One bite into the La Mexicana chicken enchiladas ($12 dinner, $9 lunch) at the new La Paloma, and it’s clear that I’ve been eating dry burritos for much too long.
Oh, baby: Melted cheese with green and red sauces mixing it up over soft tortillas filled with moist hunks of chicken, black beans, and guacamole — the perfect comfort food for a cool night entirely too far north of the border.
La Paloma, a fixture in Quincy since 1983, took its show on the road in August, opening a place in Kingston, just off Route 3. Owners Michael Walsh and Stephen Dwyer have imported much of their staff, many of whom have worked at the Quincy restaurant for a long time. Chief among them is Chef Christo Canenguez, who’s been at the helm for 25 years and has trained a new staff to cook in Kingston.
On a Friday evening last month, the restaurant was packed, and if we hadn’t just managed to snag two seats at the curved bar, we would have been in for a wait. The décor and feeling is similar to the Quincy restaurant, with adobe-colored walls, pretty arches, pierced metal, star-shaped hanging lamps, and some festive, folky, original wall murals.
If you like Mexican cuisine (or Tex-Mex, which is a more accurate term for the fare offered at most Mexican restaurants in the United States), you’ll be more than happy at La Paloma. All the standard dishes are on the menu, the prices are very reasonable, the vibe is up and lively, and the food comes fast.
Sitting at the bar, it would appear that much of the bonhomie is margarita-fueled, and our bartender was turning out house Especial Margaritas and Ultimate Margaritas by the minute. The oddly priced drinks ($6.67 and $8.34, respectively) have different tequilas, with Sauza Gold fueling the Especial, and Hornitos Reposado the Ultimate. (One of each put a nice, relaxed “mañana’’ attitude in my dining partner’s head.)
La Paloma makes its chips, and they’re good — warm and light and snappy! And, I must not be alone in liking the salsa, since it’s sold at a couple of local grocery stores (including The Fruit Center in Milton). It isn’t packed with raw onion, like many, but made sweet with grated carrot. Heat is easily added with a few shakes of some hot sauce.
Ten minutes in and one margarita after arriving, we were starving and it wasn’t easy to keep myself from dipping a chip into the cheesy dish the guy next to me was eating.
But we didn’t have to suffer long. The aforementioned chicken enchilada (which we shared as an appetizer) arrived within eight minutes of ordering it.
The chili poblano relleno can be made with chicken, steak, pork, or shrimp. We had it with shrimp ($16 dinner, $11 lunch), which was the best part of the dish, even though the big curls of nicely grilled seafood seemed an odd filling for the skinless, slightly spicy, long peppers.
Always on the outlook for low-calorie deliciousness, I liked the pescado tacos ($12 dinner, $10 lunch), which came with salmon on both my visits. After devouring the saucy enchiladas, these seemed a little dry, but by the second bite, I liked them. The humble black beans that accompany many dishes at La Paloma come in big bowls with sour cream. (Mexican is one of the few cuisines to offer bodies the very inexpensive, highly proteinous and fiber-packed punch that comes with legumes.)
A subsequent lunch visit found the restaurant less crowded, the food good, the atmosphere comfortable, and the staff friendly and welcoming. I couldn’t help but have another order of the chicken enchiladas — I’d enjoyed them so much at dinner — and they were just as good.
The steak tips ($15 lunch and dinner) are popular at La Paloma, and the meat was sweet with a honey chipotle glaze, served over sautéed onions, peppers, and a cheese enchilada.
Fajitas are also popular here, and can be ordered with chicken, pork, steak, shrimp, or vegetables. We made the tender charbroiled pork ($12) into various tasty little warm tortilla rolls filled with creamy guacamole, sautéed onions, and peppers.
Dessert is only OK here, unless you’ve had a couple of margaritas, in which case the churros could be swoon-worthy. I liked the apple burrito more — although the idea was better than the execution.
But people don’t go to La Paloma for dessert. They go for a very nicely done, filling meal that won’t break the bank — in a comfortable, lively, friendly, place. I’d go again in a minute.