Rillettes are now served in a crock, instead of a Mason jar.
I usually love reading a witty and devastating takedown of a restaurant, like Leslie Brenner used to do in the L.A. Times. But visiting Palate Food & Wine after reading a review by the most influential critic in the entire country, I couldn't disagree more.
Clearly the staff had a few issues to address after Bruni's recent blog post titled The Lesser Los Angeles, and our waiter confided that there had indeed been a "big meeting" that morning. He also admitted that it was entirely possible that Bruni had suffered some of the clumsy service he encountered. "It's not a 3 star New York restaurant," he pointed out. "It's a place where the average check is $45."
He was attentive and helpful throughout the meal, actively recommending cheese selections or pickle choices for the charcuterie. Although we didn't get to talk with wine director Steve Goldun, our waiter was completely knowledgeable about the wines as well. The pacing was fine, the glassware was fine -- we were a party of eight at prime Saturday night dining hour and not only were there no service glitches, nearly everything we ordered was utterly delicious. They confirmed that the mason jars were too hard to serve the potted meats in, so they've switched to ramekins. Big deal. Duck and tuna rillettes were fine, but the La Quercia speck included with the porkfolio was amazingly smoky and complex, worth ordering as often as possible. I don't remember being too impressed by the pork belly (above) last time I ate there, but this was a different preparation, with a much crispier skin and wonderfully bitter, rich Spigarello broccoli on the side. Prawns with garlic and pistou were fresh and simple, bombarded with just the right amount of garlic. Others in our party enjoyed asparagus with sunny-side up egg and velvety celery root soup with ham and pears. With several bottles of good French wine -- my favorite was the Domaine Gauby at right -- this was no $45 meal, but it was a good and interesting one.
My only two small complaints? Like nearly every other restaurant, Palate is fairly noisy, so it's nearly impossible to converse with a larger group. And while I didn't feel anything was particularly underseasoned like Bruni said, it might be nice to put small saltcellars on the table just in case -- for the egg with the asparagus, for example.
I liked Palate when it first opened nearly a year ago, but more recently I had heard about mounting inconsistencies. Perhaps Bruni's rather scorching post was a wakeup call to remind Palate how seriously diners take their service experiences.