My husband David and I went to Pazo tonight, the new member of the Charleston Group; it's been open to the public less than a week. With that in mind, we'd give it a very positive review, although we thought that most of the dishes were good rather than great -- but the service and the space were both lovely, inclining us to give it a better recommendation than we might otherwise have done. We think it has definite promise, and encourage Chowhounders to go soon, before it is overrun.
First, the space is really lovely; it's large and sleek without being impersonal or austere. Although it's definitely seeking hipness, we thought they preserved the existing structure quite nicely -- it's much less painfully aspirational than Red Maple, for example. That said, the place is definitely looking for a 20-something vibe (especially since the lower seating area turns into a dance club in the late evening), but since the restaurant recruited regular patrons of Charleston and Petit Louis, the clientele was a little older.
Secondly, we were concerned that the service might have been a little green, but it was terrific. Our server, in particular, was both knowledgeable about the menu and the wines, and very friendly.
We began with the signature blood-orange martinis (preserving the "coastal Mediterranean" theme); David really liked it but I found it excessively potent for an aperitif. I'd be happy to have it at the bar/lounge area, though. (They provide sunflower seed "tuile" as an amuse-bouche, which was good but unnecessary -- I'd prefer a little bit of the homemade bread, a $3 charge.)
We elected to have the small plates, which comprise the bulk of the menu (they also have pizzas). We started with three from the "field" list: goat cheese francobelli (mini stuffed pastas in arugula pesto), pane de ceci (chickpea pancake), and roasted potatoes (in lamb fat). I liked the francobelli more than David did -- I thought the quality of the goat cheese was quite good and that the arugula pesto was tasty -- but David preferred the pancake, which was both flavorful and somewhat unusual. The roasted potatoes, while not especially crispy, were fine.
We then moved onto a second group of small plates: calamari with green apple, grilled quail with grilled pear, and zuppa di pesce. David really liked the combination of the calamari with the green apple and we both thought that the quail had excellent flavor. The zuppa, good if somewhat forgettable, was served over the outstanding bread.
With this, we each had a glass of wine -- I had a Sardinian wine, "Monica," which I thought was plummy and very good, and David had a Malbec with which he was less enamored.
Then we had cheeses: a lingot de quercy (goat), a principe de sardegna (blue), and a mahon (cow). Fine, nothing amazing -- though the principe de sardegna is probably worthwhile -- and since ordered a la carte were more expensive than the less inspiring collections on the dessert menu. One minor quibble is that the cheese plates are on the dessert menu, which we did not see until after we'd ordered the cheese from the primary menu -- a plate of 3 is $9, but a la carte the cheeses vary from $4-$5.
I asked the server for a dessert recommendation and ended up with more cheese -- the sheep's milk ricotta cannoli, one with dark chocolate and one with dried fruits. The quality of the filling was very good, but the shell was excessively oily in flavor.
The bill came to $88 pre-tip, which we thought was a pretty good value.
Again: a good but not great meal, but a thoroughly enjoyable experience. If you really are indifferent to ambience, I would not urge it upon you, but if you're looking for a new, hip-ish place for a drink and some tapas -- which far, far outstrips Red Maple -- I would definitely encourage you to visit.
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