Why is it so hard for me to find good Mexican cuisine in Southern California. I mean, that’s crazy, right. It should be so easy to find here, but I can’t say anything’s knocked my socks off lately. Oh, until today. Palmilla Cocina y Tequila is a great little gem of a restaurant right on the pier in Hermosa Beach. I went with a friend today for their Sunday brunch. Executive Chef Christina Cipres is all about the flavor. If I closed my eyes I would have thought I was on the beach in Cabo because the flavors are fresh and authentic, from the cocktails to the house-made desserts.
We sat outside on their patio which is the way to go if the weather is good, because it’s excellent people watching as well as enjoying the cool ocean breezes. They nailed me right off the bat with their Bunuelos, homemade tortilla chips tossed in cinnamon sugar and drizzled with chipotle-mint honey. I think of all the other Mexican restaurants that serve those packaged tortilla chips and run-of-the-mill salsas. All I can say is, shame on you!
They have a great bar menu including a vast tequila selection, agua frescas, fresh juices and a build your own mimosa option. We ordered the Watermelon, Ginger & Hibiscus Agua Fresca (with tons of fresh ginger bits) which was light and refreshing as well as the Traditional Bloody Mary ($9) which was anything but traditional. Just check out the array of spices around the rim of that glass. Awesome.
But I haven’t told you about the food yet, and that was the best part. Chef Cipres takes Mexican cuisine to a whole ‘nuther level. For me, I would describe the dishes as homey comfort food with a great layering of flavors and textures, that bring out the best in Latin spices. The presentation is creative and the plating nicely finessed. A dish you must order is the Crab Benedict Croquette($16) which is two perfectly poached eggs atop sweet potato croquettes with dungeness crab and a to-die-for adobo hollandaise sauce. I would also recommend the Papas Rajas Hash with Chorizo($12). They serve it in a mini skillet with three sauces and three house made tortillas, it was easily enough for several people.
But wait, there’s more. The flavor doesn’t stop there, because you’ve gotta have dessert. To accompany our Lavazza Coffee ($4) which was excellent, we had the bread pudding and the deliciously crispy, crunchy churros with two dipping sauces.
Mama loves attention to detail, and the folks at Palmilla Cocina have put as much thought into their decor as they have their food. Once inside the restaurant you feel transported to a far off exotic location.. The room is illuminated in a soft golden glow from the handmade chandeliers on the ceiling. Artistic tiles and chains adorn the walls and give the space a hip, ethnic vibe. I don’t think it’s a place I would bring the kids, but it’s certainly perfect for a fun, girls night out.
And here’s the best part of all. When all is said and done, and you can’t eat another bite, even though you want to…you can go walk it off on the beach which is 10, okay, 15 steps away from the restaurant. I should add that the service was extremely friendly, attentive and efficient and parking wasn’t a problem since there are public lots in the immediate area.
Palmilla Cocina y Tequila 39 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach CA 90254 (310)374-4440