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Restaurant Review: Paladar

October 4, 2009

For the sake of applying a “numerical” valuation towards elements during the dinner, for this, and all subsequent reviews, we have chosen to rank each segment from 1-5 “tickets at the pass,” 5 being the most favorable value.

Chef Gusteau:  Anton got started on those rum drinks before I arrived.  I tasted one, and it was an impressive rum.  Reminiscent of a Madeira or Port, fortified with rum.

The wine selections were a bit scarce by the glass, though wines from Spain and Chile were well represented.   Malbec, Tempranillo and Syrah seem to pair best with most of the dinner entrees.

Monsieur Anton:  The wines were your basic run of the mill restaurant variety, and the  emphasis on South American wines is probably a good idea given the Latin menu and currently wonderful value of these wines.  While not overwhelming, the wine list was serviceable.  The rums, as you would expect at a Cuban inspired bar, on the other hand stood out.  I decided to try the Anejo sampler.  Anejo rums are aged, and two of the three delivered.  The Bacardi 8 was nuanced and sweet, and the Ron Zacapa Centanario was dark and sweet with a nice flavor of raisins and molasses.  The Rhum Barbancourt Reserva was a tad disappointing, with much less rich of a sugar cane taste and a slight alcohol finish.

The bar scene was hopping, with most all stools filled with friendly regulars.  This would be a good spot to meet friend for drinks and maybe a small bite of the bar menu.

Tickets at the pass – 4

Appetizers

Chef Gusteau:  I warned Anton about the Ceviche selection.  I am very particular about authentic ceviche, and this was NOT authentic, nor was it satisfying.  Ceviche originated in both Spain and Peru, and is characterized by diced raw fish marinated in citrus juices (lime, lemon, orange, etc.).  After several hours in the marinade, the fish is actually “cooked” and not considered raw.  At this point, many types of garnish are added from the drained fish, such as peppers, onions, avocado, fruit, etc.

My heart dropped when I saw the salmon ceviche selection was covered completely by stale, popped popcorn.  I had never seen this as a garnish, and I know why…it doesn’t work.  It especially doesn’t work if the chef leaves unpopped kernels in the ceviche as well.  After unceremoniously casting aside each piece of unsavory popcorn, I tasted each of the three ceviche selections.  Bland, under seasoned, and wholly unsatisfying.  It’s dishes like this that skew diners into believing they don’t like ceviche.  The tuna and watermelon ceviche was actually four tiny cubes of tuna served with honeydew melon, which is not the same as watermelon in any way.

Monsieur Anton:  Ah head games, Anton is thy name!  I precisely ordered the ceviche to taunt Gusteau.  Seriously, he has an obsession with ceviche.  I really think he needs therapy.   Nobody’s ceviche can compare to Gusteau’s, and in this case, sadly it did not.  One of the fun things about dining with Gusteau is the gastronomic education you get.  I learned from this course that no item in a ceviche should be bigger than the featured item, in this case shrimp, tuna, and salmon.  Of the three, only the shrimp was of ample size.  I don’t know ceviche as well as Gusteau (nobody does), but I do know taste.  Of the three, I found the shrimp satisfying, the salmon and the tuna selection, not so much.  The saving grace was that Chef Gusteau was able to maintain his air of superiority.

Chef Gusteau:   On to the Mahi Mahi Tacos.  Presentation was nice, with an interesting use of taro chips as the taco shell.  That said, the smoked Mahi Mahi might as well have been canned tuna.  Elements such as raisins and capers, which would have helped with the seasoning, were all but absent from the dish.

Monsieur Anton:  Very disappointing.  Where were the capers?  Where were the raisins?  If they were there, they were hidden by the massive amount of mayonnaise.  Now I love me some mayo, but a little subtly please.  Why would you bury a quality main ingredient like Mahi Mahi under so much condiment?  It’s a shame too.  The Mahi Mahi from what I could tell had a nice smoked flavor.  Too bad it was hidden by the mayo.

By the way, I’m a little upset that Gusteau already made the canned tuna remark, stepping all over my planned “Chicken of the Sea” comment.

Tickets at the pass – 2

Dinner entrees

Chef Gusteau:  I had much hope for the dinner selections.  Even upon arrival at the table, the dishes seemed to be the salvation of the night’s meal.  Then we tasted.  Then we cried.  The lamb stew was composed of rice and hominy, and about four pieces of lamb, each the size of a walnut.  Where was the lamb in the lamb stew?  Then we tasted the lamb. The unfortunate morsels were exceptionally dry and over cooked, which paired nicely with the mealy hominy and overcooked rice.

Monsieur Anton:  Where’s the beef…err lamb? Did I miss something here?  Yes, I did.  The freaking lamb!  I don’t believe we ordered hominy stew, or rice stew.  Maybe I’m being a little demanding here, but is it too much to ask for more than four lousy dry pieces of lamb in the lamb stew?

