Paella for the masses: 3 places in and around Vancouver to find the iconic Spanish dish

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      Every spring, the Festival de la Paella Gigante sees some of the Philippines’ top chefs gather to make the country’s biggest pan of the Spanish saffron rice.

      This year’s event, which took place earlier this month in the city of Makati, featured a dish measuring nearly 11 feet in diameter, enough to feed about 1,000 people. (The festival is a fundraiser for the Sociedad Española de Beneficencia, an organization dating back to 1948 by Spanish nationals to assist elderly Spanish residents in the Philippines.)

      While there aren’t any paella plates of such renown in our neck of the woods, there are a few spots in and around Metro Vancouver where you can find this colourful Valencian-born meal.

      The Paella Guys

      Chef Javier Blanc had his own restaurant in his native Madrid before moving to the West Coast in 2017, bringing his passion for paella with him. He teamed up with local chef Shay Kelly to form the Paella Guys, which offers catering services and cooking classes.

      The two make several different versions of the iconic dish, including Valenciana (with slow-cooked chicken, green beans, oven-roasted artichokes, mushrooms, and fresh tomatoes), marisco (slow-cooked jumbo prawns, squid, shrimp, and mussels), mixta (a combination of meat and seafood), and vegetariana (which suits vegans, too).

      The guys’ next cooking class (with any spots left) is on April 22 at the commissary kitchen they work out of. They’ll cover paella- and sangria-making. At the end of the evening, over a shared feast, Blanc and Kelly predict people will become friends for life—a phenom they call the “paella effect”.

      See the Paella Guys for more details.

      Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar

      The fine-dining restaurant in the Sutton Place Hotel is hosting a communal, family-style paella dinner on April 7. The soiree kicks off with a sangria reception that’s followed by a three-course meal. Headlining the event is Boulevard’s West Coast Paella, which has Pacific octopus, local clams and mussels, prawns, and chorizo sofrito all simmered in a saffron and shellfish stock.

      Also on the menu is a young beet salad with manchego cheese and watercress in a sherry vinaigrette; for dessert, it’s orange crema Catalana with caramel tuile and chocolate sorbet.

      Tickets are $68 per person plus tax and gratuity. Spanish wine pairings and pitchers of sangria will also be available. See here for further info.

      Barcelona Tapas and Wine Bar

      This one requires a 20-minute ferry ride to Bowen Island. Steps from where the vessel pulls in in Snug Cove, Barcelona Tapas and Wine Bar serves traditional Spanish fare like patatas bravas, berenjena con miel (crispy fried eggplant with honey and mint), gambas al ajillo (sautéed prawns with garlic and chilies), and arroz con leche (rice pudding with apple, tonka beans, pear confit, and caramelized almonds.

      The team makes everything in-house from scratch, including its sausages and bread. It also rolls out Paella Sunday Prix Fixe.

      The three-course meal includes a glass of sangria, your choice of tapas and dessert, and, as the centrepiece, a seafood and chorizo paella; it goes for $35 per person.

      More information is at Barcelona Tapas and Wine Bar.