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Old 10.02.2015, 14:29
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Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

Hi all,
When one books a restaurant for a party of, say 10 guests, to have Seafood Paella - all in great big Wok - what is the serving etiquette?

My experience that puzzled me, was this happened - the chef brought out this giant sized wok full of yellow rice decorated with the usual seafoods. Then he dished it out onto plates and handed around to guests - masses of really dry yellow rice with a few miniscule pieces of assorted really tiny little seafood thingies in, and topped with 2 shrimp/prawn things, and 2 or 3 black shells of mussels.

Before serving he invited the table guests to take photos of it (?!) It did look very nice. Very arty and colourful.

After serving the wok was still half (exactly half) full. So some guests got up to go help themselves to the shrimps/prawns and mussels on top of the rice........ The rice was not tasty or exciting, so price-wise the seafood was worth eating - having been ordered and paid for.

Chef came running and said that half of the Paella is for another party!
(But it was sitting there getting cold). And no other guests were visible.

My opinion of this is that if half was intended for other customers it should not have been brought to our table, presented to us - that half should have been left in the kitchen?

Another question on this theme: When booking the table the host was told restaurant needed a weeks notice as seafood is ordered fresh from Spain. Surely seafood is frozen for long distance transport? Is that bollocks about the seafood being "fresh"?
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Old 10.02.2015, 14:40
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

Firtsly, paella should not be made in a wok, but as the subtelty of the name may suggest, in a paella.

A paella is a flat pan of large diameter made of thin metal. Traditionally it is placed above a charcoal fire but doing it on gas is acceptable these days.

Secondly, a bit like pizza, paella is by origin a poor people's food, and this reflects in how it is made.

The traditional way to make paella is to make a bouillon of fish leftovers and boil that for a while and then remove all the solid bits of the fish. That is the water you then use to do the rice. This is how the rice gets the fishy taste. The yellow colouring comes from saffran (which is made out of crocus flowers). Seafood and meat are added to taste. Typical meats are chicken and rabbit, with normally the leftover bits being used rather than the prime cuts (and my Spanish friends swear that these leftover bits actually taste better). Typical seafood are sliced octopus, mussles, cockles and similar (normally caught the same day, but I guess in Switzerland frozen subsitutes must do). Sometimes you also get complete sardines but this is rarer. The precise composition varies with the recipe and tradition (and a lot of what is served to tourists in resorts is an adapted and and sanitized version watered down to tourist tastes that has little to do with the real real thing - for that you need to know where to go). Due to the time needed to cook it, many restuarants require you to pre-order as in a day in advance. If you are adding things such as snails, these cannot be frozen as far as I know so yes, you need to order them fresh from Spain, as in still alive when delivered.

Although it is typical to share a paella between members of the same party, you do not share paellas between parties. That's a no go.

And another thing: Paella is eaten for lunch. Only stupid tourists order paella for dinner.
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Old 10.02.2015, 14:48
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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Firtsly, paella should not be made in a wok, but as the subtelty of the name may suggest, in a paella.

A paella is a flat pan of large diameter made of thin metal. Traditionally it is placed above a charcoal fire but doing it on gas is acceptable these days.

Secondly, a bit like pizza, paella is by origin a poor people's food, and this reflects in how it is made.

The traditional way to make paella is to make a bouillon of fish leftovers and boil that for a while and then remove all the solid bits of the fish. That is the water you then use to do the rice. This is how the rice gets the fishy taste. The yellow colouring comes from saffran (which is made out of crocus flowers). Seafood and meat are added to taste. Typical meats are chicken and rabbit, with normally the leftover bits being used rather than the prime cuts (and my Spanish friends swear that these leftover bits actually taste better). Typical seafood are sliced octopus, mussles, cockles and similar (normally caught the same day, but I guess in Switzerland frozen subsitutes must do). Sometimes you also get complete sardines but this is rarer. The precise composition varies with the recipe and tradition (and a lot of what is served to tourists in resorts is an adapted and and sanitized version watered down to tourist tastes that has little to do with the real real thing). Due to the time needed to cook it, many restuarants require you to pre-order as in a day in advance. If you are adding things such as snails, these cannot be frozen as far as I know so yes, you need to order them fresh from Spain, as in still alive when delivered.

Although it is typical to share a paella between members of the same party, you do not share paellas between parties. That's a no go.

And another thing: Paella is eaten for lunch. Only stupid tourists order paella for dinner.

What he said. Except... snails???
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Old 10.02.2015, 14:51
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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Firtsly, paella should not be made in a wok, but as the subtelty of the name may suggest, in a paella.

A paella is a flat pan of large diameter made of thin metal. Traditionally it is placed above a charcoal fire but doing it on gas is acceptable these days.

Secondly, a bit like pizza, paella is by origin a poor people's food, and this reflects in how it is made.

