When I was researching La Paella, a Spanish restaurant that's been around forever on San Vicente just south of 3rd Street, I was surprised that there was very little mention of it on Chowhound, especially since Spanish food has become the rage recently.
So, I wanted to give a review based on a meal eaten by my wife and two close friends, this past Saturday night:
My wife and our female friend made a meal out of tapas. They used very good, high quality stuff: Squid in garlic, olive oil and chile, mushrooms and chorizo in garlic, olive oil and chile, spinach in garlic, olive oil and pine nuts...You get the point. They were delicious and very authentic, but pretty much a single note. I would like to blame them for choosing dishes which were too similar, but most of their tapas was treated this way.
We should have added a serving of the tortilla, which looked and smelled wonderful and was getting orgasmic responses from the table nearby.
We all had a Caesar salad. It was one of the better Caesars to be had around LA, one using actual anchovies. Not a "real" one where the dressing is mixed at the table, but pretty darn good. (I don't even know of a real Caesar exists anywhere in the United States.)
My male friend and I shared the seafood paella. This was outstanding, perhaps the best I've had. The flavors combined perfectly, and the mussels, shrimp, lobster tail (from a midget baby lobster) and other ingredients were super fresh. This was the real deal. The rice was fully infused with the seafood broth and perfectly cooked, AND used the correct grain of rice, (similar to arborio).
I have had paella at other restaurants which were good but not nearly as authentic. Having spent considerable time in southern Spain I can attest to all of our dishes being the real deal.
The service was superb, friendly but courtly in a European manner. They were not actors waiting tables, they were waiters. We were seated at a table at the back of the front dining room and it was busy that night but not hard to hear (one of my pet peeves, and no I'm an old guy with bad ears), so you got the energy from a busy restaurant but not the noise or sense of being rushed. It was very cozy.
It's been around a long time and the decor and ambience are not "fresh." It does not look or feel like a hot new place which just opened with a star chef, because it isn't. It just feels exactly like a typical restaurant in Andalucia. A delightful evening all around.
The only complaint is that it is pricey for what you get. Each tapas come in around $8.00 and these are indeed "small plates." As good as the paella was, it was not a huge serving or crowded with seafood. The wine is way overpriced, with a bottle of run of the mill Chilean Chardonnay coming in at $25, etc. If the ambience and service were not as good as they are, I would rate the restaurant only three stars, on this basis.
All in all, it's a wonderful place and we will be going back.
476 S San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048