15225 Palisades Lane
By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
When it comes to Mexican food in Southern California, Angelenos—including Palisadians—are a relatively short drive away from the city’s Eastside, where the diverse regional flavors and gastronomical delights of Mexico come alive.
So upon hearing that a new upscale taquería has come to Palisades Village, your first cynical thought might dismiss such a place as redundant, right?
Well, you’d be wrong.
Since its July 20 launch, Qué Padre has been on fire, with its small staff valiantly keeping up with demand. While the interior of the restaurant itself is cheerful and intimate, the eatery—helmed by Executive Chef Isaias Peña, with a full tequila bar tended by Jennifer Nguyen—has been packing its ample patio, which, after just one week, management at the Caruso retail destination has decided to expand.
Located right near Blue Ribbon Sushi, Qué Padre’s outdoor space is where you can take advantage of why you pay the bills in Southern California: glorious sunshine and perfect weather.
After the original unit inhabiting the small space—a Hamptons-based skin care business seeking to branch out west—succumbed to pandemic-year complications, Caruso’s majordomo Rick Caruso himself was struck with the inspiration to place a high-end taco spot in its place. Caruso enlisted Chef Peña to craft a menu and run the show.
Turns out that Caruso’s instincts have served him well again. Peña, who has been written up in Gayot, Southern California Life and other magazines, has transformed Mexican cuisine at Qué Padre.
To be sure, for the purists out there, Qué Padre offers an array of traditionally made versions of the staple tacos: Carne Asada, Pollo Asado, Carnitas, Pollo Mole Negro, Beef Birria and more. But I urge you to try the items from Chef Peña’s own customized menu for an arsenal of gourmet bites that is as creative and Instagram-ready as it is delicious.
The Pescado Ceviche was an amazingly strong start to my meal. Grilled halibut, chipotle-chile de arbol aioli, avocado cream, pickled onion and cilantro with a side of spiced tortilla chips to dip into them.
One of the best orders in the house is the Lobster En Nogada, a poached crustacean tail jazzed up with walnut cream sauce. Succulent and fluffy, the lobster meat is beautifully counterbalanced by the crisscrossing sweetness of pomegranate and the tangy textured taste of micro cilantro.
The Carne Asada taco, also amazing here, utilizes a Mexicali skirt steak embellished by a crossfire of flavors incurred by salsa roja, crema, queso fresco, onions and cilantro; while a Carnitas taco designed by Chef Peña comes with pork braised with Mexican Coca-Cola and topped with a salsa cruda, pickled onions, charred pineapple and cilantro, and it’s as divine to the taste buds as it appears on paper.
Not sampled for this review but also available is a Mole Negro taco, utilizing Mountaire Farms chicken, avocado salsa, crema, quesillo, cotija and cilantro.
There are many directions to take here when it comes to the side dishes, from Chicharrones (fresh pork rinds) to an Ensalada Mexicana with cured cactus and jalapeño slaw; to roasted corn off the cob or black beans perked up with jalapeños and onions.
The Achiote Rice has peas, carrots and corn in it. However, for something deliciously sweet and dessert-like, investigate the Plantains, which are fried to perfection, drizzled with crema and topped with toasted walnuts.
At Qué Padre, the flour tortillas and the desserts, such as the decadently sweet and smooth Tres Leches Flan (replete with salted piloncillo syrup), are all made from scratch in-house. Another dessert, Mexican Chocolate Churros, comes served with a tequila guajillo reduction and chocolate sauce.
Even if you’re not particularly hungry, Qué Padre—thanks to its extensive tequila bar—doubles as a place to socialize over drinks. The place is open late until 11 p.m.
A long list of tequilas—blanco, reposado, anejo and extra anejo, plus mezcal, sotol, raicilla, bacanora and margarita cocktails—awaits you and your company.
On my particular lunch trek, I (caffeine addict that I am …) made a beeline for a libation called Coffee and a Cigar; a handsome glass of coffee-infused mezcal, coffee rum, cynar and bitters.
But if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic drink to accompany your lunch or dinner, consider the house-made Agua Fresca. On the day that I dropped by, the honey dew flavor, perked up with walnuts, was sensational; as light, bright and refreshing a beverage as you’d desire on a warm summer day.
When it comes to authentic quality Mexican cuisine, Palisadians, by all means explore this asombroso smorgasbord that is Los Angeles. But on days when battling the crosstown traffic seems too trying or you’re looking for a local hangout, Qué Padre will quickly turn out to be your very own treasure trove right here in your own backyard.
Once you try Chef Peña’s bites, trust me, you’ll be back again and again.
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