Friday, October 28, 2011

Paloma

Wade's Take:
Jess told me this was our 81st restaurant as a blogging group. Holy moley! I started to crunch some numbers on what that meant for the total number of calories consumed, dollars spent, percentage of restaurants now closed and more... but then quickly realized that as interesting as that would be, it's clearly not the point of our group. We eat, we talk about it, we write about it. Good old foodie fun. And that's what we did this month, too.

Paloma was our target. It's a Mexican haute cuisine joint in the Bella Vista portion of South Philly. The space definitely used to be an office center. The interior seemed a little stark and white, but that may have had more to do with the lack of other patrons than the decor (it was a cold and rainy night).
On the semi-new trend we've seen for our past few restaurants, Paloma has a blog. I like reading these in advance of a meal. If done right, it can give you a better sense of the mantra of the restaurant, its origins and dishes. Paloma's blog is mainly promotional, but it does list some recipes and ingredient descriptions that are interesting.They love peppers and rare fruits, and add them to whatever they can on the menu (amazed there weren't exotic peppers or cactus juice even in the tap water).

So, on to the food. My appetizer was the crab ceviche. It came out as a tower of tomato and avocado slices with chunks of crabmeat as the crown. It was drizzled with olive oil and shallots, cilantro, jalapeno and lime juice. None of the ingredients with this oil came across too strongly - which was ideal. The crab combined with the creamy avocado and summer-tasting tomatoes was a perfect blending on its own.

My entree was the tilapia, baked with a delicious coating of pinole (coarse flour) and tortillas, served with a sauce of pureed pepitas (pumpkin seeds), ancho peppers, lime and garlic. The sauce poured from atop the fish into a puddle around the fish. I could have licked it all clean. The fish was prepared to perfection with a flaky exterior and a firm interior. The mildly sweet fish was the perfect match for the ambrosial ancho/pumpkin/lime sauce, which somehow managed to produce sharp and mild tastes at the same time. There was another stack on my plate to go with the fish - a pile of whipped potatoes and spinach. It was nice to see a side prepared in such an interesting way.

It was great to see traditional Mexican cuisine flavors used in such a delicate way with all of our dishes. Paloma, I'd love to revisit!

Three out of four peppers.

Jess' Take:
Mexican haute cuisine is just up my alley.

I ordered corn chowder for my entree because it seemed just right on a cold, rainy night. It was very hearty and filling. Although it was described as creamy on the menu, I didn't find that it was. The addition of baby shrimp added an interesting flavor to the oniony, peppery soup. I would have like it served a little more spicy, but luckily the chef makes a special hot pepper sauce served on the side for the whole table. One dab of that and yowza! Luckily I started off with a very small dab.


For my entree I went for the "award-winning" crab cake, which was served in a crisp phyllo dough. The presentation was a work of art. The crab cake was pretty good too, but definitly needed the carrot-curry sauce that was served along side of it.


Of course the dinner would not be complete without chocolate, so I ordered a slice of the espresso pound cake served with toasted hazelnuts and chocolate. It might have been the tallest piece of cake I've ever eaten. How it arrived to the table still standing is a mystery to me. While it looked delicious, it was pretty dry and desperately needed the chocolate-chipotle sorbet that was served along with it (which was amazing by the way)


I love the creativity that the chef at Paloma had - but if you're interested in going, go soon. With an out of the way location, larger than necessary space, and the fact that we were the only diners on a Thursday night, I'm pretty sure Paloma won't be a restaurant option for long.

3 out of 4 large pieces of cake!

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