Few chefs can boast a different eatery for each day of the week, but Palomino Restaurant in Larchmont is just one of Colombian-born Rafael Palomino’s seven restaurants throughout the Northeast. It is hard to imagine juggling a couple of popular eateries, let alone over half a dozen, while simultaneously running both a consulting company and a catering company, to boot—yet Palomino does it, and does it well.
Exactly one year old, Palomino Restaurant serves cuisine self-characterized as “southwestern modern fusion.” Offerings include tapas both hot and cold, meats and cheeses, and additional main courses. The restaurant is named for its chef, naturally, but you’ll find artwork on the walls honoring its secondary definition: “Palomino” indicates the bright color of certain horses of various breeds. The dimly lit, relatively small interior houses a bar that I’ve heard gets pretty loud during peak hours.
As simple as it is, I really appreciated my first bite at Palomino: a piping hot, crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside roll. The perfect piece of bread was elevated by its complement, a vibrant red, flavorful spread. I detected sundried tomato but inquired about the other ingredients, which I learned are ginger, garlic, honey, and olive oil. I also discovered that I was far from the first to ask—in fact, Palomino used to sell his “sundried tomato chimichurri” by the jar! He only stopped because it was not possible to maintain the quality, given that the product should really be consumed day-of. I suppose I am left to experimenting in my kitchen to attempt to produce something similar.
Throughout the meal, most admirable to me was the obvious attention to detail that goes into plating each dish. The plates were among some of the brightest and most colorful I have seen in my extensive dining out experience, which made everything look especially summery and fresh. Each dish was so artfully crafted that I had to pause in awe before digging in.
The first trio we received was served on a tiered stand, which further added to the overall presentation. Working our way from top to bottom, we enjoyed the Maine miniature cod tacos, Point Judith Rhode Island grilled calamari, and the Coca Vaquero. With just a hint of spice, the tacos were crispy and light, prepared with grilled shiitake mushrooms, charred tomato, and asparagus salsita. We overheard nearly every table ordering this menu staple. The calamari was drizzled with oil and served amidst a tasty bed of arugula, tomatoes, corn, and white beans.
Our third bite, the coca, was taken from one of the daily special menus that Palomino offers. Monday evenings feature a separate menu of cocas, which are essentially flatbreads with a Spanish twist. The waitress noted that each contained cheese, even if it was absent from the dish description. In the Coca Vaquero, the marriage of steak and caramelized apples in a fig vinaigrette (with bleu cheese, of course) was on point.
With additional daily specials throughout the week, locals can surely find a night to fit their palate. Taco Tuesdays allow patrons two tacos for five dollars, and Wednesdays feature creative paellas, ranging from the signature to squid ink, vegetarian, and beyond. Thursday struck me as most interesting, for this night showcases tacos from around the world via a menu updated monthly to reflect a different country. June is Argentina, so there are a couple weeks left for locals to come experience this region!
After appetizers, we sampled the shrimp tamale with a lemongrass chardonnay sauce, which is partly prepared while wrapped in plantain leaves. We enjoyed braised duck quesadillas and “Palomino Paella,” one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, comprised of saffron rice, shrimp, clam, mussels, chorizo, and scallops.
Despite the vast spread laid before me, I have to admit I was envious of the guacamole I watched being made tableside for a group of women. They also shared a large pitcher of red sangria and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying a girls’ night out. The sangria looked great, and Palomino’s cocktail menu in general has received much praise online. Brunch at Palomino is also now on my radar, as I have been made aware of their prix-fixe menu that includes unlimited sangria, two courses, and passed hors d’oeuvres for under thirty dollars.
Our night ended with a twist on traditional Spanish flan that stole my heart and quickly became my favorite of the night. The flan was garnished with strawberries and a mint leaf, but more notable was the oversize sugar cookie in the shape of a spoon. While I have undoubtedly only scratched the surface of Chef Palomino’s extensive repertoire, I am already impressed.