Manolito's | 1586 2nd Ave. (bet. 82nd & 83rd Sts.) | 212.717.4666 | On MenuPages

DOING PHUDE HAS allowed me to not only discover good food, but good food from all cultures. It has also helped me reconnect with the many various neighborhoods of this island city in which I grew up.

And sometimes I find it unfortunate that I might have to go to Queens to get decent, authentic Chinese, Murray Hill to get great, traditional Korean, or the East Village to get beautiful pierogis.

So it was with great glee that, while trolling MenuPages yesterday, I found the menu of a place called Manolito's, two blocks away from my apartment, that served paella, the famous Spanish-influenced rice dish I thought I was going to suffer some inconvenient commute to eventually enjoy.

They also offer other "niche" fare, such as ceviche, pinchos (Spanish-style kebobs) and arepas, but I was long overdue for a paella (and still didn't know when I would make it to Soccorat Paella Bar in Chelsea). They had two versions: one house version, cooked in stock with chicken, duck, chorizo, and wild mushrooms, and named after Christina—the manager—made with saffron rice, shrimp, clams, mussels, lobster, and piquillo peppers.

I ordered the Paella Manolito for pickup, and twenty minutes later I was back home with this behemoth of a dish pleasantly aromatic before I even got it out of the bag....

I'm an unabashed meat lover, and this was, as you can see, chock full of it. Each of the meats, though able to impart their individual flavor qualities while being boosted by the broth, mushrooms and spices. Each bite was a pleasure, with the rice keeping a nice texture, and the duck skin providing a little bit of crunch.

I would maybe have preferred the spices have a little extra kick, and definitely missed the crispy parts—that typically or created when all the juices and rendered fat and spices collect at the bottom of the pan and pretty much "fry" the rice—but the tastes were pretty much spot on and, for an initially pricey-sounding twenty bucks, was a bargain since I was able to have half of the portion leftover for lunch today!

So now I have a great very local spot to sate any future paella joneses, and can't wait to actually sit in the very ambient and intimate restaurant—preferably at one of the outside tables!—to try many of the other menu items on the strength of this one.

Bun Apple Tea!


Manolito Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Manolito's | 1586 2nd Ave. (bet. 82nd & 83rd Sts.) | 212.717.4666 | On MenuPages