On Monday we went to Paladar for our weekly “big night out.” It was a great choice. A rare beautiful spring day in Cleveland combined with their patio helped us make the decision a bit easier. It was a tiny bit chilly, but it wasn’t too cold to be sitting outside. The running water from the fountain behind us made it easy to forget that the parking lot was just beyond the fence.

Walking in the door we were greeted by the hostess and quickly seated outside on the patio. Todd, our server, came out and got us started with our drinks and some guacamole.

Our drinks arrived quickly: a muddled strawberry caipirinha for En and the Paladar house mojito for myself. Both drinks were well balanced with their flavors and garnished well.

The guac we ordered, the special one of the day was a goat cheese and black bean guacamole served with a variety of different types of chips: plantain, yucca, malanga and tortilla. The change from the standard chips made things a lot more interesting. The subtle differences in the flavors and textures or the chips gave a regular dish a lot more appeal. The guac was well made and flavorful with a bit of chunkiness of the avocado reminding you were it came from.

After that we split an appetizer: a chorizo and cheese papusa. This was one of the highlights of the dinner! The mix of the chorizo and cheese worked without being greasy. Surrounding this delicious mixture was a light dough made from plantains. Covering the entire sandwich was a light and chunky tomato sauce. A bit of chopped parsley provided the finishing touch. The parsley was the surprise; we were expecting the typical cilantro but got parsley instead! It was a good and playful touch.

Dinner came next: I got the braised beef ropa vieja and En’s choice was the slow smoked chicken. Both came with a large (I would say too much really) pile of fried plantains. Each of these were executed with the meat fall-apart tender and a great every-so-slightly spicy sauce on top. The beef came served over rice and beans. I noticed the beans were cooked slightly al dente and were bursting with flavor. Well done. The chicken came over arepas which were quite a bit different than ones we’ve seen in the past. They were far more like a fried polenta than the puffy ones we’ve seen in the past. It wasn’t a problem since they were quite tasty anyway.

It was getting dark out and we were getting quite full. Todd brought out the desert menu regardless. Not a whole lot of arm-twisting was needed for us to get a desert ordered. We chose the Cuban bread pudding. I’ve always loved the simple bread and rice puddings with their flavors that are more subtle. This was no exception. The bread pudding came out with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with a caramel sauce. Tucked inside were rum-soaked raisins that provided a sweet burst of flavor when you bit into them.

Things were winding down outside with only two tables with guests. As we were getting ready to go we started talking to Todd. It seems that Paladar wants to start franchising itself and will be opening a new location in Maryland. It seems that one of his tasks is to write up the company handbook. A little after-dinner market research. :-) It’s interesting to suddenly see how the place works from the other side. Why the menu is arraigned a certain way, what words are used to describe food and so on.

What does “rustic” mean to you? Is it good or bad? What about comfort food? How would you place certain things on the menu?

All in all it was a great night out! We took a walk around the mall to get in a token amount of exercise. If we wanted to we probably could have driven a forklift of two buck chuck out the back of Trader Joes, but we were already full. So we called it a night at just dinner.

Overall we would certainly go back. It was somewhat pricey, but not unreasonable for the food and drink we we had.

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