Saturday, August 13, 2011

Las Palomas

Tucked away in a strip mall corner in Westlake is Las Palomas, a Mexican establishment that's been around for years. It's been at least 12 or 13 years since I last dined there (and before I was "really" into food), so it was a little bit of a blast from the past when I met a friend there for lunch recently.

They still had a decent crowd at 1 pm on a Tuesday; the restaurant is very large, though it doesn't feel like it, until you start looking around for the restroom, located towards the rear. You pass some smaller dining areas that would be good for private events. It's a little dark in the main room dining though, and that's during the daytime.

My friend and I started with the rajas from the appetizer menu. Strips of poblano peppers are sauteed with onions and served with a nice melty cheese and tortillas. Their version was quite good, others I've had in town end up being rubbery, but Las Palomas has picked a good cheese to use. (I swear it wasn't as greasy as it looks in the picture.)
I picked the chicken mole enchiladas from the lunch menu, which came with a choice of soup or salad; I chose the corn soup over the tortilla, and wasn't disappointed. It had a nice velvety texture, and good corn flavor. I don't know if it was fresh corn or not, but it at least didn't taste like canned corn. Maybe a touch of heat (spice, not temperature) would be a nice addition.
The enchiladas were a disappointment. I often pick mole when I go to an interior-style Mexican restaurant (as opposed to a Tex-Mex spot), because I love a good mole for what should be it's flavor nuances. This one was flat, very little notes of chocolate, nuts, or much else for that matter. It had a little bit of sweetness to it, but was pretty much a one-note dish. The refried beans weren't much better. My friend had the fish tacos, which were deemed okay, but certainly nothing spectacular either.
To give Las Palomas a shot at redemption, we ordered flan for dessert. And we were very happy we did, because it was terrific! It was served in a wedge, like pie, rather than unmolded from a custard cup, which is more typical. It was smooth and dense, but not heavy. Now the online menu says it is prepared with Gran Marnier, and while I don't recall tasting that at all, I didn't miss it. Good choice!
Looking at their website, they do have info on facility rentals and catering, and extensive information on the family that founded and still runs it. The website seems fairly modern, with Open Table reservations added, whereas their printed menus seemed a bit dated. They had praise from an Austin American-Statesman food critic who I have never heard of (and I've been in ATX awhile....). Maybe the lunch specials are just meant to be quick in-and-out meals for the business diners, which could be why they both seemed to fall short. I'd be real curious about some of the other traditional Mexican plates like the cochinita pibil or Veracruzana. They do also have a menu with gluten free offerings, which is nice to see. And in this day and age of Facebook and Twitter, Las Palomas doesn't appear to have either accounts, but after more than 25 years in business, it looks like they don't need to.


If you hadn't noticed, lots of frozen yogurt shops have been popping up all over town. For ages, all we had was TCBY near the Drag, but now it looks like every area of town has at least one. And there's at least one franchise that is trying (and I think succeeding!) in setting themselves apart: Froyoyo on Bee Caves in the Westwood Shopping center. 
I chatted with owner Joan over multiple samples of their different yogurts. They offer three distinct varieties: 1) uber-creamy, 2) a low calorie/carb, fat free, no gluten version called Only 8, and 3) a tart one (and here's where they are leading the pack) produced with locally made White Mountain yogurt. I love tart yogurts, such as the White Mountain (which is made with a lot of probiotics in it) and Greek yogurt, so it was no surprise to me that I found the original tart and pomegranate tart flavors to be absolutely delicious. Pomegranate actually tasted like the fruit, and Joan said they do other fruit flavors like mango and passion fruit. Many other yogurt shops have a tart yogurt, but it's made from a pre-made mix, rather than from real yogurt.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Only 8, in that it didn't taste like something made with artificial sugar (which I am very taste-sensitive too).... because it's not! It's named Only 8 because there are only 8 calories per ounce of it, and usually they have 3 flavors available. It's certainly not as rich as the creamy yogurts, but really, if you didn't have the regular in front of you to compare it to, you wouldn't really know the difference. All of their flavor selections vary -- they've got a huge range they can choose from, but typically, they'll have vanilla and chocolate in the Only 8, and the original tart flavor.
At Froyoyo, you pay by the ounce, rather than by a standard cup size. So you can get a little bit of yogurt with a ton of toppings on it (and, yes, there ARE a ton of toppings!) or you can get a lot of yogurt with just one topping, and still pay the same price per ounce. And in this hot weather, we can all use a little extra something to help cool us down without weighing us down! 
Ooops, I forgot to actually take a picture of the yogurt! That's ok, you can use your imagination. Or better yet, go try some yourself!