I have a policy of not visiting a restaurant in its first month of opening but I broke it this weekend. Padre in Long Beach opened Saturday evening without pomp and circumstance. In fact, they just very quietly opened their doors and waited for people to go in. But why did I break my own policy you ask? Well, the chef helming Padre is none other than Frank DeLoach, formerly of Tavern on 2 and before that, Early Bird.
Chef Frank is a wunderkind chef who really caught my attention when he launched his dinner popups at Early Bird back in the summer of 2013. He is one of those chefs whose flavor profiles is on par with my palate. Not only is he one of the most talented chefs around, but I have absolute faith and confidence in him — so much so that I am absolutely certain I will not be disappointed even on the restaurant’s first soft opening night.
The restaurant is a sight indeed, and my photos do it no justice. There is a casual bar area to the left complete with patio seating, and to the right, a slightly more formal dining room with a staircase embossed with talavera tiles right in the middle of it. But that’s not all. I soon find out that Frank’s Sous Chef is Natasha Schneider, who is another young chef who has worked at many notable establishments across southern California. Boy am I excited to eat this meal!
Our first dish of Charred Carrots ($9) arrive, and it is a plate of roasted carrots with Abuelita chocolate dusted on the plate. My son sighs after his first carrot and informs me it is incredible. The citrus oil lends a burst of freshness while the chocolate enhances the sweetness of the carrots.
Just as we are finishing our carrots, I see a friend stroll into the restaurant with his family. We decide to join forces and share the the rest of the meal together.
Guacamole ($9) is dotted with cherry, serrano chile, olive oil and topped with sunflower seeds. Served with house-made chips, the guacamole has good textural contrast and will satisfy even the fussiest of eaters at the table. Ask for more chips as you’ll definitely run out!
I absolutely can not leave a restaurant without eating corn if it is on the menu. Street Corn ($9) is husked and comes seasoned with lime butter and queso fresco, dusted with paprika and garnished with radish discs and cilantro blossoms. I didn’t want to share this at all, but my friend’s little girl takes over the bowl and devours it. I guess she loves corn as much as I do.
If you’re a fan of steak tartare, definitely do not miss out on Tartare ($12) composed of finely chopped Aspen Ridge skirt steak, charred onions, garlic and citrus. There is a smear of huilacoche (corn smut) on the plate, so mix everything together very well, then take a forkful, place it on the grilled baguette, eat, repeat. It is one of the most unique and flavorful tartares I’ve eaten in a very long time.
There is a selection of tacos on offer and my eyes automatically hone in on The Kraken ($12/2 tacos) — topped with tender grilled octopus, black olives, roasted pepper, cucumber, mint, feta, aji amarillo and tomatoes. It is outstanding. This is the perfect example of Chef Frank’s cuisine — an incredible balance of salty and acidic flavors which just tantalizes the tastebuds, especially mine! Definitely one of my favorites this evening.
The Picnic ($12/2 tacos) is also ordered — fried chicken tacos with buttermilk dressing topped with picnic salsa. But alas, I did not taste it. It looked really good though.
I am interested to see how Chef Frank’s interpretation of lomo saltado would be, so I order Lomo ($16) a classic Peruvian dish similar to a stir fry but tossed with fries. Wok-charred steak is perfectly seasoned with the right amount of shoyu (soy sauce) and a hint of aji amarillo brings just a touch of heat to the mix. But the tomatoes! Oh the tomatoes! Blistered and oh so flavorful, but cooked just right so they’re not mushy.The flavors are spot-on, however, my only complaint is that the steak fries are a tad too large and takes over the dish.
Lamb ($15) is an interpretation of a similar dish from Early Bird’s pop up dinner. Pulled lamb neck is rich, hearty and robust, enhanced by the flavors of malta goya, a non alcoholic malt beverage. What is most surprising is the caramelized banana puree the chile & masa gnocchi is sitting on. This is one of the most unique dishes I have ever tasted. The gnocchi is reminiscent of little tamale nuggets and together with the banana, would make the most fantastic dessert ever. As a savory dish, it was too sweet for my palate. I end up eating this dish separately — the lamb on its own, then the gnocchi with the puree.
I’m feeling a little nostalgic when I see Banana Leaf Fish ($20 MP) which is prevalent in Malaysia where I grew up. Here, a whole branzino is grilled with a myriad of ingredients. The fish is served deboned, and I eat the first part of it picking off the top half. It is so moist, flaky and subtle. As I make my way down, I notice that the body is stuffed with red onions, cilantro and julienned aji amarillo. There are also slices of lemon which I take and squeeze over the rest of the fish. This brings on an entirely new experience and I savored every little bit of it. I especially loved the crispy whole fried garlic adding texture, but never overpowers.
Quail ($16) is another protein I will always order. The dish here offers three Carolina quail, split in half and coated with a bbq rub. It is presented at a medium rare temperature. If that makes you queasy, let them know beforehand. The creamed kale, wild mushrooms and potato veers a little heavy for a typical Chef Frank dish — perhaps better suited on a fall menu — but nevertheless, a plate of rustic comfort through and through.
Then, the piece de resistence arrives! Tomahawk ($80) is a 32oz bone-in bad ass (as stated on the menu) served with romesco. Your server will ask if you want it whole …..
….. or sliced so you can aptly share with the table. Seriously, please share it with the table! It is a humongus slab of meat and even with our group, we were only able to eat half of it. It is so tender we are able to cut it with a dinner knife. Absolutely insane but so worth it!
If you have any room left after all that food, try the Tres Leches Carrot Cake ($9) with whipped goat cheese, carrot caramel and pepitas. There is a pleasant tartness which hits your mouth after several bites.
I am so excited for Chef Frank DeLoach’s new venture. The restaurant will be in its soft opening stages for a few more weeks before its projected grand opening next month. Honestly, just turn those masa gnocchi into a dessert and you’re more than good to go!
5225 E Broadway
Long Beach, CA 90803