Peach Plate: Mexican in a Different League

The distinctive flavors, personal service and refined presentation are well worth the high-end prices.
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Modern, Sexy Space: Palo Santo’s large bar makes a dramatic backdrop; picture Jake Paradaphoto.

An inconspicuous building without signage for a restaurant stands next to the King Plow Arts Center in Westside Atlanta. Walk to the back and go through an industrial-looking door to enter a modern, sexy space. With gray concrete walls and high ceilings adorned with red drapes and agave-fiber chandeliers, you may feel like you have entered a hip nightclub in Miami. But this is Palo Santo, a new upscale Mexican-inspired restaurant in Atlanta.

Palo Santo Poblano Rice Cr The Cocktail Shaker

Creative Interpretations: Mushroom tetelas, poblano rice (above) and hamachi tostado below; photo The Cocktail Shaker.

Brainchild of chef and owner Santiago Gomez (the Mexico City native was formerly at Daniel Boulud New York and NOBU Miami), Palo Santo sources its ingredients from farms in Mexico and Georgia. Some of the dishes may not seem familiar even if you are a connoisseur of Latin cuisine. Go with an open mind and allow your tastebuds to judge.

Settle in the 86-person dining room with a boozy cocktail. A glass of Madre Selva, with dehydrated pineapple, La Luna mezcal, Aperol and spiced honey, will put you in the mood for the evening. If you are a traditionalist, the Palo Santo Margarita is light and refreshing, without added sweeteners, with a rim of smoked basil salt.

Palo Santo Mushroom Tetela Cr The Cocktail ShakerThe large bar that makes a dramatic backdrop at one end of the restaurant features a long list of mezcal, tequila and wine. General Manager Antonio Morales handcrafted the cocktail menu and walks around offering guests pairing suggestions. If you can’t make up your mind, just do a tasting from the mezcal cart that circulates between the tables.

Palo Santo Guacamole Crthe Cocktail Shaker

Memorable Menu; Guacamole: photo The Cocktail Shaker

The menu features small and large plates to be shared family-style, many of which are cooked in the open kitchen over wood or charcoal. Start with buttery, luscious, shredded duck carnitas on blue corn masa taco, topped with sweet kimchi peach and a hint of smokey chili arbol. The guacamole served in a heavy volcanic-ash bowl is also smooth and creamy, comes with freshly made blue corn tortillas and tlayudas. It is seasoned with black volcanic salt and garnished with herbs, a more elevated version of the guac you may be used to. The lobster aguachile plays with Asian and Latin flavors. Pickled radish, crispy corn nut, salmon roe and diced coconut offer an interesting interlude of sour, sweet and crunchy flavors in your mouth.

Palo Santo Tuna Tostada Cr The Cocktail Shaker

Tuna tostado:;photo The Cocktail Shaker.

For vegetarians, the roasted cauliflower is a lovely unique treat. It is delicately roasted on the wood fire with miso caramel and topped with crispy shredded leeks and jalapeno-goat cheese sauce. Las Bravas are roasted potatoes tossed with spicy mayo in a deep earthen bowl, but they lack the aroma of truffle promised on the menu.

Slices of black truffle are plentiful in the poblano rice, though. The dish is a Mexican take on creamy poblano risotto, studded with perfectly smoked scallops and just the right amount of parmesan. The citrus-marinaded fillet of wood-fired branzino is served with an ensemble of corn tacos and bibb lettuce, to make your own tacos.

For dessert, make sure to order the fried-to-order churros with sweet and tart hibiscus sugar with vanilla sorbet. For a more decadent ending, the chocolate bomb is a rich dark chocolate molten lava cake with cacao nibs.

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Hip Decor: Inside Palo Santo; photo Nick D’Adria

At the end of the night, head upstairs to the rooftop where retractable glass windows and a canopied terrace offer great views of the city. With a lively atmosphere, DJ, bar and snacks, the 25+ bar is a fun place to hang out until late (it’s open till 2 a.m.).

The name Palo Santo refers to holy sticks used in indigenous rituals to purify, dispel negative energy and promote well-being. (They are on display at the entrance.) Just burning palo santo invokes all your senses, and dinner here is a memorable, sensory experience that would nourish your belly and your soul.

Palo Santo is breaking the norms of the traditional TexMex and cheap eats that are often associated with Mexican cuisine. The distinctive flavors, personal service and refined presentation are well worth the high-end prices.

Palo Santo

955 West Marietta St NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(678) 492-9211

Tuesday and Saturday: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sunday: 5:00 pm – 10:30 pm

Parking: Valet only

Dress code: Business casual

Categories: Downtime, Peach Plate