Venga Paella for Oakland Restaurant Week

Today wraps up the sixth annual Oakland Restaurant Week (ORW). For the past ten days, restaurants throughout Oakland encouraged people to dine in our foodie town by offering special menus at fixed prices. I think it’s a great opportunity to try a new restaurant that you have been wanting to try. With close to 75 restaurants participating, it is likely there is something for everyone.  

A group of four of us decided on a weeknight dinner at Venga Paella in West Oakland. For $30, you got a choice of a beverage, appetizers, an entree, and a dessert which is a great deal. Most restaurants don’t include a drink in the fixed price menu, but Venga Paella smartly does. They give you a choice of a beer, glass of wine, sangria, or soda. I opted for sangria to go with the Spanish theme. They make both red and white. I was pleasantly surprised by the generous glass full. While both sangria are fun and refreshing, the white sangria tends to be slightly sweeter than the red. 

 We each got our own plate of four different tapas consisting of prawns in a sherry garlic reduction; a potato, egg, and onion frittata; a goat cheese, onion, and olive stuffed piquillo pepper; and toasted bread with a tomato, garlic, and olive oil rub. I enjoyed the sampling very much. When I return next time, there’s a good chance I would order the sleeper toasted bread which I would never have if I didn’t experience the sampling.  
 Venga Paella makes five different types of paella and they were all offered for ORW. There is the traditional paella which comes with prawns, calamari, mussels, clams, and pork chorizo. I went with the traditional one since it was my first visit. Based on flavor, texture, and freshness, the chef at Venga nailed it. I also enjoyed the side salad to help balance the plate.   
 The other paella options offered included a black squid ink paella, a vegetarian option, and a chicken paella. My BFF ordered the fideua, which is made with short strands of pasta instead of rice. It was kind of like eating Rice-A-Roni, but in a good way. I actually liked the soft noodles.    

  For dessert, we also had a choice between three items: Manchego cheese, chocolate mousse, and flan. I went ahead and ordered the chocolate mousse since everyone wanted to get the flan. This dark chocolate dome was quite rich with at least two layers of variation. If you are a chocolate lover, this dessert is for you.   
 The flan was a bit on the dense side, but still quite good. It’s always nice to end with something sweet and even better when it’s included in the price of the meal. 
 The ORW menu at Venga Paella is a good representation of what you would get if you dined there at any given time, which is not always the case with all restaurants. Now that I have had a diverse sampling of their food and enjoyed it, I would definitely come back.