The paella at Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar comes with a bowl for mussel shells.

The dish's sauce has a smooth kick that leaves a warm aftertaste. I licked it off the mussel shells - nothing to waste here.

It comes with a definite seafood aroma, and it should. There are mussels, octopus and shrimp. The small bits of octopus were tentacle-y, with good texture. Also, rabbit sausage, strewn about in thick, jagged and savory chunks.

This was my first time eating this traditional Spanish dish, and I was impressed with variety for all the senses. The paella is colorful with yellow sweet peppers, red tomatoes and green snow peas over a pile of rice.

At $25, it's not inexpensive, but it's on par with the rest of the dinner menu. It's also worth it.

The scene felt hyper-local with a painting of the northern lights and a booklet listing the restaurant's regional partnerships. The dining space was flooded with natural light and a fancy-casual feel. I sat in the corner, a great view for Canal Park passersby. My dining neighbors ate desserts that I tried not to stare at.

After the dessert eaters left, another couple sat to my right. They asked about my dish. One of them said paella is great to make in a big pot with friends. Noted.

Until then, I'll be back for a repeat, or to try the kimchi fried rice.

Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar

394 South Lake Ave.

(218) 722-2355

www.lakeaveduluth.com