In much of the United States, folks routinely pay more than $30 for a minimum-two-person paella. So it is that Eduardo Balaguer, the chef-owner of Oakland’s Venga Paella, has made it his decade-long mission to demystify the famous Valencian rice dish and bring it down from its pedestal. At Balaguer’s restaurant, which is tucked away on the outskirts of the Jack London district, you get a generous plate of paella, served quickly enough to eat during a half-hour lunch break, for just $12. We especially enjoyed the paella tradicional, based on Balaguer’s mother’s recipe, which is a classic mixture of meat and seafood piled atop rice that’s addictively savory and flavor-packed from the sweating of garlic and onions, and from the subtle smokiness of saffron and pimentón. Highlights from the mostly traditional tapas selection include garlicky sautéed shrimp and the classic Catalonian tomato bread pa amb tomàquet.
Hours: Wed.-Sat. 4:30-9:30 p.m.