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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Restaurant of the Weekend: Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar

Posted By on Thu, May 15, 2008 at 8:16 AM

A combo of plantain, yucca, and malanga jazzes up Paladar's guacamole.
I’ve had better experiences than Tuesday’s visit to Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar, in Woodmere. Right from the beginning, in fact, my lunch seemed cursed, marred by a perfect storm of errors and oversights. So then why am I telling you to head over to this Nuevo Latino outpost in Eton-Chagrin this weekend? Actually, I can give you several reasons. ... First, the food. Paladar serves up an out-of-the-ordinary lineup of Latin American eats, ranging from ceviche, tiny tacos, and Cubano sandwiches to slow-smoked chicken, sofrito-basted scallops, and Brazilian lamb stew. Compositions are inventive, flavors are bright, and most entrees are tagged at less than $21. Second, the convenience. Especially if you’re running errands on Saturday, a midday stop will give you a chance to sample a wide range of tidbits from the expansive lunch menu. Or, if you’re looking for a dinner destination, the handsome, heated patio provides a fine perch for enjoying guacamole, chips, and a pitcher of sangria. Then, the amenities. The Monday-through-Friday Happy Hora in the bar, for instance, featuring $5 mojitos and margaritas, $3 Latin beer specials, and petite portions of menu items priced at less than $5. Or, for those of you who kick off your weekend early, the live Latin music on the patio each Thursday, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (Tonight, that means James y Silvia, playing Afro-Cuban salsa and Latin jazz. In case of rain, the music moves indoors.) Plus, the setting is sleek and sexy, service is accommodating, and should a problem arise, management goes out of its way to smooth things out. Which brings us back to my messed-up lunch, which began with the wrong guacamole (I ordered the day’s “chef’s inspiration,” featuring mango and shallots; I received the basic “traditional”); continued with the zesty gazpacho (delivered without the definitely worth-waiting-for pressed-bread crostini); and wound up with the tiny pulled chicken tacos which arrived without the touted toppings of sour cream and pico de gallo. And the complimentary starter of warm tortillas with honey-cumin butter and black-bean tapenade sounded fantastic; too bad it never showed up. Luckily, my server voluntarily turned the whole mess over to manager Sean Latona, who calmed the waters like a pro. Apologetic but not obsequious, Latona accepted the blame, refused to pass the buck, and went out of his way to be sure the remainder of my meal proceeded smoothly. And as the capper, he bought me dessert – a knockout coconut flan, in an amber pool of caramel sauce. (Also, in case you’re wondering, my visit was completely anonymous. Besides Latona’s customer-service savvy, I chalk up that free flan to my talent for complaining politely.) I followed up by phone the next day with general manager Ean Carroll, this time identifying myself. Carroll proved equally receptive to my sob story, and assured me he would to take all necessary steps to eliminate such oversights in the future. What’s more, Carroll actually thanked me for the feedback! After nearly a decade at this job, I can assure you that any restaurant can make mistakes. But not every restaurant corrects them so professionally. And that, my fellow food fiends, is why Paladar Latin Kitchen is my restaurant of the weekend. Find Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum at 28601 Chagrin Blvd., in Woodmere; 216-896-9020. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday. --- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at clevescene.com.
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