It's usually a good idea to give restaurants several weeks to shake out, but I had a feeling Palate Food + Wine was already firing on most of its cylinders just a week in, so we stopped by Tuesday evening. With no reservation, we squeezed in between two couples, and one of the gentlemen next to us suggested that the way to go was to have Steve Goldun, the wine director, suggest wine pairings for the small plates in small 2.5 ounce pours. Over the course of the meal we were helped by Steve, who also pours two wines he makes himself, handsome French server Alexandre, who is conversant in wine, and another, less-experienced server who is still working on his cheese knowledge, but everyone was friendly and helpful. It was a little tricky getting the plates and the pours coordinated, so make sure to specify if you want them in courses or all at once. The menu is short but attractive, and Palate is quite serious about the ingredients and preparations. There's a "porkfolio" as a starter with prosciutto, mortadella and lardo, as well as a few potted spreads for bread. The butter served with sliced radishes and fleur de sel is made in-house (pictured above left), as is the vinegar we spied fermenting in a storeroom. We started with the fried squash blossoms (right), a nice-sized pile in a light tomato sauce. Then we tried the scallops with corn pudding and chanterelles (below left), which managed to be crispy, tender, salty and sweet all at once. I persuaded Kathy to try the pork belly, a luscious, modest slab that didn't make you feel too guilty about devouring the crispy skin, melting fat and rich bacony meat. A salad of chioggia beets, apples and fennel alongside was a good tart complement to the rich pork. By then we were starting to make friends with everyone around us, from Christine Splichal and her two sons to Fred Eric. After a lovely cheese plate, chef Octavio Becerra offered to show us what's going on in back of the restaurant. (At this point no one knew we were writers, they're just all very excited to show off all the parts of the place). Octavio (shown in the cheese room, below) pointed out the bookshelves waiting for the gastronomic library, the long steel tables for impromptu wine tastings (an abbreviated menu will be available in back in the tasting room), the super-chilled walk-in cheese room where tastings will also be held, the loading dock patio, and the wine store space. It will all be ready in a week or two, he promises. He's also got ambitious plans for ordering whole animals and doing caja china roasts, having small private lunches in back and plenty more. I don't know if the residents of Glendale will be able to tear themselves away from the new Cheesecake Factory to check out Palate, but for sure people from nearby Silver Lake and Eagle Rock and other areas are going to be all over it.
Palate Food + Wine
933 S. Brand Blvd.