Chef Gusteau:  The Braised Beef fared no better.  While the beef was certainly more tender than the lamb, it was overdone with tomato paste and raisin flavor…almost like a sour version of sloppy joes.  The rice was once again overcooked and dry.  The plantain “fritters” were a fun surprise and quite sweet and tasty.

Monsieur Anton:  The plantains were the highlight of the dish, and when the side dish is the highlight, we have a problem.  The beef had an overwhelming tomato taste and consistency of a brisket.  The latter is a compliment.  The former is not.  With the prevailing sweet tomato taste, the beef was better intended to be heaped atop a mound of spaghetti, and served as Cincinnati chili.  And, oh yeah.  The rice was dry.

Chef Gusteau:  The Adobo Seared Tuna was the best of the worst, and the most expensive.  For about $24 you get approximately six small slices of tuna.  Not particularly the best cut of tuna as several of our pieces had the white membrane and “silverskin” running through them, making them difficult to eat.  The seasoning was good, as was the cilantro cream sauce.  The garnish was rather humorous.  Imagine these six pieces of tuna completely covered by a large handful of UNCUT parsley and chives.  That was the dish.  We simply moved the entire garnish off to the side as I left my chef knife at home and was unable to properly prep the garnish myself before service.  Finishing on a positive note, the tuna was served with several pieces of yucca/polenta like cakes that were quite good.

Monsieur Anton:  Once again, the side dish, the Crispy Yucca Cake was the highlight.  Once again, that is a problem.  The Yucca Cake had a nice cheesy taste and pleasing texture.  The tuna itself was not bad.  I’m not sure it wasn’t anything you cannot get at any number of restaurants throughout the city, but it was pleasant enough.  Sparsely portioned, but alright, once we found it that is.  I should defer to Gusteau here, but shouldn’t the tuna be atop, the Crab and Jicama Salad that was served with it?  The tuna after all is supposed to be the star of the dish.  To follow what seems to be a theme here, where was the crab?  I didn’t even realize there was supposed to be crab in the salad until I read the menu again.

Tickets at the pass – 2

Chef Gusteau:  Food aside, the ambiance, and decor of the restaurant were quite appealing.  This is certainly a trendy place to meet and celebrate, as long as food is not involved.  The decor is modern/contemporary with bright colors and comfortable seating.  Service, although slow and at times very inattentive, was friendly and candid.

Monsieur Anton:  If I could only use one word to describe Paladar, it would be trendy.  Fun atmosphere.  Jamming bar.  Young good looking staff.  A place to see and be seen.  A place to drink.  A place to eat?  Only if you lower your expectations, and bring your credit card.  The service was generally friendly and attentive.  The barmaid was greased lightening behind the bar, handling customers and service bar with nary a glitch.  The server was a nice chap, but perhaps he should have shared his recommendations with us BEFORE dinner.  Also when the wine list is asked for again when the main course is presented, it shouldn’t take ten minutes to come back for the wine order.

Tickets at the pass – 4

Final Review –

Chef Gusteau:  Paladar is a good place to meet and be seen in a trendy atmosphere, while enjoying various wines and liquors.  It is not the place to go to taste authentic South American flavors, nor is it the place to go if you expect good food value for the money.

Monsieur Anton:  I remember a previous visit to Paladar being much more satisfying than this one.  Maybe it was the company (the lovely lady I was with looked a lot better than Gusteau), or the portions, or the quality of food.  Maybe it was just an off evening.  I hope Paladar is not cutting back portions like some restaurants are doing in these tough economic times.  This is certainly not the way to go.

Final tickets at the pass – 2.5

Paladar

28601 Chagrin Blvd

Woodmere, OH  44122

Phone:  216-896-9020

www.paladarlatinkitchen.com

Pre-meal drinks:

Flight of Rum (Anejo selection) – $16.50

Bacardi 8 yr, Rhum Barbancourt 8yr, Ron Zacapa Centenario

Wines with Dinner:

Dona Paula “Los Cardos” Malbec – Argentina  $7.00

Raimat “Vina 43” Tempranillo-Spain  $6.50

Terra Adina Cabernet – Chilean  $6.50

Urano Syrah-Argentina  $7.00

Appetizers:

Trio of Ceviche – $12.95; Shrimp and avocado with plantain chips, Tuna and Watermelon, Sweet and Sour Salmon

Rum Smoked Mahi Mahi Tiny Tacos – $9.95 Mahi Salad with raisins, capers, herb mayonnaise, pickled jalapenos and fried taro chips

Entrees:

Brazilian Lamb Stew – $16.95, Lamb, cilantro rice, cilantro broth

Braised Beef Ropa Vieja – $15.95, skirt steak, plantains, rice and beans

Adobo rubbed seared Tuna – $23.50, tuna, jicama salad, cilantro cream sauce

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