My long search for the perfect paella has ended at Poron Poron in Kita-Horie. Owner and head chef Bunny Awchat learned his craft from experts: people so particular about their paella they bring water from their villages to make the stock. Bunny's paella is chock full of seafood - squid, shrimp, mussels and clams - along with a healthy dose of chorizo, lamb, chicken and, most importantly, saffron-infused rice. It is but one of the ways Bunny and his lovely wife Azusa transport their customers, via their taste buds, to the land of flamenco, olives and sherry.
But why stop at the paella? Poron Poron is a tapas bar and there are plenty of other delicacies to be had. Start with a glass of Don Luiz Amontillado sherry, a saucer of mixed olives and a plate of Monte Nevado Jamon Serrano from Aragon, Spain. Follow that with fried calamari and aioli, grilled zucchini with pitu (fresh cow cheese from Spain) and pil pil - mushrooms cooked in oil and garlic - great for dipping the French bread. The seared scallops infused with rosemary and lemon are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. And don't forget to check the daily specials board. The night we were there, we feasted on raw tuna with avocado on toast and albondigas (meatballs) in fresh tomato sauce with basil.
Bunny started his culinary career in France, and then moved to Switzerland for further training. It was in Monte Palace overlooking Lake Geneva that he met the Spanish friends who would teach him to make paella Valenciana over open fires. (He would later relearn the technique to adapt it to a gas flame.)
After moving to Japan he worked at the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo and at Porcinis (a fine Italian restaurant in Abiko) before realizing his dream to open his own restaurant. He explained that during the many festivals of Spain, people purchase porons - decanters filled with wine and enjoyed by everyone around. This sharing leads to new friends coming together, talking and feasting on the simple yet hearty foods of Spain. It was with this in mind that Poron Poron was created, and it's great to see he has succeeded in bringing a little bit of Spain to Japan.
[Lunch set from Y850; dinner paella for two - Y1600; tapas and drinks from Y500.]
by Kimberly Mangialaschi