Palma – No Expectations Leads to Success

When I headed to Palma for dinner, I had no expectations. Had never seen it, read about it or even heard of it. I thought every restaurant in the West Village had been found, discussed and dissected to death.

Our large party arrived a bit late, and was promptly seated at a large, spacious table. The atmosphere was relaxed and buzzing – not so loud that you couldn’t go here on a date, but noisy enough that our boisterous table was not out of place.

 Bread and Caponata

The bread was standard, slightly spongy white bread – nothing special there and they could really do better. The caponata, however, was especially delicious. Eggplant, onions, peppers and other vegetables melded into a sweet and savory melange. It was fruity, slightly peppery and almost meaty with the tender strips of roasted peppers and onions. This would be fantastic on pasta or on better bread.
Roasted Fennel
This was the best thing of the night. Fruity olive oil, pungent garlic and verdant parsley all played up the fennel’s tender-crisp texture and fragrant, licorice-y taste. Intensely savory, thanks to the garlic, the fennel had charred edges, insides that sort of melted, and a taste that was hearty without being filling or heavy. The juices it left behind were so flavorful that I sopped them up with the(sub par) bread.

Calamari Fritti

Though I usually prefer Asian style calamari, with its sweet and hot sauces, this was a well-prepared example of Italian calamari. Crispy, greaseless breading surrounding soft calamari rings, with only a hint of the sea (like really good shellfish) and no rubbery ones at all. The little tentacles were all crunch, and a hit of lemon juice brought a clear, high note to the dish. Thin slices of lemon were fried – chewy, sour, charred bites amongst the decadence of the fried fish.

Fisherman’s Stew – Mussels, Scallops, Clams, Calamari and Shrimp in a Light Tomato Broth

It started like this
And then looked like this
Truly, a thing of beauty. Briny clams, tender calamari, sweet mussels, snappy shrimp and huge, buttery scallops floated in a tomatoey, garlicky, winey broth. There were small cherry tomatoes in there, jammy and sweet next to the clams bursting with brine and those creamy, mild mussels. The wine in the broth added and acidity and the whole flavor was incredibly intense. The dough it was cooked in sealed in all the flavors, to the seafood and tomato flavors were intensified, becoming concentrated as they cooked. The dough itself was like slightly thinner naan-wheaty and hearty enough to dip into the aromatic broth. This was unexpectedly delicious and incredibly satisfying.

Palma was a worthwhile dinner! It was reasonably priced, with good service, comfortable surroundings and better than average food. The seafood stew was a particular bargain – easily big enough to split between 2 people. While it isn’t a destination-worthy restaurant, I could see myself coming here quite often if  I lived nearby. 

Sometimes, no expectations really pay off.
That’s what she said.

Comments

  1. Feisty Foodie says:

    Okay, that you ended with "that's what she said" – that alone – smile on my face. Thank you.

  2. LG says:

    That fennel…that calamari…that big bowl of heaven! We always order so well together :)

  3. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Feisty-No, thank YOU!
    @LG-that we do, chica!

  4. Dee says:

    If it's still the same guy in the kitchen, he used to cook at Bellavitae – solid Italian food. Did you see the room upstairs? I went to a birthday party there last year…it was lots of fun.

  5. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Dee-no, I hadn't seen the upstairs room! I love that there is a place for parties there!

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