The traditional way to make paella is to make a bouillon of fish leftovers and boil that for a while and then remove all the solid bits of the fish. That is the water you then use to do the rice. This is how the rice gets the fishy taste. The yellow colouring comes from saffran (which is made out of crocus flowers). Seafood and meat are added to taste. Typical meats are chicken and rabbit, with normally the leftover bits being used rather than the prime cuts (and my Spanish friends swear that these leftover bits actually taste better). Typical seafood are sliced octopus, mussles, cockles and similar. Sometimes you also get complete sardines but this is rarer. The precise composition varies with the recipe and tradition. Due to the time needed to cook it, many restuarants require you to pre-order as in a day in advance. If you are adding things such as snails, these cannot be frozen as far as I know so yes, you need to order them fresh from Spain, as in still alive when delivered.

Although it is typical to share a paella between members of the same party, you do not share paellas between parties. That's a no go.

And another thing: Paella is eaten for lunch. Only stupid tourists order paella for dinner
.

Thanks for your reply. Last first: It was a lunch.
There were no snails. Are the other seafoods live during transport? I thought shrimps and such only lived an hour out of seawater?
I called it a wok for want of better description - about 1m diameter, very big metal basin thing/shallow pot.
Safron yes. This was Turmeric! I could taste it - too much of it! And DRY like sand.


This particular restaurant was booked because another chef had raved about the Paella served there. It was a great disappointment, I must say.


So, leaving the dish half full by our table was an error by the ignorant chef? We were entitled to eat what we wanted from it? And tell him to go jump in the lake?
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Old 10.02.2015, 14:52
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

Well, he probably doesn't have a 7-serving wok, a 10-serving wok, a 14-serving wok and so forth all lying around his kitchen. So given the choice between presenting a too-big paella which looks nice, and a pan only half full... I can sort of see his logic.

And unless it was billed as ŕ discrétion I don't think you can expect second helpings to be included. Whether the rest of it was in fact reserved for other guests or only for the kitchen crew's supper is beside the point.

But yes, it would have been much nicer to make that clear by taking the rest back to the kitchen immediately, rather than leaving it at the table to tantalize you.


On a side note, I probably wouldn't have dared to order the paella at all, because what you describe has pretty much always been my experience of the fish-with-rice genre here: too little fish, too much rice, rice too dry and flavorless. I reckon seafood is best enjoyed in countries closer to the sea. When in Switzerland... I dunno, have 'em make you a spectacular giant twelve-person rösti or something instead.
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Old 10.02.2015, 14:56
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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What he said. Except... snails???
Snails are not a seafood! This was a Seafood dish.


I`m interested to know how seafood is transported from Spain - frozen or fresh?
I bought 18 frozen giant Crevetten from Lidl in DE for 6 Euro - This Paella cost 15 Euro a dish (cheap yes) and contained only 2 medium shrimp things per plate. A rip-off - imo.


Home cooking is still best! For value.
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:01
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

My advice is to avoid seafood in Switzerland. It's invariably a disappointment. Next time you want to eat as a group, keep it simple and go for either the raclette or fondue.
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:02
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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Well, he probably doesn't have a 7-serving wok, a 10-serving wok, a 14-serving wok and so forth all lying around his kitchen. So given the choice between presenting a too-big paella which looks nice, and a pan only half full... I can sort of see his logic.

And unless it was billed as ŕ discrétion I don't think you can expect second helpings to be included. Whether the rest of it was in fact reserved for other guests or only for the kitchen crew's supper is beside the point.

But yes, it would have been much nicer to make that clear by taking the rest back to the kitchen immediately, rather than leaving it at the table to tantalize you.


On a side note, I probably wouldn't have dared to order the paella at all, because what you describe has pretty much always been my experience of the fish-with-rice genre here: too little fish, too much rice, rice too dry and flavorless. I reckon seafood is best enjoyed in countries closer to the sea. When in Switzerland... I dunno, have 'em make you a spectacular giant twelve-person rösti or something instead.

The Birthday Lady loves seafood Paella - and the chef at her work had recommended this place and the food.
Just goes to show not all chefs have good taste about food!


I don`t know why, but restaurants these days seem to be dwindling themselves out of their customers?
There`s another (very elite and expensive) place we attended and were so disgusted with food/service/everything - even the toilets were dirty - I wrote them an email stating my feelings (ja, old ladies do that!) and they sent a 40 Euro Gutschein - except we don`t ever want to go back there again.
Or maybe we will, to try their "Club sandwich" on the patio in summer.
What exactly is a "Club Sandwich" and what`s in it? (too many unpleasant experiences depress me).
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:04
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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My advice is to avoid seafood in Switzerland. It's invariably a disappointment. Next time you want to eat as a group, keep it simple and go for either the raclette or fondue.

The only happy person at the table was my husband - who does NOT eat seafoods - he`d ordered a steak! And the other men were eyeing it enviously.
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:05
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

Was it a proper, authentic Spanish restaurant, or a pseudo Swiss wannabe?
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:05
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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Snails are not a seafood! This was a Seafood dish.


I`m interested to know how seafood is transported from Spain - frozen or fresh?
I bought 18 frozen giant Crevetten from Lidl in DE for 6 Euro - This Paella cost 15 Euro a dish (cheap yes) and contained only 2 medium shrimp things per plate. A rip-off - imo.


