Of all the restaurants in Cincinnati, I would have to say that Palomino is one that is very special to me.
It was one of the first real fancy downtown dinners that I can remember going to, as it was our chosen spot for a Father-Daughter dance. It is where Kenny took my parents to ask for permission to marry me. It is where we went ventured to for one of our first real adventures with Harry (when he was not even two weeks old). I’ve dined there on dates, I’ve dined there with family, I’ve dined there for girls’ night. Simply put, it is a place I’ve turned to time and time again.
So when I was invited to come down as part of a holiday experience, I was committed before the “yes” even escaped my typing finger tips. A night out at Palomino is a no-brainer, and now this particular experience will rank among one of my favs.
Kenny and I took advantage of the night by inviting his younger brother and wife for a double date. They are two hip city kids, living the life as newlywed DINKs (double income, no kids) in downtown OTR. We rode the wake of that lifestyle with pre-dinner drinks at Revel, and then an ultimate treating of ourselves to all kinds of indulgences at dinner.
At Palomino, the beginning of the indulgences were the brussels sprouts and calamari starters. We are all fans of both, so it was an easy decision to come to. Of the two, the calamari was really doing it for me, with the flakey deep fry and vibrantly flavorful housemade marinara. However, the brussels were a not-so-surprising hit, as they were made with vanilla butter and served with pancetta. The brussels themselves were more “al dente,” which I appreciated, because they felt like solid vegetables, as opposed to the super cooked down versions that can often be served. In addition to the bread and red wine that we started with, these two got the appetizer course off on the right foot.
When it came to the main courses, both Julia (my sister-in-law) and I went with the scallops. And how could we not? These were a super hearty portion of six asiago and almond crusted scallops, with lemon asparagus risotto, additional toasted almonds, and a lemon beurre blanc. My mouth watered as I ordered, and just watered as I typed. The risotto was pretty lemony, the scallops were pretty dense, and together, the whole dish was decadent yet sweet. We were pretty blown away.
Kenny did as Kenny always does and ordered the shank special of the night. If ever presented with that offer, Kenny will never not oblige. And yet of all the meals that were had that evening, I have to give it to this one. I took my obligatory bite, one that included a scoop of the mashed potatoes and a nibble of the grilled asparagus, and all together, I simply sat back and nodded in blissful agreement. It was goooood.
Tyler (my brother-in-law), went the more classically traditional Italian route, with the ragu and housemade pasta. It is unbelievable how wonderful fresh made pasta can be, and this bowl was no exception. He shared with the table, as we all did (as we all do), and this too stood up amongst the rest. It was rich, totally Italian, and hit the spot on that cool December night. If you want to go with something you know you can’t go wrong with, this ragu is for you.
In the end, the night was exactly as it was expected to be. The food was filling and fitting for a fun holiday night out on the town, and the service was personable and professional, catering to all that we inquired about (which (thanks to the legitimate powers of peer pressure) involved a few rounds of tequila). All that, plus its quintessential location overlooking Fountain Square, really made us feel like we were out and about in the heart of the city. For all those reasons, and all those listed at the beginning of the post, Palomino will continue to be a place that simply means a lot.
Thanks Palomino for having us for dinner…we all very much enjoyed it!