53 W. 19th St.; 212-255-4160
For years, local Spanish-food snobs have decried the glutinous, bland, generally ham-fisted approximations of this great Valencian dish in restaurants around New York. Not anymore. At Boqueria, in the Flatiron district, chef Seamus Mullen serves up three varieties of paella, all of them brought to the table in piping-hot cast-iron salvers, all of them made with proper Spanish Calasparra rice. Calasparra, as any Spanish- food snob will tell you, absorbs more water than other varieties of rice. It’s less prone to gumminess as a result, retaining a nice happy crunch when you scrape it from the bottom of the pan. At Boqueria, you can get your paella blackened with cuttlefish ink or folded, in a rustic manner, with caramelized onions and chunks of rabbit. But we like the classic variety, tossed, the way they do it in Valencia, with bits of chicken on the bone, spicy sausage, assorted shellfish, and saffron-colored Calasparra.