What a gorgeous dish of paella (above), and you can have it every Thursday at the Yucatecan restaurant Chichén Itzá in the Mercado La Paloma.
It's paella as might be made in Mérida, Yucatán, but authentic to Spanish tradition. Chef/owner Gilberto Cetina says the two essentials are Spanish saffron and bomba rice, which is a short-grain rice ideal for paella because it doesn't become mushy.
Paprika dusts the shrimp on top of the rice and the edges of the plate. Nuggets of chicken are mixed in along with peas, making this a hearty dish.
Cetina's touch is the grilled bread at the side. In Spain, he says, bread is not part of paella. Too bad for the Spaniards. Here, it's a wonderful addition. Brushed with rosemary-flavored olive oil, the slices are rich and toasty. Both the bread and the olive oil are made at the restaurant.
Another difference: A container of habanero salsa comes with the paella. That would never happen in Spain.
Thursday's drink special was atole de coco, a warm coconut drink. This would have been nice on a rainy day, but it was impossible to pass up cool green agua de chaya (above), made from the leaves of a shrub native to the Yucatán Peninsula. The demand for the drink is so great that the restaurant runs through pounds of chaya leaves every day.
The restaurant also produces baguettes of pan francés--French bread as made in Yucatán--and sets them out for sale. You can see the loaves in the photo above, beneath the sign that announces the specials of the day.
Chichén Itzá Restaurant, 3655 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Tel: (213) 741-1075.