Tuesday, 14 February 2017

La Mi Venta: The Best Paella I've Ever Eaten

La Mi Venta
Plaza de la Marina Española 7, 
28013 Madrid, Spain

After our visit to Temple of Debod, which situates next to the Royal Palace of Madrid, we headed straight to the nearby La Mi Venta for the much anticipated paella.

I've checked out paellas in several restaurants in Singapore, let's not talk about it. Well, let's just say they're probably cooked by Singaporean. Those i tried in Sydney is decent, and authentic (as there's a sizable Spanish immigrant community in Sydney). The one i sampled in La Mi Venta in Madrid took the prize. As paella is Ada's fave dish, we also checked out other paellas in our whirlwind tour of Spanish major cities (from Barcelona to Seville), it turned out that the one that we ate here, our 1st paella stop and our 2nd day in Spain, stood the test to be the best of them all. After all, one shouldn't be surprise that the best paella could be found in the capital city of Spain, right?

 The Place 
The place is only a stone throw away from the Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid). I don't do much exercise (if not counting travelling), especially sport involving throwing. So you know that the restaurant isn't far away from the Royal Palace.

Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Is there a more romantic place for an after-dinner stroll than the Royal Palace of Madrid ?

Carousel, Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Is there a more magical place for a merry-go-round than the Palace ground ?

The photo below shows the restaurant's interior on the ground level. Hams (jamon) were hung from the ceiling and is a common sight in restaurant, bars, delis in Spain. As we were waiting around this counter below the hams, we were served a complimentary cup of soup. The waiter (possibly the owner) brought us the soup, pointed at the hanging ham and said  "Soup of ham." It's interesting and tasted like nothing i've sampled before.

As the hams are hung, they're cured better as humidity is reduced and excess fat drips out slowly and naturally. Chinese also customarily hang their various cured meats (especially cured ducks) for the same reasons. Note the bottom of each ham is a conical cup, which collects the dripping fat. Without it, you would think the restaurant has a leaky air-conditioner. Without it, your hair would be conditioned with the fat of ham (you may want to look like Fronzie from TV sitcom Happy Days. Aaaaaay!).

La Mi Venta restaurant, Madrid, Spain
The restaurant's reception area

The dining area is downstairs in the basement. In fact, it was a cellar for storing hams by hanging them on the ceiling just like what you see in the photo.

Dining area, La Mi Venta restaurant, Madrid, Spain
The arched ceiling above the dining area. Note the hooks for hanging the hams.

 The Food 
Receipt, La Mi Venta restaurant, Madrid, Spain
Pan = Bread,   Fuente Liviana = Sparkling mineral water,  Ensalada Verde = Green Salad,
Croquetas Caseras = Homemade Croquette,  Paella Mixta = Mixed Paella

We ordered a salad and some croquettes. They're not bad, but not too much to talk / blog about. But the paella should be the talk of the town.

Paella, La Mi Venta restaurant, Madrid, Spain

The ingredients are quite nice and fresh, but it's the rice that we found that are so fragrant and different from all paellas we have ever tried before. This has to do with the fact that the rice is cooked until a layer of burnt rice is formed on the bottom next to the pan. Chinese (especially Cantonese) love these burnt or charred rice (飯焦). It's a feature or an attraction in a Chinese claypot rice dish. I've never seen a paella done like the Chinese claypot rice, and wonder why. Wonder no more. There's at least one place that i finally came across does paella this way.

Paella, La Mi Venta restaurant, Madrid, Spain
The black bits are the yummy charred rice that we scraped from the bottom

Some diners may not like the bitterness of the charred rice. I find bitterness - in life or in dinner - quite enjoyable. The waiter especially pointed out how tasty the charred rice were. He was preaching to the choir. This maybe unfamiliar to most diners, i enjoyed charred rice since i was an ankle-biter (not old enough to join the choir, though).

He also tried to explain at great pain that some people don't like charred rice for health reasons because it's carcinogenic (cancer causing). Unless you eat it everyday, i doubt the occasional meals could cause much harm. It's like people worry about the carcinogenic effect of 2nd hand smoking when they're exposing to it a dozen times a year. Well, i certainly eat less than a dozen charred rice dishes a year.

Of course, if you're a worrywart or don't like bitterness, just don't eat the charred rice in the bottom. Simply eat the un-burnt rice up the top. You need to scrape the bottom to get to the burnt rice. Actually the charred rice in this paella is far less than those in a typical Chinese claypot rice dish, which is usually a layer with 2 or 3 rice grains' thick. I always scrape those charred rice spotlessly clean, giving the dishwasher a helping hand. The kitchen should tip me.

While the charred rice is a delicacy in itself for me, but it's the fragrance and fluffy texture that it brought to the rice when the rice is cooked to this degree of a charred bottom. I find typical rice in paella is typically a little soggy due to under cook to avoid the the burning of the rice, perhaps. Surely nobody knows how to cook rice better than the Chinese (just as nobody knows how to cook paella better than the Spanish)? La Mi Venta comes close.

Another explanation is that in order to get the rice burnt, it will take a longer while. In this case, we were warned before hand that it was a 45 mins wait. Good things come to those who wait. And it was worth the wait.

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