By Nick Caito
Published July 1, 2015
Pacifico has been a presence in downtown New Haven for a good number of years, serving up modern Nuevo-Latino cuisine since before it was trendy.
The restaurant is one of several owned by Chef Rafael Palomino, and his only one in Connecticut. According to his website, most are in or around Bethlehem, Pa., one is in Port Chester, N.Y., and his catering arm is based in New York.
Lunchtime offers a prix fixe option of two courses for $16.95, with five first-course options and nine choices for the second. Some of options weren’t on the normal dinner menu, like the El Vaquero skirt steak sandwich with caramelized onions and manchego. The sandwich was an immediate finalist, but a duck quesadilla? Show me where to sign. Two of us opted for the prix fixe and the third decided to just order a tapa.
I peered around the restaurant. It was beautifully designed with blue and orange tiles complementing rich brown wood and exposed brick: a bright, bold, well-designed color scheme.
Before the food arrived, the waiter brought over a customary plate of bread alongside a red accompaniment. A chutney? A taste revealed sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. Delicious. It took some willpower, but I remembered my manners and shared.
The first course was brought out: Argentinean Empanadas for me, and Calamari Fritto for my friend. The empanada portion seemed a little small, which was very unfortunate as a bite had my eyes rolling back: short rib and goat cheese, with a raisin guajillo salsa.
The calamari were finely breaded and lightly fried. Though the smoked tomato sauce was great, I made more use of the bread’s sun-dried tomato chutney.
Second-course time. My friend took a few ravenous bites of her Ensalada con Salmon (salmon Cobb salad) and offered me some.
“My god, it was so delicious,” she said. “I would order this again any time.” Avocado was a nice touch, and the fig balsamic vinaigrette was done with a light hand.
The tapa arrived: The Short Rib Empanadas, which wound up being the same as my first course. The tapa-sized order wasn’t much larger, with two empanadas (four halfs) instead of one.
Then there was the duck quesadilla. As a general life rule, if there is duck on the menu, I’ll order it. Go to Pacifico and get the duck quesadilla. Loaded with creamy gouda, drizzled with pomegranate reduction. Follow my life rule. You won’t be disappointed.
>>Pacifico, 220 College St., New Haven, is open daily at noon, and closes at 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 11 p.m. Thursday; and 1:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Information: pacificonewhaven.com and 203-772-4002.