LaLoLa – San Francisco

LaLoLa Roasted Peppers and Crab

LaLoLa
1358 Mason St
(between John St & Pacific Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94133

Rated: ♣

Ever since we came back from Europe, K and I have been craving Spanish tapas. After a quick search on Yelp, we came across LaLoLa in Chinatown. I called ahead. No wait? Okay, let’s go. When I first walked into the restaurant, I was smacked in the face with a strange smell. It was pungent and sour. If I wasn’t so hungry, I would’ve turned around and walked away.

I ordered a ton of food – crab stuffed piquillos, patatas bravas, fries topped with Iberian ham and a fried egg, mushrooms with garlic and white wine, and fried calamari. To be honest, nothing really stood out. The flavors were muted. The first red flag was the stale complimentary bread. Seriously? What Spanish restaurant serves bad bread?? I order patatas bravas anytime I see it on the menu and I was so disappointed after my first bite. The potatoes were dry and they were topped with way too much mayo. It’s safe to say I won’t be coming back here again.

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El Patio Español – San Francisco

El Patio Espanol Seafood PaellaEl Patio Español
2850 Alemany Blvd
(between Farragut Ave & Whipple Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94112

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

My bday was last weekend! So since I’m super crazy, I had a dinner with my friends at a Spanish cultural center. Haha! Well, we ate at the restaurant in the Spanish cultural center. The original plan was to eat at Michael Mina with 18 of my friends, but it was way too pricey for some people. Totally understandable. So, our back up plan was to eat at El Patio Español. I’ve been a few times before with my parents, and although it’s a little off the beaten path, they serve excellent food, especially the paella.

The scene:

El Patio Español is situated in a very residential part of town next to a Pacific Super with the BART train passing directly above. If you drove by, you would never know there was a restaurant in side. The plus side about the location is that you’ll always find parking in the huge lot out front. This restaurant is great for parties. Always pretty empty since no one really knows it’s a restaurant. The restaurant was probably half full and we took up a good quarter of it.

Almost every time I’ve been here, there was a wedding in their large ballroom. When eating in the restaurant next to the ballroom, you can enjoy the music from the dance floor. That night, it was hip hop.

Despite the amazing food, the service is satisfactory. You don’t really get what the main waiter says and the sous servers often take plates when you’re not finished.

The food:

Did I mention the food was amazing? My typical order here involves a few tapas an an order of paella. With the paella, you get a choice of soup or salad. Go with the soups, specifically the garlic soup. YUM!

Sangria – I didn’t have my own glass, but I tried a sip of my friends. I was surprised that it tasted nothing like wine. It was more like a really sweet and citrus-y grape juice. Friends said that ones they’ve tried before were bitter, and that this was probably one of the best they’ve had.

Serrano Ham w/Pineapple – I looooove Serrano ham. Especially when fruit is involved. I just love the saltiness and nuttiness of the cured meat. I’m going to Spain in October, and I’m planning on eating this every day.

Mussels and Clams in a White Wine Sauce – This was cooked perfectly. The wine was subtle enough in which I could taste the wine, but it didn’t overpower the flavor of the seafood. Clams were super tender and I didn’t catch any sand in the ones I ate.

Balsamic Portabello Mushrooms – By far the best tapas of the night. It has a strong balsamic taste because of the reduction. It stings the nose and eyes a bit, but once you put it in your mouth, the sweet juiciness of the mushrooms explode.

Seafood Paella – I was a little bummed the waiter plated out the paella for us. I was looking forward to getting a picture of the paella in the pan. But anyway, the paella is awesome. It’s got a great balance of spices. Not too salty, not to fishy. They’re generous with the saffron and seafood. There were clams, mussels, fish, squid and scallops. Everything was good except for the scallops. The scallops were pretty pungent as if they were old.

Chicken and Chorizo Paella – I only got to try a bit of this. Chicken was tender and the sausage was firm and hearty. I’d probably go with this one next time.

All-in-all, I was very pleased with El Patio Español. It’s easy, great for parties, and food is good.

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Sam’s Kitchen – Paella in a Pot

Paella Served

I’m not usually a fan of leftovers, but when I made this version of paella, I was seriously looking forward to go home after work and eat it. You will too! It’s so simple once you have all of the ingredients and it doesn’t require a specialty paella pan.

I initially started off using this recipe by Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), but it completely transformed into something else.

Check out my recipe after the jump.

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