The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Sophisticated Mexican @ Pampano, New York

Following on with our foray into the gastronomic scene in NYC, last Sunday saw us having an early dinner at Pampano, a restaurant that does a modern spin, seafood-style, on the Mexican cuisine. To be honest, one of my reasons for trying this restaurant was curiousity. Many of the Mexican dishes that I am familiar with (e.g. enchilada, taco, burrito etc) are what I'd consider street-food: fast food, bold flavours, easy to make and not-so-healthy. So here is a 'fine dining' restaurant that dresses up Mexican flavours and puts a pretty hefty price on their dishes. Using seafood too. Curious, right?

We were greeted at the front desk and were asked if we wanted outdoor or indoor seating. The evening was early, it was a warm day, so up we went to the rooftop dining area. It's a nice swanky restaurant and great service to boot! Our waiter was friendly, attentive and helpful. Whilst poring over the menu, we munched on some spicy guacamole which was very addictive.

Colourful fake fish decoration next to me; the two-tiered guac-and-chips:

We ordered a 'mocktail' (non-alcoholic cocktail-style drink), and our waiter made us a lovely strawberry one (they'd actually ran out of fresh strawberries and had to rush to the shops to buy some for our drinks). For appetiser, we had a trio of Ceviche Tasting ($27): [clockwise from top left] Mahi mahi (with citrus tomato and chile serrano); Atun (tuna with tomatillo, chile poblano and mango); and Camaron (shrimp with lime, avocado and chile habanero). I loved the tuna ceviche - the tuna paired very well with the sweet mango. My least favourite was the mahi mahi - the dressing was too acidic to enjoy. The shrimp reminded me a bit of the cocktail-style shrimps. Ceviche is currently huge here in the U.S., and has been touted as 'the new sushi', although you can't really compare the two with each other. Me, I prefer sushi over ceviche.

For main course, I ordered Pescado Azteca ($27), pan-fried golden bass served on huitlacoche flan, Peruvian corn and chile guajillo consommé. This is my first time trying huitlacoche ("It's black corn and very delicious", says our waiter), and it wasn't as unpleasant as what I'd expected diseased corn to taste like. The 'flan' was actually more like a pudding, which had a very milky taste which I didn't really enjoy (I don't like milk very much). The fish was a bit overcooked, but we've long ago resigned to the fact that non-Japanese likes their fish very well-done. The consomme was oily, but not in an overly unpleasant way. I couldn't eat a lot of the pudding, but I certainly enjoyed picking the huge Peruvian corn kernels out of the pudding to eat.

Rob didn't take as long as I did to choose his main course: Mariscada ($24) - a medley of shrimps, calamari, scallop and octopus with cilantro rice and achiote~coconut sauce. The few mouthfuls I had of his dish tasted great, but it was the kind of rich, greasy dish that wouldn't take long to reach the stage where each additional mouthful was getting progressively too much.

My fish and Rob's shrimp rice:

Rob couldn't resist dessert, and ordered Pastel de Elote ($8) - warm corn cake with coconut ice cream and hibiscus sauce. The corn cake was slightly sweet, and its warm fluffy texture was a perfect offset against the coconut ice cream. The tart hibiscus sauce went well with both the cake and the ice cream.

This was a pleasant dining experience, but I felt that the main courses weren't done as well as they could. Mexican cuisine in general has strong flavours and very often greasy, and I think that these don't go very well with seafood, which needs to be treated a bit more gently. I guess that's why Mexican food doesn't often feature seafood. The trio of ceviches were good, and the dessert was very tasty. And our waiter's service made our dining experience very enjoyable.


  1. Honey and I actually had some seafood at Panchos, Vic Park. I originally thought the same thing, that you can't really do seafood at a mexican place, but it turned out really nice - and the dish was almost too big for Honey to finish on her own.
    That being said, I've never actually had dessert there because the main meals are always so filling.

  2. Hehe, still doing Panchos, huh? I've never been there myself, but then again I'm not really a huge fan of Mex food.. The only Mex places I've been to in Perth are Annie's Acapulco somewhere near North Perth and Santa Fe in Subi. Can you say how Panchos compare with those two?

  3. Santa Fe (Santa?) in Subi I've never been to, but I will never go back to Acapulco Annie's. Their food was not even second rate, the atmosphere was meh and when I asked for a carafe they served it to me with a straw in it. That's like serving a jug of beer with a straw in it. I've been to Acapulco Annie's once before that particular night and it wasn't quite as bad, but still nothing to write home about.
    As such, I can't really compare Pancho's to Santa Fe, and since I'm still going to Pancho's I guess that says that it's much better than Acapulco Annie's. I guess it also helps that I have some pretty fond memories at Pancho's, and that most of the staff know me.