Good but not great tapas in downtown Palo Alto. In spite of a full house, we lucked out with a mere 15 minute wait for a table of four around 8 PM on a Wednesday evening. Noise level could have been lower, but blame that on the team of intoxicated Facebook employees who were finishing their meal next to us.
I began mine with the tomatillo and avocado gazpacho. For a green variety of one of my favorite summer creations, it provided an enjoyable start to a somewhat mixed set of platters to follow. We ordered the ceviche combo – three types of lemon-cured fish. Not my favorite preparation, but the spicy shrimp was yummy. The deep fried Latin empanadas were quite filling, but they weren’t any more delicate than sandpaper. The chicken ‘anticuchos’ were well seasoned but slightly overcooked. Grilled asparagus were good, as was the charcuterie assortment, but the grilled artichokes with enhanced Thousand Island dressing lacked inspiration. Had I wanted to eat sixteen layers of artichoke leaves, I would have steamed them at home where I don't have to worry about staying clean. Is it normal to have a pie-eating contest on business? I don’t think so! Then why must I smother my face into greasy artichoke leaves like a pig in hopes of finding the prized artichoke heart that should have been the focus of this dish in the first place? Speaking of which, the lackluster churrros for desert looked like miniature hotdogs, and there was no whipped cream to accompany the chocolate sauce. My local Mexican café offers a much better version at a lower price; one expects more of a trendy yuppity uppity joint in downtown Palo Alto.
The best tapas was sautéed dino kale & mushrooms. They were prepared as an eclectic combination with gorgonzola cheese and sliced grapes. Additionally, seared bay scallops were served on a green plantain purée, with grilled sweet corn and tamarind beure blanc.
Clearly the food had its highs and lows, although presentation and delivery needed improvement across the board. Yes, orders arrived quickly, but we never got serving utensils. Even though our place settings were regularly changed, it was still awkward and borderline unhygienic to help ourselves to these group dishes using our own forks and knives, especially for second portions. Not to pile on, but the table was so wobbly, we suffered from sea sickness.
The subpar performance notwithstanding, I have to hand it to one of the waiters for running after me onto the street with my wallet. Somehow I left it behind, probably because I had left my brain in the meeting room that day after trying to absorb twelve hours of cloudy information. Still, the return of my wallet was symbolically aligned with our future expense report, because for the first time that week, we weren’t embarrassed to get the bill. Even though some of the prices seem outrageous on paper ($27 for the three small ladles of ceviche, $12.50 for no more than ¼ pound of glorified cold-cut meat), we were able to consume all this variety for about $35 per person. Mediocre food and good prices – not necessarily a bad combination for those needing to control costs, and definitely an attractive one for those managing the budget back home at corporate headquarters! 3.5 stars!
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