Best Restaurants to Eat Paella in Valencia
In search of the best paella? Look no further because, in this article, we’ll help you discover what truly makes a Paella Valenciana and some of the best restaurants in Valencia.
Paella, Spain’s iconic dish. While many regions would love to take full credit for its creation, the real deal is only in Valencia. But even there, not all paellas are made the same, and trying to get the authentic one in a city full of rice restaurants is not an easy task.
As always, we’ve put together this guide and will point you to restaurants that serve up, in our opinion, the best paella in Valencia, steering clear of tourist traps and impostors.
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What is a Paella?
Paella is Spain’s culinary superstar and reigns at the highest of Mediterranean cuisine. The Valencian region, blessed with the perfect climate for rice cultivation, is its heart. It all dates back to the 10th century when the Moors brought rice to the Iberian Peninsula, and it quickly became a Spanish favorite.
In Valencia, celebrations, religious feasts, and family reunions brimmed with rice casseroles with fish and spices. However, its roots were rather humble, born from the creativity of farmers and laborers. They would simply add whatever was at hand, tomatoes, onions, rabbit, snails, beans, duck, and a medley of spices to craft tasty dishes.
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And a Paella Valenciana?
What is it that makes Valencian paella unique? It’s a mix of locally produced ingredients and rabbit or chicken. It does have its own rules though, it has to be either meat or seafood, not both, and traditionally, it’s rabbit. A few locals go so far as to claim that a seafood paella is just not Valenciana, and some even insist on using only region-specific water.
But they all agree that it starts with a powerful sauce called sofrito made with garlic, onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. And the cherry on top is saffron to give it the characteristic golden hue.
The Unwritten Rules of Paella Valenciana
The ten unmissable ingredients according to local chefs are:
- olive oil
- saffron (or food color)
- flat green beans
- lima beans
- chicken and rabbit (never fish or shellfish)
What are the Restaurants to Eat the Best Paella in Valencia?
Even in Valencia, don’t expect to find the best paella in every place. It requires expertise, effort, and a great deal of quality products, so it won’t come cheap either. But there are some priced options to eat like the locals do and skip tourist traps.
For starters, you should know that paella is eaten for lunch, not dinner. Also, it is meant to be shared with folks, sort of a gathering dish, which is why it is cooked in huge pans and rarely served in single portions. The most coveted part of the paella is the socarrat. This is a precisely a crispy, caramelized layer of rice that forms at the bottom of the pan due to direct heat.
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Beyond the city’s hustle and bustle, you can discover Restaurante Levante, a Valencian paella paradise reputable among locals. Since its very beginnings in 1968, it has been faithfully serving locals and overseas visitors.
Levante ventures off the beaten tourist path, attracting those searching for genuine delights. There, traditional Valencian-style paella takes center stage, featuring chicken, rabbit, and local beans. The meat is impeccably tender, and the bottom crust adds a crispy delight. To pair their delectable paella they offer a wide range of rich wines. In fact, the wine cellar has over 10,000 Spanish wine bottles. Even if you’re not a wine connoisseur, the service is helpful enough to suggest the ideal pairing.
For a weekend visit, reserving a day or two prior, especially for larger groups, is a smart move.
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Behold La Pepica, the ultimate paella experience in Valencia. Along Playa la Malvarrosa, it is the perfect place to admire the Mediterranean coast while savoring seafood paella, their specialty, with friends. With a history dating back to 1898, it has forged a reputation as a top destination.
It was even a cherished haunt of the famous writer Ernest Hemingway, who captured it in one of his literary works. Plus, La Pepica has a tribute to Queen Sofia, which is also a special treat for vegans, their unique vegetable paella. Yet, the crown jewel there is none other than Pepica’s Paella. Originally made for the painter Joaquin Sorolla, it has a bunch of peeled shrimp and aromatic spices.
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A gourmet escapade unlike anything else. Today, it is a local reference, and the chef is faithful to the legacy of his great-grandma.
For many, Casa Carmela is the reigning paella monarch of Valencia, a place that has been a true companion for beach lovers for a century. Their secret? Fresh, locally sourced ingredients cooked over an open wood fire. So, their paellas are meant to be shared, with the pan taking center stage. No wonder it is highly esteemed as one of the best restaurants in Valencia not only by locals but also by foreign travelers.
Their menu offers classic Valencian paella as well as wet or brothy rice options, known as “arroz meloso” and “arroz caldoso.” I’d only advise you to book in advance if you want a hassle-free visit. Be ready for a culinary journey full of tradition and taste, all in the heart of Valencia.
Wrapping Up on the Best Paella in Valencia
No doubt, Valencia holds the key to the authentic flavor of paellas. For over 1200 years, it has mastered this iconic dish, to the point of being an icon of the Mediterranean diet today. Therefore, indulging in paella while in Spain is a must-do and a highlight in Europe. Yet, within this paella paradise, not all creations match in quality. That’s precisely why we’ve curated a list of the best paella restaurants, ensuring you, dear traveler, savor the genuine flavors without any compromise.