If restaurants received “Awards of Excellence” based upon location, then CocoPalm would likely come out a winner. Picturesquely perched on a hillside above the city of Pomona, just 20 minutes east of Downtown Los Angeles, CocoPalm treats diners to stunning, panoramic views of the San Gabriel Valley through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Constructed in two tiers, each with expansive patio areas, the restaurant offers both main-floor and private dining room options, both offering the spectacular valley views for which CocoPalm is renowned. This hillside hideaway, popular with the Hollywood community, is even frequently selected as a site for film productions. With two large private rooms capable of accommodating over 200 and four smaller rooms that seat from 40 to 100, CocoPalm is particularly well designed to accommodate groups, both business and pleasure.
CocoPalm has been owned and managed by the Miguel Family for over ten years and their attention to detail and hospitality is demonstrated by CocoPalm’s attentive staff and prompt service. In addition, the celebratory spot boasts Latin cuisine creations from longtime Chef Felipe Castro. The restaurant combines a rare packaged mix of dizzying location, colorful ambience and flavorful cuisine that charms guests.
The evening we dined at the restaurant, we felt as if we were driving onto an exclusive retreat. Our approach to CocoPalm led us up a gently sweeping road then through a gated entryway. We next made our way along a driveway lined with graceful trees and lush foliage to CocoPalm’s expansive parking lot. Even though it was early evening, half of the parking lot was already filled, and we surmised the restaurant would be buzzing with activity. However, before entering the restaurant, we made a point of gazing around at the beautiful scenery of tropical foliage and picturesque views of the valley below. The sunny warmth of the day was transitioning into a clear, balmy night, further adding to the illusion of a Havana night at CocoPalm.
Taking the stone path up to CocoPalm’s front doors, we could see that great thought had been given to create a complete ambiance for restaurant patrons. Proceeding down the walkway, on our right, we passed a couple pools of water that were framed by stonework, thick foliage, and splashing waterfalls. Opposite one of the pools, and further adding to the restaurant’s tropical theme, were CocoPalm’s resident Toucan twosome – Ricky and Lucy. Taking a few minutes to watch the birds also gave us a moment to fully enjoy the beat of the rhythmic Latin music playing overhead through speakers. We could also catch a whiff of enticing aromas emitting from the restaurant which then sped us up to begin our Cuban adventure.
Opening the front doors, we stepped into CocoPalm’s sparkling foyer paved with an inlaid floor of glistening black and white stone, giving the space an atmosphere of sleek sophistication. The hostess greeted us and efficiently summoned the maitre d’ to assist us to our table. We stepped down into the black-carpeted main dining room and sat at an excellent table with a ringside view of the valley below. Around us, the room was arranged in tables of four to eight, each dressed in starched white linen and surrounded by sleek chairs of gleaming oak. The room was strikingly decorated with colorful Jazz-scene artwork on the walls interspersed by bongo-drum-shaped wall sconces. Music was low, which while it made table conversation easy, wasn’t audible enough to consistently enjoy. Wafting through the air was a delectable and appetizing aroma of garlic.
Our waiter, who introduced himself as Luis, appeared promptly to hand out our wine and dinner menus. Luis was quickly followed by a server who presented us with enticingly aromatic warm garlic bread and black bean spread. Pouncing quickly upon the bread and dip, we bit into the crusty slices perfectly topped with a mixture of fresh garlic, olive oil and parsley; when combined with the smooth black bean puree it was practically a meal. We were off to an ideal start!
Making a dinner decision was not easy. CocoPalm’s wonderfully extensive menu of Cuban and Spanish specialties of seafood, chicken, and meat imbued with Latin flavors were all temping. Perhaps aware of the culinary conundrum the extensive selection created, the menu included descriptions for each dish, a big help for patrons confounded by a possible dining dilemma.
