When the beloved and iconic neighborhood Mexican joint El Arco Iris closed its doors earlier this year to focus on other projects after 53 years on the corner of York and Avenue 57, suffice to say that whoever took over the sprawling space would have big shoes to fill. Enter Partido, a cozy French and Filpino fusion restaurant that gracefully toes the line between casual and elevated dining. Helmed by tour de force chef Lynne Tolentino, who was the chef de cuisine at the acclaimed Superba Food & Bread after honing her skills in the kitchen at Providence and Patina, Partido, which had a quiet soft opening at the end of July, has proven it is more than up for the challenge. Partido Highland Park
Partido marries Tolentino’s French-influenced cooking background with her Filipino heritage, resulting in a menu that plays freely with traditional flavors in order to create dishes that are both comfortingly nostalgic and refreshingly unique. Artfully merging the flavorful spices of Filipino classics with the timeless techniques of French cooking, the dishes are delightfully unconventional, yet feel rooted in authenticity and blissfully unpretentious. Everything I ate felt steeped in years of tradition, but infused with a sense of the personal, as if it was part of a recipe that got tweaked and updated as it was passed down from generation to generation.
It is often difficult to pull off an unusual fusion restaurant, because it can feel like two separate entities that are better off left alone (cough, cough Sushiritos) but Partido’s menu rises to the occasion, merging the two culinary cultures with a respectful subtlety that allows both of their strengths to shine. It’s a welcome challenge to dissect the evolution of the dishes, and Tolentino carefully explores the chemistry of each distinct cuisine, finding rare moments of overlap instead of hitting you over the head with it, which makes this particular fusion feel both unexpected and special.
The menu is brief, as they have just opened, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in flavor. The Lumpia (a traditional Filipino spring roll that essential to any party) are the perfect appetizer, light and crispy and devoid of the greasiness often found in this dish. The Longanisa Poutine Fries are a standout item on a menu filled with gems, showcasing Tolentino’s knack for artful fusion: crispy, thick-cut french fries are drenched in cheese curd-laced poutine and topped with longanisa, a sweet Filipino sausage that adds a kick of spicy sweetness to the cheesy poutine. They are topped with cilantro and a circulated egg, and each warm bite is a delicious medley of sweet and savory, as if chili cheese fries were to grow up, get sophisticated, and travel the world.
Another standout was the Coconut Milk Mussels, which riffs on French Moules by drenching perfectly cooked mussels in a subtly sweet coconut milk sauce. The mussels are huge and melt like butter in your mouth, and the substitution of coconut milk gives this typically heavy dish a light, fresh twist. The Pancit rice noodles were an example of a traditional Filipino dish that Tolentino allows to shine on its own, adding her own elevated, modern touch with the addition of farm fresh market vegetables.
The menu also includes Farmer’s Market Vegetables and two options for sharing: a whole fried Adobo chicken and a pan-seared Cote de Bouef with an Adobo jus. Tolentino, whose transformative connection with vegetables is apparent in almost all her dishes, pairs the chicken with roasted cauliflower and the rib eye with leek fried rice and sauteed kale. Her reverence for both culinary cultures and her willingness to playfully explore the connections between them makes for an extraordinary dining experience.
Try to save room for dessert, because it’s worth it. Partido offers a feather-light Turon Panna Cotta and intoxicatingly sweet Ube Churros with a creamy seafoam Buko Pandon Creme Anglaise, which my friend and I may or may not have licked straight out of the bowl.
Partido, which is currently operating as a weekend-only pop up for the forseeable future, is a dinner-only eatery with a full bar, and you definitely shouldn’t sleep on their specialty cocktails. You can’t go wrong with their classic Margarita, strong with a spicy streak, but my favorite was the decidedly summery Manila Sunrise: tequila infused with strawberries, Thai basil, and Ancho Reyes.
They haven’t done much to change the restaurant’s interior from the El Arco Iris days, which works in their favor, because the ambiance feels cozy, comfortable, and dimly lit enough to be romantic while still lively. The service is friendly and attentive, and everyone is eager to answer questions about the menu, obviously passionate about what they are doing. Partido is an example of thoughtful, flavorful fusion done masterfully well, and this unique dining experience is a welcome addition to our growing neighborhood.
Partido Is Located At 5684 York Blvd.
They are open Thursday from 6PM to 10PM
And Friday and Saturday from 6PM-11PM