Palmilla Cocina y Tequila: Elevated Cuisine & Cocktails in Newport Beach

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila. Photo credit: Art Gray Photo.

A long-awaited new restaurant opened in Newport Beach on July 27. Palmilla Cocina y Tequila is from the team behind Hermosa Beach’s restaurant of the same name, along with Manhattan Beach’s acclaimed Esperanza.

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila was designed by globally acclaimed architect and designer Gulla Jonsdottir. Born in Iceland and based in LA, Jonsdottir has won awards from the likes of Architectural Digest, Esquire, and Surface magazine for creating stunning spaces in LA, Paris, Miami, San Francisco, Cabo, China, and more.  

The vibe at Palmilla Cocina y Tequila evokes Cabo San Lucas. You’ll find sensual, curvy lines; a sophisticated, beachy color palette of white, coral, and muted earth tones; a hand-woven jute ceiling; straw pendant lights; and ceramic pottery. A large imported yucca tree grabs the eye, and half the restaurant features a retractable ceiling. All the furniture and decor were custom-made in Spain and Mexico. 

The seafood-intensive menu at Palmilla Cocina y Tequila was created by Chef Ray Alvarez (formerly with Ciudad, Border Grill, and Malibu Beach Inn). Inspired by Alvarez’s food-immersive travels through Baja and Sonora, the menu here features top-quality ingredients. You’ll find sizable U-10 Mexican white prawns, free-range Jidori chicken, and premium beef, along with handmade tortillas and salsas, moles, and made-from-scratch cremas. 

I don’t always want to sit at the bar when dining, but I really enjoyed the experience at Palmilla. The gorgeous yucca tree, the largest selection of agave-based spirits in the area, an extensive muddling station, and 12 different drink garnishes help make Palmilla’s bar destination-worthy. The retractable awning made for a breezy experience, while barman Chadwick’s food and drink recommendations were as stellar as his service. 

The Watermelon Cilantro Cooler, made with Cazadores Blanco and muddled fresh pineapple with a tajin rim, was delectable. If you like pina coladas – but prefer tequila to rum – the Coconut Pineapple Margarita is a far more sophisticated take on the classic tropical drink. In addition to Cazadores Reposado, you’ll find Giffard Pineapple liqueur, shredded coconut, and a float of Amaro. Delectable!

We savored the Playa Shrimp Taquitos, stuffed with massive, succulent shrimp, fresno aioli, cotija, and jalapeno crema, along with the crispy tacos, one laden with short rib, the other with chicken machaca. Another standout: Nachos de Marisco, featuring crab, shrimp, guacamole, sliced radish, housemade crema, cheese, and salsa. Palmilla’s tasty take on Caesar Salad replaces croutons with savory caper cheese toast. It also features shaved celery, fried capers, garlic-jalapeno tomatoes, pepita caesar dressing, and your choices of protein (we went with grilled salmon).

Other menu temptations include a Guacamole Trio (pineapple, elote, and puerco chicharron with plantain chips), a variety of ceviches, aged ribeye steak with onion chile bacon crema, fajitas (lobster, shrimp, or filet mignon), mole blanco enchiladas, an assortment of street tacos, achiote beso salmon, and much more.

While you’re on the Balboa Peninsula, you might want to stroll or walk along the three-mile boardwalk or check out The Wedge. This acclaimed surf spot boasts the biggest swell in Southern California: waves go as high as 30 feet. Featured in the surf classic Endless Summer, The Wedge is also a popular spot for body surfing. 

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila is open daily and is located at 3110 Newport Blvd. in Newport Beach. More info

(Gallery photos by Karin E. Baker for The LA Beat)


Karin E. Baker

About Karin E. Baker

Karin E. Baker is a native Angeleno who loves the eateries, history, nature, architecture, and art of her hometown. When not exploring poke shacks in Kona, tascas in Córdoba, and konditoris in Malmö, she writes about food, culture, lifestyle and travel. She obsesses over comma usage and classic films and is always happy to find an excuse to open a bottle of champagne.
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