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Where To Try Spanish Home Cooking In Los Angeles

A traditional Valencian-style Puxtero meal served in a TV dinner tray at Smoke.Oil.Salt (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
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Despite L.A.'s incredible international food scene, there aren't a ton of truly great Spanish restaurants in the city, which is why it was so exciting when Perfecto Rocher opened up Smoke.Oil.Salt. last April. Rocher cooks Valencian-style dishes at his cozy Melrose Avenue space, and on Sundays he mans the grill for their popular paella nights, offering three fantastic varieties of the traditional Spanish rice dish. Now Rocher is cooking up yet another opportunity for elevated regional Spanish cooking; starting today, he'll be whipping up Monday night puxteros — a very old-school, traditional Valencian stew.

Rocher says that puxtero, (pronounced poo-chair-oh), is the first soup referenced in European cookbooks, being written about by 14th century author Francesc Eiximenis as a staple of the Catalan people. Every region of Spain serves some version of the stew, which typically contains a few core elements: local vegetables; fideos (short pasta); protein; and pilotes (a meatball wrapped in cabbage).

For Rocher, the pilotes are the most important component of puxtero, and at Smoke.Oil.Salt., you can tell there's been a lot of love put into them. The most interesting part of this succulent little pillow of pork is the fact that he seasons them with pine nuts and cinnamon, a unique spice addition that adds a deeply satisfying warm undertones to the cabbage-wrapped meatball.

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Vintage rioja wine bottles at Smoke.Oil.Salt. (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
But those traditional components and flavors is where the rigidity for tradition stops. This is not your madre's puxtero. Rocher deconstructed the rest of the stew, plating the confit chicken legs, braised pork belly, chickpea stew, and pickled veggies separately on a fancy TV tray. It takes Rocher five days to put together all the separate components of the dish.

There are plenty of awesome beverages to accompany your high-low meal, including traditional dry, sparkling Basque Txakolina, a wide variety of sherries, and a personal favorite for the sake of nostalgia, kalimotxo, a wine cocktail made from a mix of Coca Cola and red wine topped with a rosemary sprig. Paired with Rochero's humble stew, it's that down-home touch of Spain that you've been missing.

Smoke.Oil.Salt is located at 7274 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, (323) 930-7900. Puxtero platters go for $35 each; dessert and wine selections will also be available a-la-carte. Service will run from 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. every Monday. Call for reservations.