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Monday, July 16, 2012

Nirvana: Paella In A Pan

Yesterday my taste buds were released from a state of suffering after a lengthy period of being denied their goal of achieving a paella pan brimming with Paella Negra from Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant.

As I reported in an earlier review, I had been denied my goal of this delicacy due to a lack of planning on my part while at the Clearwater Ceviche location. Others in my party had ordered their entrées and I was advised that the paella was prepared to order and wouldn't be ready until after the others had been served. Reluctantly I changed my order.

After a  three day party weekend at Clearwater Beach followed by a nap after arriving home, my bride and I realized we were in need of sustenance. It appeared that we were caught in that abysm between lunch and dinner, but the Ceviche Tampa web site indicated that they were open for business. So, off we went.

When greeted at the door we were advised that only tapas were being served until five that evening. Damn! It looked as though I would be denied again, but we decided that we would stay and just enjoy selections from the tapas menu like the heavenly Ceviche a la Rusa - oysters on a half shell in lemon lime juice, cilantro, peppers, onion and caviar, served with a chilled shot of Russian Standard vodka.

I enjoyed this delicious dish at the Clearwater location and here in Tampa it was just as good, if not better.

In addition to the oyster ceviche we shared a Jamon Serrano - the prized air-dried ham from the mountains of Spain, served with figs and assorted sliced fruit. I was in the midst of my oysters and vodka, and therefore too enthralled to take a picture.

There was also a plate of Mejillones Ahumados. This tapas consisted of smoked Spanish mussels with tomato and onion on crostini. Our very charming server Tasha pointed out that these were mussels from a can, I assume because other diners might have voiced displeasure that the mussels weren't freshly smoked. The mejillones weren't bad, just not one of my favorites.

While consuming our tapas and enjoying a glass or two of sangria blanco for her and a Tio Pepe Fino sherry for me we realized that it was almost four thirty. Since Ceviche starts serving the big plates at five, I asked Tasha if the kitchen couldn't get to work on my paella now. She said she would ask. Tasha must have told the kitchen how pitiful and sad-eyed I looked so they said yes and started my Paella Negra a bit earlier than usual.

The Paella Negra is a black rice with squid ink, lobster and assorted shellfish gift from the gods of gastronomy.

The paella pan was loaded with lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, and  large chunks of fish all perfectly prepared - not a tough or dry morsel to be found.

The squid ink provided a subtle, but heavenly taste of the sea. And, the crowning jewel in this treasure was the rice around the outer edges of the pan. Be still my quivering taste buds - a socarrat!

The socarrat is the crusty caramelized rice that is the pinnacle of paella greatness.

This is the absolute best paella I have ever had in my whole life!

Since my bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, is not a lover of seafood, while I was diving into this orgy of seafood goodness, she had ordered a couple more small plates, a Croquetas Pollo - chicken folded into bechamel and deep fried.

And, to round out her tapas experience a Tortilla Espanola - a traditional potato and onion omelet with aioli. While tasty, most of this dish found its way into a to-go box.

One very definite given when dining at Ceviche is you will not leave hungry. If you do, then you did something wrong.

While settling up our la cuenta we chatted for a few minutes with Tasha, our server who contributed to making our visit a most memorable one. And, much luck and happiness to Tasha as she completes her masters in education.

Wouldst that I could be a little school boy again when she does!

Speaking of our bill, it came to $155 and some change and included a well deserved gratuity.

Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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