Thursday, January 17, 2008

Matthews' latest venture opens Friday

Victor Matthew, the best self promoter in Colorado (who happens to be just about as talented as his promotion suggests), will open Palapa's Surfside Island Grill on Friday.

Palapa's is a seafood restaurant chain, but Victor tells us his is an independent restaurant affiliated with the chain.

Whatever. I just hope he can bring his Black Bear magic to this new Powers Boulevard place. We need a good upscale seafood restaurant in Colorado Springs.

I'm not sure I'll get out there this weekend. If anybody out there does, please let me know what you think.


Anonymous Maynerd said...

I rarely go to a restaurant just as it opens, but given Chef Matthews' reputation, I went to Palapas on opening night. Wow!

Chef Matthews nailed it. What a wonderful experience! The food was beautiful beyond words, and tasted better than it looked.

The ceviche comes out to the table in a dry ice arrangement, hissling and cracking. The taste, texture, everything was incredible. I had the 'Scallops of Love' for dinner, and my wife enjoyed the bouillabaisse. Each was wonderful. In fact, so good they're both very hard to describe.

They have an extensive wine list, with a selection of Rieslings that is remarkable.

I was brought up on the coast, and I'm used to top-notch, fresh seafood, but nothing like Palapas. He has truly created an elegant dining experience based on seafood. I'll most definately be back.

One word of caution. This is not Joe's Crab Shack or Red Lobster. The dishes are far more creative, and are priced accordingly. I got every dime's worth out of my dinner though. Palapas' competition won't be chain seafood establishments, but the best and finest Colorado Springs has to offer.

They DO have lamb, steak, and chicken on the menu, but I wouldn't even consider ordering them. The seafood is too much of a treat.

I also wouldn't bring young kids. This is an upscale dining experience, and the few kids who were there last night didn't find a lot to suit their tastes.

If you're looking for an elegant fine-dining experience, I recommend Palapas highly. If you want seafood unlike anything you've tasted in Colorado, Palapas is a must!

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I could say the same as the previous post but then I would be lying. I was very disappointed. The food was nicely presented but I didn’t come for the presentation. I came for the food and it was mediocre at best.

I also had the “Scallops of Love” but there wasn’t anything lovely about it. It was undercooked and way too sweet. The conch fritters was bland and the conch was hard to find. There was like a tiny piece of conch inside a ball of flour.

The dishes might be creative but I was unimpressed with the taste. If Palapas doesn’t improve the quality to justify their price then I don’t see them opening their door very long.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Warren Epstein said...

OK, now I REALLY can't wait to try it.

The criticism from anonymous about the scallops being under-done is interesting. Most restaurants overcook their scallops (and other seafood) because too many diners are afraid of rare fish.

I say this as somebody who, last week, went nuts marinating fish for my grill: a mahi mahi in a honey lemon, and a salmon in a pine-nut pesto.

Sound good? I kept them both on the grill about a minute too long. Death! They were cooked like you'd find them at Red Lobster.

"It's fine!" my wife insisted and she chewed on her mahi.

She's too nice.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Bob Faust said...

Warren is right on. There is nothing worse than overcooked seafood. Plus, I've never had a scallop that wasn't sweet. I thought that was the reason they grew up to be enjoyed. Maybe sour rubber is more in "anonymous"'s taste.

Colorado Springs has some great restaurants and a noticable void has been fine fresh seafood. It seems that Chef Matthews is filling that void. I can't wait to go there. From what Maynard said, it sounds fantastic! The Powers corridor needs something above the chain hamburger joints (and I love hamburgers).

"Anonymous" probably is a manager at Red Lobster or Joe's. A real critic would put their name out there.

I'm looking forward to taking my family there. We've been to the Chef's Table experience at the Black Bear and can't wait!

5:46 PM  
Blogger Warren Epstein said...

Teresa has more about this in her Table Talk column on Friday. She loved it.

I have a friend who went and also had a fantastic experience, with one exception: the conch fritters. Anonymous is apparently right on that one. No flavor. Not enough conch.

