There was some talk about Pa'La's new downtown locations during the Friday lunch at Chula, so I thought I'd share my impressions. It's located on Washington between First and Second streets in the heart of the downtown business district and near most major event venues. Unlike the little bungalow on 24th Street, Pa'La is full-service downtown. There's a dining room on the ground floor and a lounge upstairs that opens on busy nights when major events are going on. I suspect it will see a lot of use during the upcoming NBA finals. There is a printed all-day menu, but the chalk board with the specials is always worth noting. That's where some of the best items are found.
On 24th Street, the Navarro grain bowl is a favorite. That exact entree didn't make it here, but instead there's an appealing brown rice bowl with changing toppings. When I sampled it, the toppings were seared tuna, vegetables, and Japanese-influenced seasonings of furikake and wafu.
Seafood is big here, as seen in this halibut over fregola:
There are pasta dishes like this rigatoncini with shrimp:
Each day, there are two or three pizzas like this one with spicy Schreiner's sausage and green onions:
And the wood-fired oven produces impressive results with vegetables like Japanese sweet potatoes:
I've found portion size to be a bit unpredictable. One time, I over-ordered and left stuffed. Another time, I had three items and still wanted a snack a few hours later. I think the kitchen is standardizing this a bit as they get more practiced, but it never hurts to ask the servers for guidance. It's definitely worthwhile to leave room for desserts like this chocolate pot de creme:
or this stone fruit panna cotta:
There's a small bar with wine, cocktails, and craft beers like this Wren House Spellbinder IPA:
It's definitely not the same as Pa'La on 24 Street, which is still open, but this takes the simple ingredient-driven approach to another level.
Good eating in the Valley of the Sun
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I work downtown and this has been a very welcome addition. I have eaten here three or four times and every time the meal has been great. I really love the focus on fish. Service has also been outstanding. Claudio et al has done a really great job getting this place to a really high level of execution quickly.