Home cooking is still best! For value.
Not claiming any higher expertese here, but I believe the Lidl ones are often from Thailand or therabouts and grown in aquaculture with lots of antibiotics. Spanish ones are caught in the sea by fishermen (I've actually watched them being offloaded in port). I can't remember the price I last payed there but I think they were about a Euro a piece, so they're not exactly dirt cheap even there. If you extrapolate that to a kg price they're more costly than prime beef. I guess its fair that by the time they get to Switzerland the price can about have tripled beyond that at a minimum.
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:08
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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Snails are not a seafood!
Sea-snails certainly are.

Tom
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:09
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

Never mind anything else, i would be really pee'd off to be the next party getting the leftovers, an hour later? That night? Next day? I guess the "chef" would need to reheat and rehydrate it and throw some more seafood on top. .

On top of the coughs and sneezes and snot from your party of 10

Come to think of it.. Was your dish fresh or had some other party been before you??
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:10
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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Sea-snails certainly are.

Tom
I don't think I've ever eaten sea snails.
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:11
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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...Only stupid tourists order paella for dinner.
Or hungry people that enjoy paella. We make our own at home and it is FAR too much work to do as a lunch. So it's always a dinner, and we invite friends over to enjoy with us.

It's possible the chef only had one pan, but I'd say that's lousy planning on his part if he advertises paella as a specialty! Agree with MN it's poor form to just leave it at the table and then come running. Suppose there had been another table of guests. Are they to think it's acceptable that your group got to take pretty photos and get served first, while they get no pretty pictures and sloppy seconds?

As for transport, supposedly most fish destined for restaurants and "fresh" displays in-store is not deep-frozen. It's chilled to near-freezing and shipped/stored on ice. The true deep-frozen fish is the stuff you buy in the freezer cases in nice little square blocks. I've never reeled a square fish out of a river or lake.

edit - John_H types faster. :P
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:11
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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Not claiming any higher expertese here, but I believe the Lidl ones are often from Thailand or therabouts and grown in aquaculture with lots of antibiotics. Spanish ones are caught in the sea by fishermen (I've actually watched them being offloaded in port). I can't remember the price I last payed there but I think they were about a Euro a piece, so they're not exactly dirt cheap even there. If you extrapolte that to a kg price they're more costly than prime beef. I guess its fair that by the time they get to Switzerland the price can about have tripled beyond that at a minimum.
I`m aware of seafoods from the East. yuggh! I check all that. The ones I bought was because they were from Spain - very unusual I must say. Never seen those again. All the other seafoods seem to be only from the east. Which is fine, we`re not big on seafood.
We only accepted that lunch invitation Paella to make up numbers for its ordering.
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:15
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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Was it a proper, authentic Spanish restaurant, or a pseudo Swiss wannabe?
Given that she quoted the prices in euros I'd hazard a guess at a pseudo German wannabe myself.
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:16
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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Never mind anything else, i would be really pee'd off to be the next party getting the leftovers, an hour later? That night? Next day? I guess the "chef" would need to reheat and rehydrate it and throw some more seafood on top. .

On top of the coughs and sneezes and snot from your party of 10

Come to think of it.. Was your dish fresh or had some other party been before you??
He'd have to make up the other half in addition and mix it to make it presentable.

The Spaniards perfected the Solera method for ageing sherry and brandy. By decanting a predefined quantity from one barrel to the next in a sometimes elaborate cascade of different barrels and at a regular interval the older alcohols flavour the fresh one and so the sherry or brandy continuosly regenerates despite being consumed. So some soleras have been going for decades if not centuries but of course the average age of the content is much less than that, with maybe only some molecules of the original fill still remaining (and its strange that many people who reject homeopathy nevertheless enjoy a good sherry, but that's another story).

Maybe you have discovered the world's first paella solera, which has been going since 1967.
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:17
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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I don't think I've ever eaten sea snails.
No?

They are quite common in Italy and France, I love them!

(welks, periwinkles, etc.)

Tom
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Old 10.02.2015, 15:18
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Re: Restaurant etiquette when serving Paella dish?

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Never mind anything else, i would be really pee'd off to be the next party getting the leftovers, an hour later? That night? Next day? I guess the "chef" would need to reheat and rehydrate it and throw some more seafood on top. .

On top of the coughs and sneezes and snot from your party of 10

Come to think of it.. Was your dish fresh or had some other party been before you??

Exactly my thoughts at the time of "chef come running"! hahahaa


And it was a smoking restaurant!!!!! Most of the table were slurping drinks and smoking.


Maybe they keep a "running paella"? ... just keep topping up the rice ... and re-arranging the scant portions of seafood on top? Could be.
At least it was brought out from the kitchen to us, and looked "new".


Was a really strange experience, I must say. I felt sorry for the husband who paid the bill in the end - I think more alcohol was consumed than food eaten - AND he`d paid everone`s train fare/taxis so they could relax and enjoy the afternoon of eating/drinking.
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