Went to Palena last night to try the "small plate" menu in the front cafe. We tried all the dishes save the organic chicken. Our verdict was mixed.
On the positive side, the fries were fun: frites, onions, lemons (!), and mashed potato ringlets, served with a nice garlic aioli and a dab of a spicy reinterpretation of ketchup. The Caesar salad was done in the classic style, and it was also hit.
A more mixed verdict for the crabcake. In and of itself, it was a delicate, interesting and inventive preparation, with parsley flecks adding a nice vegetative dimension. But it was served on a very bland bed of potato mash that could not be avoided because the delicate cake would fall apart into it. The end result were many a fork full that was overwhelmed by the bland mush. My suggestion: ask them to put the mush on the side.
The cafe burger was also mixed. We ordered medium rare, and it came out decidedly well done (with the attendand shrinkage being very significant). The waiter did not hesitate to provide a substitute, which was more attentively cooked. The meat was flavorful and so tender it almost fell apart but did not.
On the wholly negative side, the home made noodles were awful. The ragout with which they were served was tasteless, even after we added salt. And the noodles were hardened in spots, apparently from the whole dish being overcooked (or over heat-lamped).
They do have a good selection of wines by the glass, but it is pricey. Each glass was $8-$9 to start and many escalated from there.
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