By Phyllis Stein-Novack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 6 | Posted Jul. 11, 2013

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Chef Adán Saavedra combines his Mexican heritage with a French influence at his Bella Vista-based eatery Paloma.

Photo by Staff Photo by Kathryn Poole

I have much respect for chefs who have mastered the art of French culinary techniques. The use of fresh, in-season ingredients, properly reduced sauces, the right touch of seasonings and eye appeal are just a few on the list.

Chef Adán Saavedra, who is from Mexico, decided to marry the flavors of his native land with French technique when he opened Paloma in Northeast Philly about 13 years ago. He is dedicated to haute cuisine and food fads be damned.

He moved Paloma to Bella Vista right across the street from Cucina Forte. I don’t know why I never reviewed Paloma, so a visit was in order.

A bubbly woman met me at the door and we chatted about the rain while Edward found a parking spot. Since the restaurant is quite dark, she asked our server to seat us near the window.

Paloma is lovely. The dining rooms have white walls, colorful artwork and fresh yellow roses that set off the crisp white linen and modern flatware.

The restaurant features a three-course dinner Tuesday through Thursday, but Edward and I decided to order from the à la carte menu. Our server opened the French burgundy we brought, wrapped it in a napkin and poured us a taste in a most professional manner.

A hot-from-the-oven loaf of bread from a Portuguese bakery in Newark, N.J. kept us happy. It was served with a small mound of whipped sour cream piped from a pastry bag. A small dish of hot chili sauce with a demi-tasse spoon arrived and we were urged to be careful. It was quite hot.

We began dinner with corn chowder ($9.50) and crab ceviche ($12.50). The soup was rich, bursting with fresh corn, potatoes, onions, red peppers, poblano and ancho chilis. It was prepared with a homemade vegetable stock and topped with baby shrimp. Saavedra achieved the perfect balance of heat and flavor in this tasty bowl.

French technique was apparent in his ceviche presentation. Jumbo lump crabmeat was marinated in lime juice, olive oil, shallots, jalapeño and cilantro and placed atop a round stack of sliced red ripe tomato and avocado. The ceviche lacked acid. A true ceviche is made with raw fish that is “cooked” in lemon or lime juice. Still, it was a cool and pleasant way to begin dinner. All it required was a sprinkling of salt.

Unfortunately, our entrées went south. Edward ordered the branzino ($23) and I looked forward to breast of duck ($25).

To the best of my knowledge, branzino is not eaten in Mexico or France. It is a Mediterranean fish that must be cooked on the bone to impart a rich flavor. Saavedra filleted the fish and baked it in the oven along with capers and olives and finished it with a tomato Serrano chili sauce. It was bland and arrived lukewarm. A round stack of cool mashed potatoes were set on a few sautéed spinach leaves. Mashed potatoes, or pomme puree, is a French invention. They must be whipped into submission with lots of butter. This version fell flat.

My duck was prepared with a boneless, skinless duck breast. No chef would remove the skin from a duck before cooking it. This was the first problem. Before the skinned duck was seared, it was stuffedwith caramelizes shallots, wrapped in bacon and roasted in the oven. The result was a dry overcooked breast of duck, which took on an unpleasant gray hue. A pyramid-shaped bit of rice topped with a few pencil-thin asparagus sat on the plate. The duck was lukewarm and the rice mix cold.

Our understanding waiter offered me another entrée. I ordered the rib-eye steak medium-rare ($23). A rib-eye is an oval-shaped steak, rich with marbling and adorned with the “lip,” the most tender part, which surrounds the meat. I have never seen one shaped like a rectangle. I am not sure this was a rib-eye because there was no marbling and no lip. It was a tender cut and was topped with chopped black trumpet mushrooms. The aforementioned cool potatoes and spinach sat on the plate.

Dessert fared a bit better. A hefty slice of homemade, rich and flavorful chocolate-orange cake iced with a tasty chocolate ganache and filled with chocolate/mocha buttercream redeemed a fairly disappointing dinner.

Two-and-a-half tips of the toque to Paloma.


763 S. Eighth St.

Contact the South Philly Review at

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Comments 1 - 6 of 6
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1. Marty Medals said... on Jul 11, 2013 at 11:39AM

“" I don’t know why I never reviewed Paloma, so a visit was in order." perhaps overdue!!
$9.50 for a bowl of soup? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha .....
Now we get to the meat of this review. The reviewer fails to order Branzino in a place named, "Branzino" but instead orderes it in a French Mexican restauruant, in which she admits that this dish is not made in French or Mexican restaurants. My head is spinning!

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2. Maureen said... on Jul 11, 2013 at 12:03PM

“Marty - you obviously didn't read the Branzino review very carefully - she did indeed order the branzino, and described how it was broken down at her table.

This restaurant sounds very overpriced. I'm not sure on the 2.5 tips of the toque with such an unfavorable review, though. Since 2 is fair and 3 very good, 2.5 would imply good.

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3. MS said... on Jul 11, 2013 at 01:09PM

“This is addressed to the reviewer and the editor - both which will not reply.

1) This is very overpriced. Corn chowder for $9.50 is out of the norm. Even the crab seemed high.

2) The fish and the duck again just seem high for what was ordered.

3) Why 2.5 tips of the toque for a meal where the entree's seemed so bad. In additional the side dishes didn't sound much better.

4) In the first 7 paragraphs she only got to the bread. My thoughts are maybe she favors the management/chefs and gave them a better review.

5) Based on the reviewer's own scale 2.5 tips would put this restaurant between fair and very good. That's PSN's scale not mine.

6) Three not very good entree's, equally not good side dishes and this restaurant get's a adecent review...something is not right in this situation. Again, this isn't right.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Jul 11, 2013 at 03:03PM

“#6, a sane person. I do miss MezzLuna which was there before.”

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5. MS said... on Jul 11, 2013 at 03:26PM

“Slim - this is MS again. No onbe ever died over a crappy restaurant review. The fact is that I really like the SPR and enjoy reading it. That includes the restaurant review.

However I do have a problem with the way this was done. Frankly if the place was so bad that every entree and side was poor why did it get a decent review.

No matter that is a fair questions which PSN or the SPR won't answer. Who knows maybe they'll buy advertising or give the reviewer a free dinner.

Before people get up in arms the fact is that the reviewier will leave her house and eat out on occasion.

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6. Mike Sciatello said... on Jul 17, 2013 at 02:34PM

“Sea bass is extremely popular is part of Mexico. It's their version of branzino. Paco is indeed correct.”


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