It's racing season again at Gulfstream, and as with every year, there are notable openings and closings in the under-utilized complex. Closed this year are Playwright Irish Pub, Cadallac Ranch and the Cheese Course; opening in a prime space next to the Yardhouse is Paladar, where you can sit outside and view horses in the Paddock and watch the races on big screens.
Paladar is a mini-chain restaurant out of Cleveland Ohio, with 2 locations in Maryland and 4 total.
It's is a pretty big place at 7000 square feet, the outside patio seemed to be the favorite choice for dining, but I wanted to eat indoors as it was a bit windy. The people who work here aren't the typical latin restaurant employees; I asked the white chick hostess for a booth. At 2:15 the inside was completely empty; she tried to shuffle me into some bench seating. "Is that a booth?"jump-->, I asked. "It's a half a booth", she answered. "Are all of these booths taken? Can I have one of these please?".
Why do hostesses insist on seating people at uncomfortable tables in empty restaurants off hours? It's the difference between just having a brain and actually using it. Smarten up, people. Train your people to use common sense to maximize your customer's experience.
Paladar is a handsome establishment, with partially open kitchen and modern decor.
My server, who I'll describe as extremely laid back (also not latin), came by and offered me a drink . I asked if they had lemon, since most latin place serve iced tea with a lime, and asked for some extra. Unlike most places, that give it on the side, this place dropped it in.
The menu is a concoction of Mexican and Cuban with a few "Caribbean" items, and it's expensive for this type of food; I didn't feel like paying $15 for tacos or $11 for a Cuban sandwich; I went with a personal favorite, Ropa Vieja to compare with other versions I've had. They have it as both an appetizer and an entree; the entree comes with rice and beans so I went with the full ride.
Music here is eclectic to say the least, with "Bad Boys" and "War Ina Babylon" followed by the more expected "Oye La Noctica". A runner brought out the dish.
When they first brought this out, it had the onions piled on with the aioli and i just thought it was yet another chef forcing his Culinary Institute skills on the menu. I pushed off the onions and pushed down the beef to see what I had to work with.
The beef is clearly machine shredded; this didn't resemble the peasant dish derivative in any way. But the beef was very well seasoned and the "pickled onion slaw" paired nicely with it. I don't eat plantains with their 90 glycemic index, but the dish was quite good. The Aioli was completely unnecessary and if anything it was a negative; ropa vieja doesn't need no aioli.
The big pull of this place may be the bar; half the restaurant is dedicated to a long bar with substantial space for mingling.
I'm not sure how well expensive latin food is going to fly with the kind of people who hang out at the track; The Cheese Course didn't last long at a prime location across the way. With zero people inside or at the bar on a Race Friday, it will be interesting to see how they do, despite pretty good food.