Spanish Lessons

We’re now spoiled for choice for Iberian fare across the city.

With a recent boom in Spanish restaurants in L.A., we helpfully narrowed down the list for some of the best paella, tapas, meatballs, pan con tomate, and more.

World-famous chef and humanitarian José Andrés is back in Los Angeles with several new concepts at the Conrad hotel development downtown, with architecture by Frank Gehry and interiors by Tara Bernerd.

San Laurel Whole Veal Shank

A standout dish at the flagship fine-dining concept, San Laurel, is the jamón Ibérico de bellota, which is hand cut ham from the famous acorn-fed, black-footed Spanish pig. Pair with a grilled romaine served with Manchego espuma cheese and black truffle.

Agua Viva

On the same floor, Agua Viva offers patio dining with more sweeping views, featuring traditional patatas bravas, croquettas with Dungeness crab, and chilled Spanish gazpacho soup with green pepper. You can also find two bar concepts and hotel guests can even indulge poolside. Next up is a return of Bazaar Meat (opening in early 2023) that we have missed since the one at SLS in Beverly Hills closed several years ago.

Dos Besos feels like a little slice of Europe in Old Pasadena. Spanish chef Alejandro Llobet Domenech’s albondigas meatballs are made with a mixture of beef, pork, and Manchego cheese. The pan con tomate is perfectly light and crunchy with just a smear of tomato, garlic, and olive oil. The seafood paella for two is the perfect date-night dish topped with two large prawns in the shape of a heart.

“The last couple or so years have proven to us more than ever how much people like to be around other people. We crave camaraderie,” says Llobet Domenech. “Plus, a variety of Spanish tapas to share is always fun.”

Also in Old Pasadena, Saso has a fun pintxos-snack menu with Basque cheese, mussels, and squid-ink rice that can be enjoyed before a show at the adjacent Pasadena Playhouse.

Otoño in Highland Park is not new, but you’ll still want to snag a seat at this tiny spot and enjoy the trio of a Spanish gin and tonic, paella negra with scallops, and chorizo Iberico or potato churros with Manchego. Bar Moruno in Silver Lakeis the place for a hefty slice of tortilla Española, an array of conservas, and oven-roasted feta.

In the Valley, Gasolina Café only offers paella once a month as a special treat, but other must-try dishes include croquetas de jamón and cordero albondigas. The marketplace offers a selection of conservas (Daporta small squids and Ramón Peña Atlantic horse mackerel) sourced from 10 different canneries, mostly in Spain and Portugal.

Dono is Michelin-starred chef Brendan Collins’ ode to the Iberian Peninsula next door to his Fia restaurant in Santa Monica. Expect modern tapas such as truffle queso fundido with mushroom, cauliflower croquetas, or larger-format seafood paella, and Moorish lamb-shank tagine, along with burnt Basque cheesecake for dessert.