Fast Foodie: Palenque Grill
Published: January 25, 2012
What started as a simple concept — traditional Mexican cuisine interspersed with coastal delights influenced by Pancho Ochoa's time spent in Guasave, Sinaloa, off the Pacific coast of Mexico — has developed into a successful South Texas concern. Open for just over a month, San Antonio's Palenque Grill's menu ranges from lengua-filled tacos and hamburguesas to a two-page menu of fresh fish, oysters, and more. The operation grew out of Palenque Grill's successful Valley counterpart, Taco Palenque. I wanted to venture beyond the standard of chicken and beef fajita to really put his restaurant to the test. The first indictor wasn't good, though. The ranchero sauce of serrano peppers and cilantro lacked in both flavor and spice. And while charro beans are more typical in such a setting, the freshly made whipped refried beans with chunks of chorizo were tasty. A tostada de ceviche with shrimp, tomato, and cilantro topped with avocado and "marinated" in lime juice proved overly sour. "Marinated" was obviously not a misprint, and memories of licking Salimon powder out of my palm as a child rushed to the fore. Fine for childhood kicks, not so good for a tostada. For my entree, I went for the bold, the unknown — the Talapia Rellena de Camaron. It was a generous portion of tilapia stuffed with shrimp, Monterrey Jack cheese, settled under a layer of poblano cream sauce served with white rice and steamed vegetables. Maybe it was the rich poblano sauce, or the avocado creamed gravy, or even the excess cheese, but this relleno was better in concept than dining practice. The over-rich flavors left a pungent smack of dislike. And at $23, it left me feeling slightly abused.
With the establishment needing to regain credibility, I decided to snag a few bites from my partner's well-chosen three-taco plate: tripa, chicken fajita, and beef fajita. The trio was accompanied with trompo (red chiles, garlic, cumin), guacamole sauce, and pico de gallo, all excellent compliments. In the end, the flour tortillas are what will have me coming back. If I didn't know better, I would say my mother was in their kitchen rolling the dough, adding her authentic motherly touch — and that's where Palenque Grill won me over. The key here seems to be to keep it simple and traditional. Now about that salsa ...
389 N Loop 1604 W