Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Palate tickles Glendale's tastebuds

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.

Palate Food + Wine on Urbanspoon


d-kat said...

Well, I will go check it out, but it sounds intimidating. Especially the French waiter. I like to relax when I'm enjoying good food, and this doesn't sound exactly relaxing. But, maybe it is. Won't know until I go.

But I miss Cinnabar. The lighting in there was perfect.

SensuousGourmet said...

I love Palate, it gets better each time. The first time, service was slow and neglectful; the waitress apologized. Second time, invited a friend, service more attentive and the place crowded. We're going a third time this evening -- bringing another couple as we want this restaurant to survive. The butter is fabulous, menu limited but every ingredient counts.

Unknown said...

Esther, I don't know what you think sounds intimidating? Just because the waiter is French?

The restuarant and what they have done with the space is far, far, far superior to what Cinnabar offered. Go try Palate.

Anonymous said...

Went for our first visit last night. Very cool space and nice vibe but the service was excruciatingly slow. Took two hours to eat without desert and couldn't wait to get out of there by the time the bill was paid. Wish I could feel confident recommending it to friends as it is very neat spot but if you want to do anything other than drink wine, forget it.

Anonymous said...

When I entered Palate, I was initially impressed. We did not have reservations, but were kindly offered a space at the bar. The hostess suggested we sit in the back of the restaurant where we could sit at a "community table". She escorted us to the back where we chose to sit at the bar. We sat down and were never greeted. We had to ask for someone to help us. The woman who helped us with cheese was very knowledgeable regarding cheese, but her people skills were horrible. We were given our cheese plate and then had to ask again for someone to serve us wine. I would estimate it took nearly 15 minutes to receive our wine once ordered and then we had to ask twice when we wanted to order more. Overall the service was horrible. Oh and to top it off we ordered two ice teas. We had to ask twice for refills. When we finally received the refills, the woman filled the glasses almost 3/4 of the way. Not a problem until we received the bill and found out we were charged $20! For iced tea? And they didn't even fill the tiny glass all the way... what a joke! On a happier note, the dessert was delicious (chocolate pudding).
I would be embarrassed if I recommended this place to a friend and they received the service we did.

Anonymous said...

Not very impressed. Bread and butter was good. Sorry I can't say much for the two and a half, yes, two and a half scallops, very thin 3/8 inch, dried out and gritty. Salad was nothing special, dessert was good, when asked the waiter what was in pecan pie,which by the way had some walnuts, he said it was a secret. BFD