“The main idea for this place,” says Antonio Román, the owner and chef of Yellow Rice, “is production”.
In the small kitchen behind the service counter, two chefs prep orders. Alvaro Marcos Santos stirs with a massive pan with a long-handled metal spoon, moving around the simmering chicken wings, a key ingredient of paella Valenciana.
On the walls behind him and to his side hang 14 shallow pans. The smallest is 46cm across, the largest, to his left, has a diameter of 80cm.
The simmering paella Valenciana will serve 15 people, Santos says, stepping back from the pan.
The idea is to cook up a mostly full pan of paella, says Román. The smallest pan caters for four people.
“The real experience, to try paella, is to try on the main pan,” he says.
Once the order is ready, a driver (or Román, when it’s busy) delivers the paella, pan and all – although they take the pan back – straight to the customer’s door, he says.
Hence the giant red VW Transporter he has parked outside on Victoria Quay. Their biggest pan is 1.2 metres across and fits enough to feed 120 people.
No one in Dublin offers paella in this way, he says. “We do something different, and in a good quality.”
They’re also, he says, working on a crispy new item for the menu.
The first item on the Yellow Rice menu is the original paella that Santos is cooking, made in the traditional Valencian way.
It mixes chicken, butter beans, green beans, and saffron, with paella rice imported from Valencia, which soaks up all the flavours as they build up in the pan.
Paella purists might turn their noses up at anything other than this Valencian-style dish, he says.
But Yellow Rice has more to offer. “Obviously, the people love different flavours,” Román says.
Mariscos paella swaps out chicken for prawns, mussels and squid. Arroz negro stirs in squid ink, dying the rice black.
Much of the seafood they use is imported from Galicia in Spain’s northwest, a region famous for its fish, Román says.
That’s partly because fish from within Ireland is more expensive, he says, and much of it is exported.
The exception is lobster, which Román uses in lobster paella. That comes from Howth.
Yellow Rice offers more than just paella.
From Cadíz, a city on the southern coast of Spain, Román moved to Ireland in 1998 and got a job as a nurse, working in a nursing home.
He fell into event planning and Dublin’s nightlife, running Spanish and Latin nights in city-centre clubs. Sometimes, he made paella and sangria as part of the events.
He opened Yellow Rice a month before the pandemic hit. As he drew up the menu, he decided he wanted to co-opt culinary influence from his native Andalusia too, he says.
He recently added tortilla de camarones to the menu, a fried-shrimp omelette native to Cadíz.
“There is a big culture of gastronomy, talking about gastronomy,” Román says, of Cadíz.
Back in Cadíz, there’s an emphasis on homemade food and fresh ingredients, he says.
Román also places an emphasis on fresh ingredients – prepared and served the proper way, he says – at Yellow Rice. “People love it, because it’s very fresh food, very well made.”
Román catered at a small wedding recently, he says, serving up straight from the pan. “People really love it, because you see what we’re cooking for you.”
The paella pan delivery trips around the city give enough time for rice to relax, too, Román says. “The paella is not ready until 15 minutes after you cook.”
More recently, Román has been working on a new addition to the menu, he says. Bringing a Spanish-style roast chicken to his customers.
“It’s very typical on Sundays in Spain, we eat chicken,” he says.
There’s a new rotisserie oven in the restaurant. It’s empty right now but Román expects demand will be high, he says.
The early signs are good, he says. He posted on Facebook about plans to do chicken soon. “In 24 hours, 300 likes, and people trying to order.”
There won’t be any shortcuts. Román plans a 24-hour marination for his roast chicken, dressing it with black pepper, rosemary and other spices.
He also plans to reuse the fat that drips as it cooks to coat it for a crispy finish, and to serve it with chips and croquetas. “Very, very typical in Spain.”
His vision is eventually to further broaden the menu too, looking to Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela for inspiration. He’s keen to make a chicken dish with yuca, or cassava, he says.
Given the Brazilians, Mexicans and Venezuelans in the capital, it makes sense, says Román.
From running club nights and events, Román has linked into loads of different communities, he says.
He also runs Facebook pages for expats moving to Dublin and was interviewed by RTVE, the Spanish state broadcaster, about his work as a nightlife coordinator.
“They called me and said, ‘Oh, we contacted with a few people, Spanish in Ireland, and they all talk about you,’” he says.
Whether it’s nightlife or food, Román sees himself as something of an ambassador, he says. “I feel like, a little bit, I’m the face of Spain.”