Mod Mex

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila
39 Pier Ave in Hermosa Beach

Oh, Sharkeez. A souvenir plastic cup from Sharkeez at my husband’s South Bay bachelor pad back in the day nearly derailed our courtship. Like him, Sharkeez entrepreneurs Greg and Ron Newman have grown up a lot, and their latest contribution to the restaurant scene is Palmilla Cocina y Tequila. Located right on the pier in Hermosa, this sleek but snug new outlet is meant to be an homage to the über-luxurious resort of the same name down in Cabo. “We like to think that Palmilla is the embodiment of going down to Cabo for a night and being pampered with the best service, best food and best handmade drinks—all in this small package,” explains Norman. We headed south ourselves, although not quite south of the border, to check out Palmilla’s cocina.

It is a quantum leap forward for Hermosa Beach, an aspirational restaurant that offers an ambitious survey of all things Mexican packaged into a pretty, if tiny, space. Our reservation for five plus our little guy was initially seated at a table meant maybe for three super-skinny folks at the most. I felt badly, but we had to insist on being re-seated, as it was physically impossible to cram all of us into such a tiny banquette. Similarly, while I appreciate the aesthetic that G+ Design is going for with the “mod-Mex” décor, the chairs at Palmilla have bizarre cushions that one is ultimately forced to remove and pile on the floor in order to eat comfortably. Did anyone sit in these chairs before they were custom-ordered? And there is an incredible amount of TV screens packed into such a tiny dining room.

I was baffled by the small flat-screen mounted in an obscure corner near the servers’ Micros terminal; are they meant to watch the USC game while printing your tab? Most folks at Palmilla weren’t really worried about the chairs or about TV for that matter—not with such an abundance of tequila around. It is an impressively-curated list of agave; one wonders if it’s lost on the revelers who pack the place, as 40th birthday shots of generic José Cuervo dominated the night we visited. The food is plentiful and is better than it needs to be. Order modestly—we had an absurd amount of leftovers, which made for a happy lunch the day after our dinner. From Americana nachos to Veracruzana comida, Palmilla tries to cover every base. They could easily reduce the menu offerings by 50% and still pack the place every night.

As the expression goes, “location, location, location,” and this one is a winner no matter what is on the menu. Service at Palmilla is exceptional. Warm, prompt and sincere, the management really wants you to have a good time. One hopes the party crowd will head back to Sharkeez, so this earnest newcomer has a shot at being a real restaurant. In the meantime, eat early and possibly at the bar; it’s oddly enough the calmest place at Palmilla.