town than in a bustling world city.

We got to Can Ros at 8pm or so, as we didn't want to miss the sunset on the beach, and we were still one of the first tables in. The place is old school traditional, and you get the sense that they've got their act down and don't mess around much.

With a paella on the way, we didn't order too much else. But, in keeping with habit, we ordered the tomato bread. It wasn't much to rave about, and the picture shows it all: two slices of good bread, two tomatoes, and a jar of mayoaioli. I really just wanted to show this so that you get a sense of how amazing the Inopia and Bubo versions are.

I also had to get the razor clams, cause I just can't get enough of them. I've never had razor clams this fat and meaty, and that's not even an inappropriate pun. Apparently a lesser family of razor clams are avail in the Pacific NW, but I've never seen them in Vancouver. People, we have to get on this.

To forewarn you, the picture of the paella doesn't seem like much. What we didn't realize was: (i) Can Ros does table-side paella service, meaning that they bring out the gorgeous paella pan to show off, and then serve it for you, and (ii) yours truly is too slow to take a picture once he's got a day of sun and a glass of wine (or two) in him.

What I can say about the paella is that it indeed was THE BEST PAELLA I HAVE EVER HAD. I've tried to make paella at home, thought I did an okay job, but I'm going to toss our pan out now. The rice was perfect: flavorful, with just the right amount of saltiness and acidity, soft but still slightly chewy. The rice's importance in a paella cannot be overstated: fuck it up and you've ruined the whole thing. Make it amazing, and you serve it in the heaping portions you see here.

This was the "Fisherman's Paella", and chock full of seafood. When I had first asked our server as to its contents, he had explained that it only had fish, but we soon realized that "fish" included "shellfish." This paella had everything, including giant crayfish, which isn't a usual thing. The key part of it, though, was that the seafood wasn't overcooked, which tends to be a common problem with run-of-the-mill paellas.

Can Ros has a lot of other seafood features on the menu, many of them non-paella. If I were that Japanese hot dog eating champ, I would've ordered the whole frigging menu. Instead, I had to take a picture of what the table across from us ordered, which was a seafood feast. I took this picture after they had already taken a few items to their plate: when it originally came out, it was probably closer to a 7 inch high seafood bounty of everything one can find underwater. Another table ordered a fish baked in sea salt. It might take an unhealthy amount of gluttony and envy to be eating the best paella ever and still crave every other dish around you in the whole restaurant, but I defy you to not feel the same way. It ain't weakness, it's instinct. After Can Ros, I can only imagine how amazing Valencia must be - now that we're home, I'm trying my damnedest not to think about it.

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