For our appetizers, we chose the Spiced Shrimp Yuca Quesadilla and Lobster Empanada and selected two different white wines. The 2005 Oro de Castilla Do Rueda from Verdejo, Spain was a nicely balanced dry white with citrus undertones, The 2004 Cousino-Macul Dry Riesling Dona Isidora from Maipo Valley, Chile was also dry, with a medium body and delicate sharpeness. With the temptations of the garlic bread and black bean dip all too alluring, I was thrilled that appetizers were promptly served so our appetites wouldn’t be too affected.
The appetizers, while tasty and enjoyable, were not distinctly flavored. The quesadilla was made from yuca tortillas, which were a unique switch from flour, but the yuca flavor wasn’t distinguishable. The filling was a pleasant, mildly spiced shrimp combined with bell pepper, onion, and creamy cheese. The Lobster Empanada was tender, but with only a small portion of lobster making the appetizer more crust than tasty filling.
We greeted the entrees with great anticipation after our slight disappointment with the appetizers. I had selected the Seabass “de la Casa” with Spanish “Zarzuela” as the second entrée for my companion. CocoPalm’s portions were large and our plates, served in glistening white shallow bowls, were brimming upon presentation. Our mouths watered from the steamy aroma wafting from our dishes, and we were delighted by our selections.
The sea bass, which was served atop a mound of yuca-mashed potatoes set off with a lemon-caper sauce, tomatoes, and black olives, emitted wonderful scents dominated by the caper and dill garnish. The fish was impeccably grilled with a crispy exterior and firm yet delicate interior. Each bite included either the sharp tang of the caper or earthy brine of the olive. A portion of sweet fried plantains accompanied my dish along with freshly grilled vegetables. The plantains glistened from the sweet emulsion of sugary sweetness from the fruit, yet were firm to the bite. Mildly sweet and a little rich, the plantains were a perfect foil to the salt and acidity of the capers and olives from the sauce. The preparation of the vegetables—a selection of peppers, zucchini and a luminescent shallot—was just enough to retain the slight bite of crispness for perfect flavor.
My companion had to fight me off from sneaking too many forkfuls of his “Zarzuela.” Generous portions of whole baby lobster tail, shrimp, crab, mussels, claims, and white fish swirled in a delectable sauce of tomato, garlic, and sherry wine. The reduced sauce, imbued with an intense sherry flavor and zesty tomato, resulted in a savory depth of flavor that was irresistible. The dish was perfectly paired with a large portion of steamed white rice which sopped up the delectable sauce. It also included a serving of the same delicious fried plantains which my companion heartily enjoyed.
Having sampled the expanse of CocoPalm’s creativity with entrees, we weren’t about to deny ourselves dessert, especially upon learning the restaurant makes them on premises. Luis visited our table with a heavily laden dessert tray providing a description for each one: tiramisu, flan, cheesecake, macerated berries, and bread pudding to name a few. After deliberation, we chose bread pudding and flan though we decided against any coffee or specialty drink. The bread pudding, studded with rum soaked raisins and topped off with a moist coconut mixture, was delicious. Dense, hearty and firm, the pudding combined a mild and rich sweetness from the raisins and coconut. The flan’s rendition was traditional with its mixture of custard creaminess and gooey caramel sweet of the glaze. While our desserts were a little rich and filling, every bite was worthwhile. After all, it wouldn’t be indulgence without dessert!
The evening had passed all too quickly for us. We were impressed with CocoPalm’s capacity to mange each table as thoughtfully as the next. Throughout our dinner, hosts, servers, and wait staff would check on us to ensure our needs were met and silverware was meticulously changed with each serving. My only complaint was the proximity of my chair to an adjacent table of eight as the server kept bumping into me as he attended to the other dinners. Otherwise, service was impeccable and our server, Luis, was attentive.
CocoPalm is an ideal venue for couples, small parties, and larger groups to dish and dine in a unique setting for a special occasion or to just savor good company and fine food that transform a meal into a memorable dining occasion. Anyone wanting to include dancing in their evening out could do this on Friday nights when Salsa lessons are held. Ole!