Everything old is new again when you discover it for the first time and so it was with Pampano. We were looking for a midtown eatery with outdoor space on this sunny day and Pampano fit the bill, especially the menu choices of lobster tacos and hibiscus margaritas.
Chef Richard Sandoval opened Pampano (209 E. 49th St. at Third Ave.) about twelve years ago, serving coastal Mexican food in a chic, easy-going venue. We had a reservation and were easily accommodated on the outdoor terrace which was the perfect escape in midtown Manhattan.
My friend drinks only wine and she was quite happy. I opted for the hibiscus margarita and was not wowed. It was just okay and I’ve had much tastier margaritas elsewhere. (And why was a margarita served in a rocks glass?) Strike one.
My friend requested the adobe shrimp quesadillas but when she questioned the waitress about whether there was red pepper in the seasoning, it led down a slippery slope of no info, so she settled on plain cheese quesadillas. Again, not particularly unique. Strike two.
Okay, I’m dreaming that the lobster tacos just have to be fantastic, right? They won raves reviews on the internet so it has to be true! The waitress advises they are tapas size and when I inquire about the number, she explains that there are three and holds out her hands to show they should be the size of a small dinner roll. Imagine our shock when lunch arrived and they were barely the diameter of an espresso cup. “Oh my god, that isn’t enough for lunch,” my amazed friend blurted what I was thinking. “No worries, I’ll make it up in dessert.” Strike three.
The chocoflan was tasty and the sauce with sea salt added a nice accent on the palate. Fortunately, our lunch was all about gabbing and we drank and gabbed for more than three hours. When my friend ordered an extra glass of wine at 4p, they told us that the bar would not re-open until 5p. Seriously? We were never advised there was a last call nor was anyone on the terrace being asked to leave. When we politely pointed this out to the new server, they arranged a complimentary glass of wine on the house. Little redemption for a lunch that barely filled a cavity.
So, will we go back? Probably. The outdoor venue is a nice escape but we’ll just have tapas at Pampano and not expect much more for lunch in midtown!