Chips: Chips and salsa are on the menu but it’s the tacos that stand out. Merv Hecht

Caruso’s Palisades Village is now a popular weekend destination for people on the Westside. When it first opened I was skeptical. I admired the architecture, and, for those in need of a $3,000 purse, there were some nice shops. But Palisadians had expected a delicatessen to replace Mort’s, the Palisades meeting spot for generations, and a high-end French restaurant to replace Maison Giraud (which did draw from all over Los Angeles). Instead, there was a poor quality, overpriced hamburger joint, another Italian restaurant (the 6th in the Palisades?), and a beautiful restaurant with a good steak and trout, owned by a local English couple.

There was nothing that can compete with the fine restaurants in Santa Monica until they can get a great chef and sommelier.

But the Caruso team is pretty capable. Soon there were great snack places all over the center – a wonderful ice cream store, my favorite candy store, several snack shops, and a good coffee house. Things were looking up. Then came the Blue Ribbon Sushi restaurant and bar (rarely used) with first-class Japanese food. Now a first-class Mexican restaurant has opened, and I’ve heard a rumor that a first-class Italian restaurant is coming soon. Still no great French or Greek restaurant (it’s a long drive to Malibu to get to Taverna Tony), but things are definitely looking up, and the center is now drawing from Santa Monica and all over the Westside. And if some of the people walking around with the kids look familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen them on TV or in a movie.

The new Mexican restaurant is QUÉ PADRE. The menu can be found online, but it’s primarily tacos. We also had guacamole, which was fine, and I see a few other things on the menu that we didn’t try, but what we did order was excellent. It’s not like a typical Mexican restaurant because there is no chile relleno, no burrito, no enchilada; there is one fajita plate and you can order their taco fillings in a bowl, but this is a taco place.

The best tacos we had were the birria (shredded beef) and the carnitas (roast shredded pork). The chips were different but good. But the star was the collection of sauces. For me that’s what makes or breaks a Mexican restaurant. They served four sauces, all of which were superior to what I find in most Mexican restaurants. The habanero was the spiciest, but there was another red sauce with a bit less spice but more flavor. There were two others for variety and I love dipping chips into different tasting sauces.

I took the lobster taco home for my companion. That was a disappointment.

It was a taco with a small lobster tail in it. There was a cup of cilantro and chopped onion, but no sauce. My companion said it looked lonely, all by itself. She cut it into pieces and made a lobster salad out of it.

So, there’s not much more to write about. It’s just a really nice addition to the center in a lovely setting on the “village green” with outside seating. It’s not cheap – we paid $40 per person. I don’t know what they will do when the rainy weather hits – if it ever does.

Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3rd Edition” is available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send your comments to: mervynhecht@yahoo.com