Latin-inspired seafood sailing into Port Chester
Rafael Palomino’s newest venture.
I told a white lie, or maybe just stretched the facts a bit. It was true that after eating my very rich appetizer of red snapper ceviche in coconut milk—and when I say eating, let me be clear: I used a spoon to get every last bit of the lime-laced coconut milk—my appetite was somewhat diminished.
Even so, I wouldn’t have eaten much of the whole roast black bass—it was heavily dressed with a sharply acidic sauce that completely obscured the flavor of the fish. I didn’t have the heart to tell the server, who looked worried when he saw I’d left much of it. A short time later, the front of the house manager, chef and owner Rafael Palomino’s brother, Martin, came over to ask about our meal. He said he noticed us in last week and wanted to be sure, since I didn’t eat all my fish, that everything was all right.
I was so impressed by this concern, and there was so much to like about Pacifico, Palomino’s latest Westchester restaurant (he also owns Sonora in Port Chester), that I just want to overlook the black bass. But the truth is, the food at this very young restaurant is uneven, and needs to mature into what we know, from his other ventures (including three cookbooks) Palomino is capable of.
The restaurant itself is charmingly cheery, with a whimsical sea motif carried out in bright, tropical colors. Our earnest servers were knowledgeable about the food and eager to please. And I am very happy to report that some of the food was really quite good.
To our great pleasure, two ceviche specials we ordered were right on the mark. Similarly, mussels sang a joyful aria when steamed in a saffron broth with a hint of cilantro. Or was that us singing? No matter, we mopped up the broth with bread—the appealing slices sometimes served toasted, others just warmed, and once with a definite unpleasant chill.
The bread was initially brought to the table with a “sun-dried tomato chimichurri.” I’m not sure what qualifies this robustly flavored, addictive and well-balanced condiment or sauce as a chimichurri, but I’ll call it anything I’m told as long as they keep bringing it to me. Just when we’d made pigs of ourselves and sponged up the last of the chimichurri, salvation from carbohydrate overload arrived in the form of the squid steak appetizer. Thin rings of calamari, tinged on the outside with amber-colored sear marks, were so tender and tasty, our forks collided in midair like swords in battle as we dove through the barely dressed frisÃ©e. Only after we were certain the last of the seafood was gone did we settle in to appreciate the rest of the lettuce tossed with bits of intense chorizo and briny olives.
The roasted beet-and-goat-cheese salad flourished under a subtly sweet white balsamic dressing, and an arugula salad with enoki mushrooms and Peruvian black olives was a study in
With all that culinary magic, we felt doubly disappointed when our blue corn rigatoni with scallops and shrimp—which, like all the food, was gorgeously presented—was cloyingly sweet. The thick sauce, described on the menu as “chipotle Chardonnay,” tasted more of sweet corn than anything else, although there was a faint note of smoky heat from the chipotle.
Still, even with a few troubled dishes, I would return to Pacifico. Clearly the restaurant needs to work through some kinks before it hits its stride as another great Nuevo Latino restaurant.
316 Boston Post Rd., Port Chester
Lunch, daily 12-3:30 pm
Dinner, Sun. to Wed. 5-10 pm, Thurs. to Sat. 5-11 pm