Consider Valencian Gold the 2.0 version of the paella for the people restaurant in the southwest. Owner and chef Jeffrey Weiss takes all of his experience cooking in Spain and working with chefs such as José Andrés, plus his experience writing a book on charcuterie, to transform the restaurant into a Spanish tapas and paella destination.
“It has the DNA of the original restaurant, but we’re not doing paella rice bowls,” Weiss says. “If we eventually do lunch or brunch, I might bring them back, but this version 2.0 Valencian Gold is the evolution of what this restaurant, in my opinion, what we want the restaurant to be.”
That translates into a neighborhood tapas joint where customers can just come in, hang out, get some tapas, get some coffee, get a glass of wine. Weiss redesigned the space with poppy murals, a patio, and a bar with Spanish cocktails, beers, and wines. He kept the Instagram wall with a neon light announcing the restaurant’s motto, “Paella for the People.”
“What I like to do, and it’s something I learned from José, is taking these Spanish flavors and the Spanish cultural inspirations and looking at them through an American lens,” he says. One example, the tortillas, an egg dish topped with potato, bacon, and American cheese. “This is a perfect example of something that we’re doing: Here’s this traditional Spanish dish that I learned. I mean I must have made it 1,000 times or more in Spain at restaurants.” His version is more of a bodega sandwich you might find on a street corner in New York City, only using a tortilla instead of a bagel or English muffin.
Another dish, vaca vieja, comes from the Spanish bullfighting tradition of storing steak in olive oil with herbs. The steak, aged for 10 years, tenderizes with olive oil. Weiss sears it briefly. He worked on his pan de aceite recipe for 10 years to get the right flours and hydration, mixed with his own sourdough starter.
The star of the show, paella, has its own wood fire grill ignited by a rifle-shaped flamethrower. Vegan varieties such as the Super Mario come with wild mushrooms, chickpeas, and green beans while the Vegan AF uses a variety of vegetables and flowers with a vegan aioli. Traditional versions highlight the namesake Valenciana with chicken, judia verde, and gigante beans; paella de mariscos with mussels, clams, prawns, and calamari; arrós negre with calamari, prawns, uni, and squid ink; and fideuà with mussels, clams, prawns, and sepia. All are in the $18 to $30 range, depending on the size.
Tapas options include poached seafood, chicken and jamon croquettes, house-made chorizo casero, warm guiri dates with blue cheese and bacon mojo, patatas bravas, and rabo bar fries with braised oxtails and tetilla. Many options can be vegan.
Weiss — who wrote Charcuteria; The Soul of Spain, a 2015 James Beard Award nominee — expanded his charcuterie options with a rotating selection of Spanish cheeses and meats, with whole legs of Spanish jamon hanging by the bar ready to be sliced to order for tapas and tastings.
The cocktail menu hits on Weiss’s time in Spain as well with sherries, sangrias, and slushies. Leche de pantera milk punch, a drink originally concocted for the Spanish Foreign Legion, combines gin with sweetened condensed milk. The ¿Who’s Your Papi? is a riff on a Sazerac with saffron bitters, Templeton rye, and brandy de Jerez, served in a glass rinsed with absinthe. The prince of Toledo comes from Weiss’s time cooking with chef Adolfo Muñoz in Toledo, Spain. He became friends with Muñoz’s son Javier. One day, Weiss was late to catch a train, and Javier jumped on the train tracks and said in Spanish, “You will stop. I am the prince of Toledo.” A name was born. The drink uses BCN saffron- and rose-infused gin, along with membrillo and a splash of cava. All are priced at $10.
Four sangrias — ranging from red and white to rosé and an ode to the Canary Islands with verdejo and Sailor Jerry spiced rum — join wines by the glass. “If you’re a tourist, you drink sangria. If you’re a native, you drink clara con limón,” says Weiss, who says the Sun Drop soda used in the drink is tough to find. But find it he did just to have this very Spanish drink on the menu.
Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí crops up in several places at Valencian Gold. A cheeky mural of him sits behind the jamon bar, and paintings in the bathroom tip their hat to his style. In the bathroom, look up: a disco ball will be spinning.
Valencian Gold, 7960 S. Rainbow Boulevard, 702-776-7707. Open Wednesdays through Sundays from 4 to 10 p.m. with a happy hour, appropriately named Golden Hour from 4 to 5 p.m.