Our first proper dining experience in Valencia: dinner at El Rall (“Especialitat en Arossos” or “Specialists in Rice Dishes”), located on a small plaza behind La Lonja, with the outdoor dining patio that most Valencian places seem to have (an ongoing mystery that I will have to return to Valencia to answer: what do they do when it’s cold or rainy? 90% of Valencia’s restaurant seating appears to be on outdoor plazas and patios), completely taking over a small plaza between four buildings.
El Rall is a good example of one of the things that makes this part of Spain rather cool: a restaurant that specializes in rice dishes. Valencia is known for it’s many rice dishes, the foremost being Paella, which was actually invented here (Valencia is located at the edge of a giant marshy area called Albufera, which to this day has many rice paddies, although a substantial fraction of Spain’s rice is actually imported now).
Seeing that I’m at a place specializing in rice, we decided to order, well, rice. El Rall is, in particular, known as a place for Paella, especially the most-prized local variety, Valencian paella. Valencian paella consists of white rice, green vegetables, meat (usually pollo and canejo, the latter of which (rabbit) actually sent me looking for the phrasebook), beans and seasoning. Snails aren’t uncommon, either. So we ordered up a large order of Paella Valencian (restaurants that serve up Paella for less than two people at a time are rare, so the single tourist needs to beware!), and settled back in for dinner.
However, we didn’t start with the Paella, we started off with appetizers, picking probably one of the most Valencian items on the menu: Morcillas de Burgos con muselina de ajo confitado y jamon. Very hard to describe, it’s basically the local black pudding (blood pudding with rice and barley) served up with a nice garlic mousseline and some Iberian ham. The result is a nice tapas-style little morsel that can be handled a bit like a finger sandwich, but popped into your mouth rather easily. I really liked these: the morcillas were very tasty, combining the nice flavor of the blood sausage with some rice for a nice texture, and the ham and mousseline atop atop the sausage added some nice savory notes to the item. I really liked this appetizer, and was kind of disappointed that I didn’t order it again this trip (I did get a lot of Morcillas, but not prepared like this).
Then it was time for the paella to arrive. Being delivered with a flourish by the waiter, the paella Valencian was quite pleasant. Primarily being a dish of rice (in this case Spanish “bomba” rice), it was very nicely cooked, with just enough tooth to it to be reminiscent of a good risotto (there, now I’ve done it… I’ll be pursued by angry Spaniards for comparing Spanish food to Italian…), but soft enough to start to char to the bottom of the pan in the way a good paella is supposed to (part of the joy of eating paella is scraping the pan). Also in the mix was a healthy mix of both chicken and rabbit, both nicely tender, and three different forms of beans (haricot, some sort of long flat bean, and fava beans), making for a pleasant dish.
The first of many paellas I experienced in Valencia, this was one of the most pleasant, and I got to enjoy it in an enjoyable outdoor terrace with perfect weather and friendly (albeit non-English speaking) waitstaff.
Calle Tundidores, 2