When Pampano invited us to sample its new Sea to Table tasting menu for the fall season, we were beyond thrilled. The celebrated midtown restaurant from opera singer Placido Domingo and Chef Richard Sandoval serves Mexican coastal cuisine in its chic Turtle Bay duplex, formerly recognized as Domingo.
The award-winning fine dining room was bathed in a warm yellow glow from the wall lamps and the flickering candles on each table. The ambience was cozy and romantic, a perfect getaway from the mundane city life that throbbed outside. Gentle music hummed in the background. The balcony extended to accommodate outdoor seating under the autumn night sky, which hung over the city like a black canvas sprinkled with stars.
Comprised of five courses, the new tasting menu included either a tequila or wine pairing that tastefully complemented the composition and flavor of each dish. We chose the wine pairing.
The first course, Ceviche de Corvina, was served with a sparkling Spanish red wine known as Cava. The wine complemented the starter perfectly. It was a medley of red onions, white fish, nuts, sweet potato and choclo (Peruvian corn) nestled in a creamy puree. The fish was soft and chewy.
Next, we were offered the Tlacoyo de Huitlacoche. A small serving of nopales salad topped with grated queso Oaxacha cheese perched atop the broad, golden-brown surface of the bread. Drizzled with truffle oil, the salad was flavorful and fresh. The Mexican cheese was stringy like mozzarella. Nopal is an edible cactus pad from Mexico. It’s a fascinating ingredient with high nutritional properties. Accompanying this dish was the Spanish white wine Verdejo – Viura, tinged with a refreshing hint of citrus.
The third course, Mejillones al Tequila, arrived in a white bowl containing fresh Prince Edward Island (PEI) mussels. The cultured mussels sat in a pool of delicious white sauce, flecked with onions, cilantro, lemon and tomatoes. Found in nutrient-rich waters, the mussels were exceptionally juicy and tasteful. The sauce was amazing. We couldn’t get enough of it! With the empty mussel shells aside, we spooned the rest of the sauce like soup. Tequila was added into it to arouse the rich, creamy chowder-ish flavor that complemented the bread and juicy mussels so well. A sweet and sharp Chardonnay from Spain was the perfect vice to this meal.
When the waiters lowered the fourth course in front of us, they explained that the Pez Espada a la Parrilla consisted of grilled swordfish, sauteed spinach topped with a thin, crispy layer of jamon Serrano (dry-cured Spanish ham) and drizzled with creamy quince vinaigrette. The swordfish was a delight, and it almost tasted like medium-rare steak. It was titillating to its core. The bitterness of the spinach balanced the saltiness of the ham. We paired this with Carménère, a white wine from Chile. It tasted light and crisp.
We finished on a sweet note. Our fifth and final course was the Calabaza en Tacha, a masterpiece of crème fraiche gelato on a warm bed of caramelized oven roasted pumpkin and garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds. We carefully scooped the creamy pumpkin from its shell after the waiter joked, “You gotta scrape to get the pumpkin. It might be messy but it’s worth it.”
The vanilla and pumpkin enriched each other like a match made in heaven. We loved the toasted pumpkin seeds. They added a distinctive crunchiness to the dessert. At the end of our night, we made a toast and clinked our glasses of rich Sauvignon Blanc, fresh from Chile. It was the perfect finale to our scrumptious five-course dinner. The experience was so delightful!
The mastermind behind the menu was Chef Lucero Martinez, a petite Mexican woman who came out to greet us with a big smile. She said this menu was inspired by the fall season and her deep Mexican roots. “I grew up in Mexico City, and I was influenced a lot by my family’s cooking.”
Starting October 1, guests can enjoy the five-course tasting dinner menu for $50 or choose to experience each course with tequila or wine pairings for $75.