A couple weeks ago I found myself in downtown Novato in need of a snack and spotted this small restaurant attached to the Mexican market. The name sounded vaguely familiar (see Brandons old post below), and Ive had good luck with the eating places operated by Mexican grocers.
Bright white interior and neat as a pin, El Palmars selection of salsas at the serve yourself bar looked promising and the menu offered a wide selection of meats (tinga!) for antojitos and several seafood dishes. I almost went for a gordita, but ended up ordering a fish taco, $1.75, instead.
While I waited for my order, a basket of hot tortilla chips was presented. These were the dense and thick kind with a deep corn-y flavor and had been salted. The salsa fresca was very mild yet very fresh. The roasted tomato and chipotle had lots of depth of flavor. My favorite of the three was a ruddy brownish color made from a mix of green, red, fresh and dried chilis, and was very complex and lots of spicy heat. The salsa bar also offered limes, pickled jalapeños, cucumber slices, radishes, and a lovely marinated medley of very fresh tasting green, yellow and red bell peppers with tomato wedges and yellow onions.
I was surprised when the fish taco was presented with a blizzard of fresh grated cheddar cheese on top. This detracted from the taste, but all was fine after I knocked it aside. The snapper had been cut into a coarse dice, dusted with starch and then sauteed on the flat top until nicely browned. It was clean-tasting, nongreasy and moist. The base of the taco was two 6corn tortillas griddled dry, and the fish was topped with shredded lettuce, onions, cilantro, and salsa fresca. I would have liked a bit of crema to bind the flavors together, but it was fine with a shot of lime.
With the salsa bar offerings and very good chips, I got a terrific deal here for less than 2 bucks.
The restaurant is adjacent to Casa del Palmar Market (Carnicería y Productos Mexicanos, Centro y Sudamericanos) that also has locations in San Rafael, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, and Antioch, but I dont know if all have restaurants.
El Palmar Restaurant
1108 Grant Ave.
Open 7 days, 9am-8pm