Thursday, October 1, 2009

Taste of the Caribbean, mon @ Prado Restaurant

I usually don't leave the office for lunch; either I hit the gym, work through lunch or eat a homemade sandwich at my desk. So I was excited for lunch plans with my ex-colleagues. We work close to the Larchmont Village so that is our usual spot. The village is an adorable street that is lined with restaurants and boutiques, located between Beverly and Melrose in Hollywood. I like to compare it to a mini-version of Main Street in Santa Monica.

We decided on Prado Restaurant. The decor is simple and had an intimate feel. I did not realize that it was a Caribbean restaurant because of its white table cloth and vanilla decor which looked more like that of a neighborhood Italian restaurant. We grabbed seats on the outside patio area which is a great spot for people watching. You will spot residents with their yoga mats or walking their doggies. Our waitress kindly combined two umbrellas to shield us from the afternoon glare.

The menu had a variety of Caribbean food including pollo negro, pasta, the popular carioca chicken (topped with mangoes and spices) and sampler platters. Everything looked interesting. Even the citrus salad (lettuce with grapefruit, orange and citrus vinaigrette, sans avocado for me) tempted a non-salad lover like myself. The sampler platters seemed the way to go. Since it was my first time at Prado, it would be a good way to get a flavour of the Caribbean cuisine. The Caribbean platter caught my eye: Banana boats, Jamaican tamales and pollo negro. Banana boats are filled with shrimp and yucca. Alright, I'm ready, take my order.

Our waitress came to take our order and listed out the specials. Paella was one of them which threw a wrench in my decision. I love paella and this version would be different from the Spanish ones I was used to. But what about the platter? I finally decided on the paella since it was a special. I could always come back for the platter.

Pitcher of sangria. It was a large pitcher filled with lots of delicious wine-soaked fruit. The sangria wasn't that strong but was light and refreshing.

Bread and butter. OMG, the bread was fresh and really warm to the point that I was unable to touch it with my bare hands. I watched happily as a dot of butter quickly dissolved in the slice. The bread had a crunchy crust and was soft inside. You wouldn't normally expect such fresh and delicious bread at a Caribbean restaurant, so it was a nice surprise.

Seafood paella. When I first took a bite, I thought it was a bit too fishy. But the more I dug into it, the more I liked it. There were asparagus, chicken, scallops, fish and mussels in the paella. The scallops and fish were soft and cooked well. The rice was rich, flavorful and had a bit of spice to it. The paella was also served with two fried plantains which were delicious. I love the caramelized coating on plantains. The dish was served in a good portion; I packed half of it to go.

Prado sampler: Jamaican tamale, shrimp in black pepper sauce, crab cake and chipotle style chile rellano. This dish was bursting with flavors, and I thought the tamale was delicious. The platter also came with a tostone, which I love. The only other time I've had it was in Costa Rica. A tostone is a flat, dense, deep fried crunchy piece of plantain.

Cool sampler: Cold poached salmon served with curry chicken salad and Hawaiian salad. Quite frankly, it's a boring platter. The salmon looked bland and not very appetizing. The curry salad taste like curry powder that wasn't well blended with the mayonnaise or yogurt base. If I were a pescetarian, I would rather eat that fresh loaf of bread instead of this dish.

I was pleasantly surprised with the food at Prado. For some reason, the restaurant's name sounds Italian (think Prada) so I was expecting pasta or chicken for lunch. Instead, the paella was flavorful and the platter was unique. The service was also good; the waiters would regularly refill my water glass. If you are trapped in the office for work, take a lunch break, grab a seat on their patio and pretend you are in the Caribbean, away from those spreadsheets and TPS reports.

Hits: sangria, paella, tamale, bread
Misses: cold platter

Prado Restaurant
244 N. Larchmont Ave.,
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 467-3871

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