Sailing to Canton
Back a few weeks later with a different group of friends, we focused on the paella. It can take up to an hour to prepare, so you might want to call ahead and let the kitchen know you plan to order it. We did, and it still took forty-five minutes (which was fine - I hate to rush). After a round of wine and tapas, the waitress brought out the Valencian-style paella in its classic shallow, flat pan. It was beautiful: the saffron-yellow rice, the bright green peas, the red strips of pimiento, and the shiny black mussels and matte white clams arrayed around its perimeter. Yet, once we tucked in, it only partially lived up to its good looks. The stubby short-grained rice was delicious, toothsome and full of the myriad of flavors absorbed from the seafood and chicken. But not all the shellfish was up to par - the shrimp and squid were flavorful, but the bay scallops were overcooked and the mussels gritty and off-tasting.
Some of the menu is given over to Mexican food, perhaps as a sop to people who equate Spanish with Mexican. The only time we ventured south of the border was for dessert, splitting a slice of tres leches cake, a sponge-cake base under a half-inch deep layer of whipped cream. The tres leches in the name - condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream - gave it a moist, dense texture and, despite its elaborate appearance with curlicues of whipped cream and swirls of raspberry syrup, it was not overly sugary.