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Find me an ocean nearby and then I may concider going. Until then I won't take one step in there.

4:22 AM  
Blogger Warren Epstein said...

Hey, coastal snob,
I lived in Tampa for about 14 years, and we had a few outstanding seafood places ... but a lot more horrible frozen-fish-for-the-tourist joints.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Carlo said...


I agree with you. Tampa is more a beef town than a fish town. Tough to find good seafood there (I grew up there; I should know).

Today it's so easy to transport fish from the coast. Look at Par Avion. Though I recommend staying away from the Mahi sandwich at the Elephant Bar. First, it is not Mahi. Second, it tastes fishy -- a sure sign of spoilage.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We went this Sunday evening...February 10th. I do wish the character of the restaurant had been better advertised, we were underdressed-- as was another family who left shortly after viewing the menu. I think the idea of "chain" in relation to this restaurant does it a HUGE disservice without some clarification. Hooray for the internet to spread the word.

I did come expecting better seafood than is usual in the Springs. Oh my goodness, does this place hit that mark. My family loved every exquisite bite.
Although I did not order it, I dream of the next time I go and can have the starter tempura shrimp all to myself. No rubbery overcooked mess here--four good sized delightfully sweet, perfectly cooked shrimp. The sauce was sweet and tangy, but almost forgotten alongside those shrimp. Other starters at the table were lobster salad--the greens cleverly standing up in cylinder of cucumber slice, and a small pile of lobster. The sauce was a bit spare on ths plate, but it all added up to something quite nice, especially to look at. A plate of beef carpaccio with basil oil and sea salt nearly had my teen son licking the plate. Last, a seafood chowder, rich and creamy, very very good, although nothing overwhelmingly special.

Entrees provided seafood all around. Two diffent salmon entrees-- one that although stated was one sided cooked, ended up rare only in the center. Still delicious. It paled next to the Scotch Salmon floating on a puddle of the most sublime walnut buerre blanc. This sauce takes over in my dreams when the tempura shrimp swim off. Goat cheese gnocchi were such a welcome surprise from most "chains" wild rice accompianment. A digression from the entree category brought a crab napoleon to my place this course, and while it was small as the server advised, was so good I truly felt as though it was worth it. The crab cakes were yummy, the unadorned crab layered with them better still. Absolutely outdid the lobster in the lobster salad. Last was a mahi en papliotte which my husband did not even share.

Last, desserts. I am not a dessert person, and even the "prix fixe" menu suggests trying two starters with an entree. However, with an on-site pastry chef I would seriously rethink that. I had a key lime tartlet. A HUGE tartlet with a nut crust and a spiky mound of meringue. Very nice. My daughter had a fruit torte--easily overlooked fruit enhanced white layer cake, til you had a bit of the cream frosting which turned it into an experience. YUM. The boys both had chocolate bombes--I am guessing at least one was hoping for an explosion. This is deinitely for ganache lovers. The lady fingers are practically invisible, the mousse very spare. The ganache is chilled firm, so no explosions here except that wonderful taste as it melts in your mouth.

We do not drink, so cannot comment on the wine list, or other offerings.

The table service was fine. Nothing as good as the food would indicate, but our waters and drinks were kept full, and the server used a team mate to deliver all the plates at once. The dining area was quite empty.

Besides being a budget buster in the eating out catagory, the downside here is the menu. Not the selections, they're perfect. But organization of the menu made for some sort of rubik's cube of price and selection. Left side is a "prix fixe" menu--with upcharges for a number of items. Right side is more items, which may be substituted into the left side, also with some up charges. I am not sure if the "prix fixe" concept was used here as an attempt at sophistication, but it is pretty pointless when you upcharge for so many items. And the restaurant does not need to attempt sophistication in menu tricks, the food absolutely will do achieve that on it own.

3:09 AM  
Anonymous OC said...

We ate there while visiting family and thought it was great!

9:21 PM  
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5:00 PM  

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