A recent reinvention, Paloma Family Restaurant is a Latin American restaurant specializing in Mexican and Chilean dishes. Formerly Paloma Steakhouse, it’s owned and operated by a family of restaurateurs — Lilian Gonzalez, Armando Lomeli and their children Kimberly and Jeffrey Ortiz — who’ve left their old northwest location to establish in the city’s northeast.
My guest and I visit Paloma early on a weeknight. A basket of complimentary house-made tortilla chips and a really spectacular dish of yellow salsa (low heat, punchy tang) are on our table pronto, followed by two pineapple sodas ($2.25).
There’s a mild, ongoing battle of sound systems happening: Margaritas Lounge next door is playing classic rock (The Eagles and such), while Paloma features mixed Latin rhythms. We’re not so fussed, because we’re here for the food.
We start our meal with a choriqueso ($7.95) appetizer. It’s accompanied by a basket of steamy, soft tortillas covered cozily with a cloth napkin. The shallow dish is comprised of a layer of spicy crumbled chorizo sausage meat with a golden-orange hue. The meat is covered with grated, melted mozzarella cooked crispy at its edge. In the middle is a big pinch of diced tomatoes. The chorizo at first seems too dry, but this isn’t the case. Wrapped in tortilla shells, the meat and browned cheese make a moist and satisfying combo. It’s a filling appetizer for two people, but I’m unable to resist eating all of it, given its tempting taste.
The camerones flameados con tequila ($16.95) consists of prawns flambéed with tequila and tossed in homemade cilantro butter with asparagus and black olives. This dish requires just a little tinkering. Either the tastes here are too subtle or somewhat bland. The mild cilantro butter is doing all the heavy lifting, but it’s not quite up to the task. This platter comes with a bowl of rice and another of refried beans (with a bit of grated mozzarella). The beans are good, but they’re the dish’s most prominent flavour. A squeeze or two of a lime wedge does up the game a notch, but it still needs a bit something more or different.
Mole is a distinctly Mexican sauce, typically made with (among many ingredients) chili peppers and chocolate. Paloma’s mole poblano con pollo ($16.75) comes with two well-cooked chicken legs and a breast blanketed in sauce. The dark brown and slightly reddish mole has a well-balanced thickness, a sweet edge and the deep, complex taste mole lovers expect. It may be a small touch, but the garnish of thinly sliced raw onion atop the saucy chicken delivers a beautiful bite. It’s an excellent touch. The only letdown on the plate is the rice, which is quite dried out. The refried beans, as with the other entree, are just fine.
Paloma’s list of house-made deserts is irresistible. We try the cajeta cheesecake ($3.95). The cake wedge is thick but not heavy, and is presented with painterly splashes of strawberry and chocolate sauce and a topping of caramelized milk. This is a high-note finish. A simpler dish, the house-made avocado ice cream ($3.95) is presented with sliced strawberries and a chocolate stick. It’s also a winner. Light and wholesome, with a hint of iciness, it’s a little like sherbet.
Paloma’s menu includes a well-chosen variety of dishes ranging from Mexican standards like enchiladas ($14.95), flautas ($14.95), chiles rellenos ($20.95) and Spanish paella ($45) as well as adventurous items like the cordero norteño ($19.95), which is a chipotle lamb shank dish. And in a nod to Paloma’s beefy history, it also offers several Latinized steaks. While the tequila prawns may require a rethink, Paloma’s recent reinvention as Latin restaurant is both welcome and tasty.