One of my girlfriends had arranged this get-together to La Espanola months ago. She was craving paella and La Espanola apparently had the right stuff.
I’d heard of this place for years now but naturally have never had the chance to visit for one reason or another — yeah yeah I know! The paella is tipped to be the best in southern California but they only serve it on Saturdays and you have to pre-order at least a day before.
La Espanola is not a restaurant, nor is it even a take-out place. It is a market, one which sells cheeses, wine, cured imported meats, olive oil, and other groceries straight from Spain. Regularly, they offer bocadillos (Spanish sandwiches) and plates of tapas consisting of cheese and meats, but that’s it. You are welcome to buy a bottle of wine, sit outside under the make-shift al fresco dining area to enjoy your purchases.
On Saturdays, everything changes. People flock from near and far to eat Paella Valenciana, where the owner’s family hails from. The hospitable owner Alex is around both inside the store and outside to check on his customers and will stop by for a chat from time to time. We found out that the paella recipe is his mom’s and she is the one who taught the staff to make it.
Paella is $9/person and is served in a styrofoam box. The saffron-hued Bomba rice is distinctive golden and you will find sausage, chorizo, calamari, chicken, shrimp, mussel, peas, red peppers throughout. The rice is perfect with a touch of toothiness but not crunchy. The flavor? Absolutely delicious!
The six of us also ordered two plates of the meat and cheese tapas for four persons ($7.99), there is a two-person option for $3 less. Depending on who prepares it, the plate will look different, but who cares? The salamis are insanely good especially with a bottle of rioja which we purchased from them.
If you don’t drink, then get a bottle of Vichy Catalan from the fridge. This sparkling water tastes different to the usual Aqua Panna or Perrier and is not only refreshing but great to wash the food down with.
At the end of the day, make sure you call ahead and order your paella. You don’t want to get there and then decide you want some because they don’t always make more (sometimes they do and I was lucky enough to bring two portions home) and then you’re left with nothing. You WILL regret it!
La Espanola Meats
25020 Doble Avenue
Harbor City, CA 90710