NEW restaurants are not content to nurture the individual. The best of them want to feed the public consciousness as well, calling attention to charities and service organizations through auctions and benefits.
This bistro will
be hard to beat
Palomino Euro Bistro opened a few weeks ago with a benefit for Hawaii Theatre, and demonstrates it's continuing support of downtown revitalization and the theater by listing upcoming performances on its menu. So if you're all dressed up anyway and have got -- sob! -- no place to go after dinner, now you'll know.
Palomino is glitzy, but not uncomfortably strait-laced. Maybe it's the wood-fire oven and rotisserie that lend warmth to the room, despite all the marble, mahogany and glass decor.
In spite of all the planning, the restaurant is designed in such a way that patrons and employees use the same congested walkway that runs the length of the restaurant. What they need are two lanes so diners won't feel they have to run with the waiters.
TRUE to Roma-style, the restaurant is known for its cracker-thin pizza crusts. Yet, pizza is the least interesting item on the menu. Pizzas run $7.95 to $10.95 for dinner, and if you want to sample the crust only, Vincenzo Crisps brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs and Parmesan are served with tomato chutney ($7.95) or crab-artichoke dip ($8.95) as an appetizer. My crisps ended up half-blackened. I guess that's easy to do when one veers from the forgiving, super-inflated American-style crust.
It's unusual to see braised celery ($3.95) on a local menu, but it worked, paired with braised fennel, warm pears, basil, walnuts and chevre. An accompaniment of roasted potatoes ($3.95), too, was not the usual. These were served scalloped-style in a creamy sauce topped with fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, garlic and pancetta.
What did these accompany? Spit-Roasted Honey Crusted Beef Tenderloin ($23.95) topped with "frizzled" onions, coated with a strong cabernet sauce. And Kiawe Grilled Atlantic Salmon ($19.95) topped with artichoke tartar sauce. I didn't try the Cedar Plank Salmon because I already know and love Kincaid's (Palomino's sister restaurant) version. If Palomino's ($21.95) is anything like it, I would order the cedar salmon before the drier grilled version.
Palomino's Paella ($17.95) is the best I've sampled so far in Hawaii. Clams and mussels retain their tenderness in the cumin and saffron-scented rice, which also boasts a good helping of chorizo, shutome and shrimp.
For smaller eaters, there is Seafood Ravioli ($14.95), two 4-inch pillows of pasta filled with spit-roasted prawns, scallops, salmon and mascarpone. Also, two Dungeness Crab Cakes ($15.95) are delicious, topped with red pepper puree and accompanied by a lightly flavored pesto buerre blanc.
There is much more I want to try: Spit-Roasted Lamb Shanks ($19.95) and Garlic Chicken ($19.95), Macedonian Fruit Salad with fresh figs and cinnamon couscous ($11.95), Roasted Kali Kali (snapper) with Morrocan spices and preserved lemon ($26.95).
I might as well list the whole menu. But you don't have time for that. You've probably got a reservation to make. Brava!
Palomino Euro BistroWhere: Harbor Court, 55 Merchant St., with valet or validated parking
Hours: Lunch 11:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; dinner 5 to 10 p.m. daily
Prices: For two without drinks -- $16 to $30 for lunch; $30 to $60 for dinner
Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:
-- excellent;To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- below average.