OK, so I added a new item to my palate this week—dried scorpion. Before you judge, hear me out! It happened when I checked out the all-new sexy supper club, Palo Santo on the west side. It, along with dried crickets, was an offering on their "agave cart" (a wheeled tray of mezcals and tequilas that comes to your table along with explanations of each) so I went for it! How was it? Well, I put it on an orange wedge and ate both at the same time so candidly it didn't taste like anything but crunchy citrus.
But Palo Santo is no a gimmick! It's an absolutely impressive offering from acclaimed Miami chef Santiago Gomez that's open for dinner on the Westside of midtown next to the King Plow Arts Center on West Marietta Street. Palo Santo means "holy wood" in Spanish and chef Gomez is smoking meats and vegetables and doing some of the most creative cooking I have seen in a long time. The menu promises a nexus of Mexican, Japanese, and Southern flavors but the best descriptor is simply modern Mexican cuisine using seasonal Georgia produce. The space includes two levels, the first floor a seductively dimly-lit dining room and bar, and the upstairs features a rooftop bar and lounge and includes a separate Mexican-Japanese dish menu. Chef Santiago comes from Mexico City but his stint at Nobu in Miami not only taught him amazing cooking and preparation but also how to present with panache.
The cocktails we tried were outstanding and the dishes were gorgeous, and hearty, and served on incredibly curated ceramics. The wagyu tartare was almost too pretty to eat and served with a beautiful bread covered with eggplant spread. The Las Bravas is an amazing hot potato dish covered in queso espuma that comes in a tall ceramic bowl and is then mixed at the table. The wood-fired branzino came with soft, warm blue corn tortillas and bibb lettuce, watermelon radish and basil so you could assemble your own little fish tacos. For dessert, the "chocolate bomb" was a 70% cacao masterpiece with a warm fondant center and accompanied by "beet and yogurt ice cream"—a delightfully different sweet and savory accompaniment to the chocolate overload. And this is just the tip of the creative iceberg at Palo Santo—you really have to experience it from start to finish.
Also be on the lookout for El Santo Gallo, chef Gomez's newest creation coming this spring to the Westside Paper development on the Beltline across from Palo Santo. He's calling it a traditional taqueria where the menu is kept simple and authentic--and keep your eyes open for dried insects and other surprises!