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Feb 16, 2013 02:38 PM

Paloma’s Mexican Restaurant in Oldtown Salinas

Paloma’s opened in the fall, taking over the lumpia place’s storefront on Main Street. The sunny interior is decorated with bright colors and papel picado typical of the husband and wife team's native Morelia, Mexico.

Mom and I tried it last week for lunch and liked it so much, we were back again on Wednesday. The menu’s in a state of flux. I noticed differences in dishes and prices among the listing on the overhead board, laminated menu presented at the table, and the take-out menu that can cause some confusion in calculating the bill and accuracy in ordering. Here’s what the laminated menu offers, shown front and back,

Mom tried a couple tamales, ordered ala carte. Fresh out of the steamer, the masa was fluffy and packed with flavor. The pork tamal featured a generous amount of shredded meat in a spicy red sauce. The tamal de elote was slightly sweetened with piloncillo and studded with yellow kernels of imported Mexican corn that is denser and more concentrated in flavor than domestic varieties. She did not use added salsa or crema with hers but they were offered on the side. These tamales seem large in size for the price. While these were wrapped in corn husk, Oaxacan tamales en hoja de platano are also available from time to time, just not this day.

For me, the Mayan green mole, which turned out to be a crazy amount of food for $10. A half-chicken, perfectly cooked to velvety tenderness, was impressive for hitting both the dark meat and the breast exactly on point. The green mole had more of a spicy kick to it than I expected, which was fine with me. A wonderful savory and spicy mélange of cilantro, scallions, serrano chiles, celery, and other secret ingredients go into this mole verde that could not be divulged. The rice on the side was fluffy and fragrant; refritos seemed to be pintos mashed without extra fat. Served with corn tortillas handmade to order, this was not only an outsized serving but far over performs in quality as well.

On our next visit, I ordered a huarache con huevos divorciados. Underneath this yin-yang of green and red sauce lie two eggs over easy on a freshly grilled masa huarache base spread with refritos. All good and a terrific brunch dish, huaraches are also available with meat toppings.

Mom had a bacon and egg breakfast burrito. Only $2.99, the flour tortilla was griddled rather than steamed and filled with bacon scrambled with egg. No beans nor rice, but also missing the potatoes mentioned on the menu. Somewhat dry, I probably wouldn’t order this again. My sister and my friend who joined us both tried tamales and seemed impressed.

The second lunch, we were offered some tortilla chips and a tasty roasted chile salsa. The chips were an odd mix of packaged chips and some house made style in various stages of staleness.

Overall, the heat level was just right for me. Yet I should mention that our first visit the customers at the tables surrounding us complained that the food was too spicy. I’m doing my best to encourage them to stay true to their roots but point the downtown crowd to the less spicy dishes on the menu.

The plan is to also operate a bakery here. We were given some gorgeous examples of handmade gelatinas for coming in the first time.

The wife is in the kitchen preparing her family’s recipes with professional technique learned in years of working for other restaurants. The husband handles the front of the house and seems not quite as experienced at this point. In fact I’m concerned that this restaurant will not make it due to warm but scattered and inefficient service. But if you’re patient, can take the time to over-communicate, and will make the effort to reconfirm every detail of your order, the cooking is worth it.

Paloma’s Mexican Restaurant
330 Main St
Salinas, CA 93901
Open daily
Regular hours not settled yet, opening as early as 10:30am for breakfast

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    1. I've been back a couple times now, and Paloma's seems to be settling into a comfortable groove. We've been there after 1pm and the lunch rush, and the pace has been better. Also, both times we've been given complimentary dishes of watermelon that help make the wait go better, as well as non-stale chips and very good table salsa.

      When chowhound visitor, "david kaplan" was in town, I insisted that he order the green mole. The poached chicken breast was as perfectly cooked again, and he lapped up the verdant sauce.

      For me, the chile relleno plate. They are baked here, by the way, to be lower in calories. The sauce style was more tomato-driven and less chile-based than others.

      Here's the owner/chef showing off her tray of puffy and golden brown baked rellenos.

      Then with visitors last week, I again insisted that they try the green mole and they marveled at the unusual flavors and balanced spicy heat. The portion size is now more manageable, a half-breast of chicken or the thigh/drumstick quarter. Lynn asked for her baked chile relleno with green mole as the sauce, and the kitchen was happy to comply.

      I finally had the chance to order the Aztec black mole, $10, for myself with the chicken leg (ask for "pierna de pollo"). Fruity, spicy, nutty, and deep with huge volume of flavor.

      It takes a bit for the accompanying handmade corn tortillas to come out, but they're worth waiting for. These could not have been more perfect.

      Mom ordered a taco de carnitas, $3, served wrapped up in foil and twisted at the ends. The corn tortilla is hecha a mano for the taco, and the carnitas had just the mix of golden brown crusty bits and tender flesh I like topped with green salsa. But not to my mother's taste, too much of what she considers "dry" edges.

      "villadeste92's" report,

      1. I was back at Paloma's last weekend after a year's absence. What did I crave? The chile relleno, and it did not disappoint. It's $7.99 for an ala carte order. One stuffed and baked chile comes with rice and beans and a choice of handmade flour or corn tortillas, can't beat that. This was my first time trying the flour tortillas and they're excellent . . . flaky and a little bit chewy.

        The produce is now organic. The complimentary tortilla chips have improved. Service is much friendly and more organized. I'd say Paloma's is better than ever.

        1. Stopped here for a late lunch driving between Pismo Beach & Berkeley. I have always preferred black mole to green, but they were out of black so I got green. What a wonderful thing! Maybe I never had a good green mole before. This was wonderfully balanced & scrumptious. I really liked that I had choice of white or dark chicken; the leg I got was large & perfectly tender. Tried both corn & flour tortillas & much preferred the corn.

          Service was great; our waiter was personable & helpful. Overall, Paloma's felt very nurturing, despite being almost empty in the mid-afternoon & the room temperature being on the cold side. Thanks Melanie for a great find! Will definitely go back next time I'm in the area.

          2 Replies
          1. re: indigirl

            Now i can exhale . . . glad you enjoyed it! Sorry I missed you in town. I bet you had the same waiter I did. Service had been the achilles heel and that's been fixed now.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I knew you wouldn't steer me wrong! & the waiter was a sweetheart.

          2. I'm sad to report that Paloma's has closed. These signs in the window when I walked by today. Looks like it will be a Nayarit style place.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Aw, sad! Well, glad I got to try it before it went away...

              1. re: indigirl

                And I'm glad you did! It was shocking to see the signs as the place seemed to be doing well.