Drop in to the upbeat downtown Bellevue Palomino and you’ll feel like a part of the bustling scene.
The swank new restaurant, which opened last Thursday and is located next to Lincoln Square, features hanging lights in fireball orange, sleek red curtains and wait staff decked in black. An upper level dining area under hip rotund chandeliers faces an open kitchen.
“We’re very particular where we go with Palomino. It’s not just a restaurant – we’re selling a feeling,” said Will Powers, vice president of marketing, noting that Bellevue captures that concept with its downtown vibe.
Seattle-based Restaurants Unlimited, which has 17 restaurant concepts including Manzana that was housed at the location prior to Palomino, opened its first Palomino in Seattle in 1989. Since then, it has grown to nine metropolitan locations across the United States, now including Bellevue.
Palomino serves up European-inspired regional American cuisine with a versatile menu and its bar features 140 wines. It is open from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
The Reporter chatted with Powers and Executive Chef Derek Stewart (previous Manzana chef) about Palomino’s vibrancy and cuisine.
Reporter: Why did you choose Bellevue?
Powers: Bellevue is on the move. It’s bustling. Bellevue provides every element to what’s needed for Palomino’s concept.
We’re very picky on where we go with this particular concept because this concept is one that needs a brightening downtown core to support it. So while a lot of opportunities present themselves, Palomino is much defined and it has a certain mix that it has to all come together for us to entertain a location.
Bellevue met all of these criteria.
Reporter: What makes Palomino unique?
Powers: Our tagline is “Drinks, Dining, Downtown.” The first two are very functional, but the third is an emotional element.
Our position is we’re selling energy and excitement here. When you come here, you might depart from your day-to-day life and feel a little bit more unique. It’s that emotional feeling where you come and feel like you’re a part of the city.
Hopefully you’ll leave saying, ‘That was a fun experience. That felt like I absorbed the vibe of downtown.’ And that goes back to we’re very particular of where we go because every single Palomino is in an urban core and that’s a major requirement for the brand.
Reporter: How does the ambiance play into this energy that Palomino seeks to create?
Powers: This was a Manzana before and you walked in and it was a very dark mahogany.
Walls were moved down, light was brought in and there were opportunities to address certain feelings with ceiling heights and making the space feel bigger so that it all flows together.
We wanted to create something light and something that could convey energy throughout the building. We actually have a designer that mapped out movement and how energy will be seen from light and from visual eye stimulus, even down to the fabrics we use.
So we take a lot of effort into the design of this because when you’re in the downtown core, when you’re after that particular market, you have to be on your game.
Reporter: Describe the cuisine.
Powers: It has a Mediterranean influence to it. The way I describe it is it’s pasta, but it’s not just a pasta, it’s a pasta with a bit of a twist to it. So it’s not just ravioli, it’s lobster ravioli (fresh saffron pasta, lobster, bay scallop and tarragon filling, lobster cream sauce, herb mascarpone: $18). Or it’s not just chicken pizza, it’s a spit roasted rotisserie chicken pizza (with roasted red peppers, sliced onions, marinara, mozzarella and parmesan: $11).
So the offerings are something you might see in another upscale restaurant, but the unique feature that we offer is the top spin we put on it that makes it more unique.
Reporter: What’s for dinner?
Stewart: Palomino Steak Frites is a sirloin steak and we’ve prepared it medium rare with herb de Provence butter. It’s served with pommes frites ($19).
We’re also having Grilled Salmon with Artichoke Tartar ($25). It’s our grilled filet of salmon in lemon vermouth butter, served with spring greens in raspberry vinaigrette and red mashed potatoes. It also comes with our artichoke tartar sauce on the side.
Our Strawberry and Toasted Hazelnuts salad is prepared with chevre (goat cheese), balsamic vinaigrette and pomegranate molasses drizzle ($9).
Reporter: What would you recommend to drink?
Stewart: With the steak dish, I would go with a cabernet sauvignon, something more full bodied. With the salmon, personally I’m a red wine guy, so I might go with a lighter pinot noir with that.
The strawberry salad will hold up to any white or red wine. You can have a chardonnay that will really pair well with the pomegranate.
Carrie Wood can be reached at email@example.com or 425-453-4290.