The only restaurant that might lure me all the way down to El Palmar in the Albufera would be L’ESTABLIMENT, only to follow in the footsteps of the late Penelope Casas. But that would be a too costly cab ride for me–would only do it if I had a rental car and was on my way to parts south, like Denia (another gourmet Mecca).
“The approach along a barren stretch of road past the village of El Palmar, 12 miles from Valencia, is quite unattractive. But the friendly greeting and the delightful setting overlooking a reed-lined canal more than compensate. Red tile floors, a profusion of greenery and yellow tablecloths provide a setting as colorful as the food. A waiter quickly brought a thick alioli that would serve multiple purposes, from dunking bread to dipping seafood and adding zest to paellas.”
This was from a Choice Tables, NYTime article ages ago.
They serve the arroz meloso with carabineros.
Like Penelope, I found El Palmar fairly barren, not at all attractive, but YMMV. (I’m not attracted to delta type lands and I’m not an avid bird watcher)
From your replies as well as those of @Maribel it seems that paella and arroz is best at restaurants outside of Valencia proper. A friend who went a while back said the best paella he had was at Paco Gandia which is pretty far away from Valencia. I understand that has closed now. He also recommended other places in Alicante.
I am probably going to give Casa Carmela a try but they don’t seem to do the arroz meloso with carabinero. The reviews on of all sites - gasp, horror Tripadvisor - are only OK about the food. They seem to say they operate like an assembly line as they have so many customers. For traditional paella, would you recommend Goya Gallery over Casa Carmela?
I am deciding whether to make the trek out to Duna Saler as it is the only place I have seen that is “nearer” that does arroz meloso with carabinero. It isn’t as far as going out to Albufera and has a smack setting right on the beach. Alternatively, I can try Lavoe for other types of arroz meloso and have a more leisurely time in the old town.
I will be going to Llisa Negra and they apparently do a dish of just the soccarat which is my fave part. It’s probably too much to try the paella there as well as they have other dishes I want to try.
Paco Gandia was the best “arroz seco” (dry rice, don’t call it paella) we have had but it was far and is now closed. An arroz Meloso is more like a risotto and the best we have had is also even farther away in Alicante province. While I still think this style of rice is likely to be better in the Valencia region you can find good examples of this in other parts of Spain. In Valencia, i would do paella, which is hard to find done well outside the region.
For Valencia, I do prefer getting outside the city. For years we went to a place called “casa Carmina” but it also closed. I am fairly sure the chef moved to Arroceria Maribel in El Palmar. You can check the menu to see if they have melosos or just call them (a lot their specialty rices are on call ahead only). Also, there is a bus that goes there for just a few euros (45 min). From there us should be possible to rent a bike and explore the Albufuera and the coast on a pretty good bike path system (you can also bike the whole way from Valencia on a bike path if that is your thing).
Also an option outside the city by public transit is Ca’Pepico reachable by train in 15-20. Their traditional Valencian paella wasn’t quite as good as others we’ve had but their seafood dishes are excellent and everyone else had ordered a seafood rice. Super friendly and warm with customers.
We go straight to Central Bar to grab a seat before the mid-morning “esmorzaret” rush around 11 and never make it to other food stands. to eat. The last time at 11 we had locals breathing down our necks standing in back of us waiting to grab our seats.
The sandwiches here are excellent, especially the Canalla, which is morcilla, scrambled eggs and pickles. Or the Camarena, which is lomo, onion, mustard and cheese.
About the local tradition of. esmorzaret, which was featured in the series, “José Andrés & Family Go to Spain”, Valencia episode on Disney+. That episode is very entertaining.
Right now they should have clochinas (the cousin to the mussel) but clochinas are only found on the menu in the “months without an r”, May, June, July, August. I’ve never had them there.
The dishes that have impressed me have been: cod branade (branada de bacalao), the esgarrat, their tomato salad, baby beans sauteed with Iberian ham (habitas con jamón), grilled sardines and their postre valenciano de naranja, a type of orange flan. There are always specials, so inquire about the special fish dish of the day.
The Tourist Board hosted us here (a fam trip during Fallas) and the owner served the group the Menú Degustación 1836, but that’s now too much for me.
His wine list is superb.
I would try Lavoe if you decide to stay in town. It comes both Michelin & Repsol recommended.
Here are 2 reviews in Spanish:
We had the paella valenciana but our neighbors ordered the “arroz a banda”, served “en llanda”, in a metal rectangular insert on a large wooden platter, accompanied by a clay cazuela of “bullit de peix" (an ancient Ibiza dish) with 3 different types of fish boiled in water with a sofrito and spices. The broth is then set aside to make the arroz a banda. It looked interesting.
I can share with you 2 places where I would NOT eat paella
La Matandeta in El Palmar
La Riuà in the capital (well past its prime)
A bit more about our lunch at Llisa Negra
Our meal began with the complimentary amuse bouche of mosquitos de mar fritos, which look similar to baby crawfish with many long legs. One is instructed to eat them whole, and they’re quite tasty. Then the large coca, a divine olive oil bread, followed by the most unusual ensaladilla rusa we’ve ever tasted, caramelized and served like a crema catalana, which prompty filled us up. Next came the pulpo seco a la llama, the “Mediterranean ham”, octopus charred around the edges, served on a bed of honey and quite interesting. It’s a classic dish of the Levante region.
Then the rice, for which there´s a 40 minute wait. It´s cooked on an open flame over orange wood and vine shoots.
I will have one trad Paella Valenciana meal - I am now wondering whether I should have it at Llisa Negra or Casa Carmela. Then another arroz secco or meloso dish somewehere else.
I had originally planned to have it at Casa Carmela as I have dinner at Llisa Negra the same night and wanted to try many of their other dishes including the ensaladilla russa, olive oil bread you mentioned plus the soccarat starter.
However, a lot of comments have me thinking twice.