Best of 2003: Best Paella

Costa Brava
1653 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach

At Costa Brava, the seafood paella goes into the pan right after (not before) you order it, and it's served to you straight out of the paellera, a wok-like implement dedicated to this single dish. The fresh, clean flavors come from house-made fish broth gently amended with saffron, garlic, and tomato. Atop moist rice (garnished with tender green pepper strips, green peas, and savory minced piquillo peppers) are clams and bay scallops, green-lip mussels, and whole, heads-on shrimp. If you want serrano ham in there, too, ask for it when you order, or call ahead. And since this is a real Spanish restaurant, complete with actual Spaniards (not just tourists), the atmosphere surrounding your paella just gets livelier as the evening progresses. Open daily until midnight.

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