Bomba Rice Is the Bomb at La Marcha
Valencia’s most popular dish, arroz al horno, is a regular feature on the tapas restaurant’s menu, and it’s delicious.
Photo by Lori Eanes
You’re about to take your Iberian Cuisine midterm, which you’re sure you’ll ace — knowing, as you do, your mostaza from your membrillo.
First question: What gets dunked into hot chocolate? Answer: churros. Second question: When does dinner start? Answer: Late. Third question: What’s Valencia’s most popular dish?
If you answered “paella,” you’d be wrong, according to chef Sergio Monleón. And he should know, having gained fame at fancy weddings, the Eat Real Festival, and Off the Grid for the huge resplendent paellas he made with partner Emily Sarlatte when they operated Ñora Cocina Española mobile catering company before opening La Marcha Tapas Bar & Spanish Restaurant in 2015.
“A dish that, in Valencia, is even more popular than paella” and which Oakland-bred Monleón relished in his abuela Julia’s Spanish home, is arroz al horno, an oven-baked casserole comprising mixed meats, vegetables, and that dazzling-white, short-grained, massively absorbent Bomba rice from the Valencian coast.
As is typical in Spain, Julia made arroz al horno the day after preparing — and with the leftovers from — another dish, the pork-chickpea stew known as cocido Madrileño. Saffron-brightened rice “was topped with pork belly and morcilla”— the tangy, crumbly blood sausage that’s another Valencian favorite — “from the cocido. Tomatoes and potatoes were added, along with garbanzo beans, also from the stew. An entire head of roasted garlic was then placed in the center.” Cooked and served in a classic red-clay cazuela dish that accents its rich russet hues, it’s a hot, hearty work of art, the roasted garlic head basking at its nexus like a huge surrealistic flowerbud, morcilla slices scattering its surface like shiny black coins.
It’s the incarnation of tradition, but the irrepressibly creative Monleón and Sarlatte have added their own special twist: confit babyback ribs.
La Marcha Tapas Bar & Spanish Restaurant, 2026 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-647-9525, LaMarchaBerkeley.com