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Manhattan

La Palapa - fantastic

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La Palapa - fantastic

Nils | Feb 28, 2001 04:41 PM

I'll try & make this kind of short, but La Palapa is fantastic, finally went there last Sunday. Well-presented (not particularly 'upscale' or 'nouveau') pretty-damn-authentic Mexican (yes, it would be nice if they used copious amounts of self-rendered lard and homemade tortillas, but they don't do that so much in Mexico anymore either); really cool staff, nice room. None of the conceit or inconsistency of the Zarela, Maya, Rosa Mexicano scene.

Judging by some of the posts about it, I think there are some people that are mistaking their own tastes for La Palapa's shortcomings. The one guy who was put off by an herby taste - it's not the case with Tex-Mex, but herbs are a crucial part of Mexican cooking - epazote, hoja santa, avocado leaf, cilantro, radish leaves, etc. - these are strong, and often acquired, tastes, but very important for the proper flavors, and I was impressed by La Palapa's use of them. Also, some people just don't like tamales ('bland'), certain chiles ('muddy'), etc. no matter how well they're prepared.

Basics: Good salsas, great non-limey guacamole, nicely tart margaritas, slightly disappointing tortillas.

Apps: impressively fluffy tamale, insanely flavorful quesadillas (we got one pork al pastor, and one w/mexican greens), nice ribs in a dark BBQ-type chile sauce I can't recall.

Entrees; The pork chop which others have mentioned - my friend actually ordered the pork in pipian verde, but once we tasted the pork chop, we decided not to return it- MAN it's good, moist and huge. Shrimp in tamarind, a little sweet & one-dimensional but the shrimp are very fresh and have that nice 'pop' which I know as a Chinese restuarant trick of briefly salting them. Duck in black mole was great; the duck slices were a tad meager but the sauce was almost perfect - there were some odd bright notes to the mole that suggested it was maybe made with all anchos, or some guajillos or something, rather than the traditional chihuacles or a comparable mix. the chicken enchiladas in red mole are a great comfort food, stacked and almost stew-like in a shallow bowl, with an appropriately bright traditional red 'everyday' mole. The skirt steak was awesome - tender with some chew, perfectly cooked. The refried beans are only OK (i think refrieds REALLY need lard or bacon fat, otherwise i'll take soupy pintos), as is the rice, though I liked the green rice a lot (there are 3 rices).

It was really a pleasant dinner, the tables are nicely spaced, the vibe is very relaxed, again the people who work there are wonderful, and they handled 2 mishaps realy well - a fuse blew and the lights above our table went out; they were really apologetic but we were happy with a couple extra candles. Then, the kitchen lost our order, again they were very apologetic for the delay, bought us a round, and all was well. They were definitely attuned to what was happening at their tables - I've had similar thigns happen in other, 'better' restaurants and it's hard to even get an acknowledgement, let alone actual concern.

I'm just so damn psyched for a good affordable true Mex place downtown.

Nils

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