Taste: In Search of: Paella

Philly offers up three tasty takes on a Catalan import. Though the city has seen an explosion of delicious ethnic food over the past

Though the city has seen an explosion of delicious ethnic food over the past decade, good Spanish food — other than tapas — remains incredibly hard to come by. And paella, the traditional saffron-scented Spanish rice casserole, is no exception, with most versions featuring overly wet rice, cardboard-dry seafood, or way too much saffron. So we scoured the area and found a very homey traditional take, a haute lobster version, and a deconstructed approach.

The Mom-and-Pop
Taste of Portugal
At $20, the paella at this casual restaurant just off the Boulevard is priced for one but sized for two. The small pot in which it’s served is crammed with saffron-infused rice, lobster, shrimp, clams, scallops, squid, chicken and pork cubes, and Portuguese chorizo, a mild paprika-scented sausage.

The Extravagant
It isn’t all tapas at Old City’s Amada, but you’ll do best to order a few small plates to hold you over, since the $75 lobster paella, colored black by squid ink, can take 45 minutes to prepare. It’s served in a traditional wide, shallow paella pan, and the kitchen introduces the saffron flavor in an aioli coating crusty bread.

The Deconstructed
M Restaurant
At this Washington Square spot, chef David Katz grills squid bodies stuffed with saffron rice and crumbled chorizo and plates them with braised Cornish hen legs, steamed lobster, cherry tomato confit and parsley gelée, all drizzled with smoked paprika oil.