Candela in Wilton Manors Mixes Mediterranean and More
Vega is most proud of his paella, prepared in the style of Valencia, a recipe that hails from the heart of Spain, where he cooked for more than a decade after leaving Cuba at 21. It's $25 for a single portion.
"The secret is the rice and broth," said Vega. "I make it the way it's supposed to be served. It's a rice dish, and that means it should be crusty and dry."
Vega uses Spanish Calasparra rice, a pearl-shaped variety that won't stick and allows for the complete absorption of the savory calamari, clam, mussel, and shrimp-based broth. The dish is served from a piping-hot paella pan, blackened rice scraped from the steel and onto your plate.
A house specialty is the fideua negré, a noodle dish with an unctuous sauce of squid ink that's filled with fat chunks of tender squid and octopus. Vega weaves an interesting tale depicting the origins of the dish: Poor Spaniards used but a single paella pan to cook the entire dish. He combines the ingredients -- squid, octopus, sauce, and raw noodles -- in the same manner, heated until the pasta leeches every ounce of moisture from the pan. Fat and tender, the noodles are left to burn and crisp around the edges, pan-seared and sealed with flavor. As with the paella, it's the texture he's looking for.
Neither Mediterranean nor Latin, the Moroccan chicken is a house favorite, says Yudaris. Chicken on the bone is cooked with raisins, dates, olives, and paprika for a fragrant delivery of sweet, smoky, spicy, and briny.
Vega's most popular dish, however, is cerdo asado. Rather than braising it, Vega confits the pork in its own fat and finishes it in a hot paella pan with olive oil and sofrito. This renders the meat into crispy, fried tendrils of pulled pork that are served over a bed of rice and black beans seasoned with a pepper-based vinegar sauce Vega gets from his family in Cuba.
By the end of the night, don't expect to leave without a visit from Vega himself. You'll have a full belly and blushing cheeks from a few extra glasses of wine. He'll tell you the family wouldn't have it any other way.
Candela Restaurant is located at 2909 NE Sixth Ave., Wilton Manors; 954-563-8088; candelarestaurant.com.
Fideua negre: $21
Cerdo asado: $17
Pollo marroqui (Moroccan chicken): $19
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.