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Jul 25, 2008 10:14 AM

REVIEW: Palate Food + Wine

My girlfriend and I made the trek from Santa Monica to Palate last night, meeting my brother and his wife for dinner. We sat at the communal table situated in the back room bordered by books on one side and empty wine bottles on the other, adjacent to the retail wine store and wine bar. At first, we were disappointed to be seated back there, but we weren't forgotten and it ended up being a great spot. Plenty of elbow and leg room, plenty of room for all the plates, and easy to carry on a conversation.
The gentleman who's filling in as the floor manager, I forget his name but he looks and sounds like Jeff Bridges in the Big Lebowski so I'll call him Jeff, was great from start to finish. Great enthusiasm and honesty. He's wonderful at his job.

We shared a bottle of 2005 Beaune 1er Cru, Cent Vignes, Roland Thevenin, at Steve Goldun's suggestion. We all enjoyed it. Good from the first sip. $52.

For food we ordered the following:

2 buttermilk chickens with roasted figs
1 pork belly with plums and dandelion greens
1 don watson pan roasted lamb
1 pan roasted veal with a roasted onion and baby broccoli
1 asparagus with hen egg
1 canneloni with ricotta, barbara's garlic, and parmigiano reggiano
pickled carrots and stone fruit

Everything was really, really good.
The two girls had the chicken, a breast prepared sous vide with a piece of crispy skin placed on top. The chicken was meltingly tender and really flavourful. I don't like chicken breasts and don't have them but a couple times a year; this one was the best I've had.. The meat tasted to me more like a good roasted thanksgiving turkey. The roasted fig was surprisingly good. I didn't think I'd like a fig, but it was complex and smoky and slightly peppery. Not sweet at all.
I had the veal breast and split the pork belly with my brother. The veal was slightly tough but the flavour more than made up for it. The meat had so much meaty flavour and the sauce with a hint of rosemary was delicious. I don't like broccoli but dipped in this sauce I liked it. A stand out dish.
This was my first pork belly. I'm behind the times. It was crispy on the outside and tender, porky, really porky, goodness inside. This is a perfect dish to share. It tasted like the fatty crisped edges of a grilled (like they do at Hitching Post, not bbq style) baby back rib. I loved it but the richness made a half a serving plenty. At the end, I was eating little pieces of the pork belly with the veal and it was like a magical discovery.
Any fear of the plum sauce being sweet or cloying desappeared after the first bite.
I tried only one bite of the lamb leg. The flavours were marvelous. I've eaten lamb for most of my 20 something years and I've never had lamb this un-lamby. Some who love gamy lamb will be disappointed. I like lamb both ways and this was an eye opener. The sauce was dark, rich and flavourful without being overreduced and heavy. A stand out dish.
If you like asparagus, the asparagus with runny egg is really a nice dish. The asparagus was perfectly cooked and seasoned, likewise the egg. The combination works.
The cannelloni were dreamy. They were tender and crepe-like, filled with a garlicky ricotta and parmigiano cheese mixture, lightly browned and crisped on the outside. Another stand out dish.
The pickled carrots and plums were good snacks, nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, I prefer the pickled carrots and onions from La Playita or Gilberts.
I also thought the sour wheat bread was pretty ordinary. I would've liked a second choice.

Total for everything, including tax, before tip was $180.

Service was good except for Jeff, who was tremendous and seemed happy to be at the restaurant and very invested in our having a good time.

I hope this restaurant makes it. It has a good spirit and Gary and Octavio and their cooks are doing great things in the kitchen. It is also priced well.

S.I.V. was in the party of four sharing the communal table with us.

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  1. Thanks for the review Wolfgang! :) That's what I love about Palate: The ever-changing seasonal menu with some creative, fun food. Can't wait to try the Lamb Leg (it wasn't on the menu during my last visit).

    1. Very nice review. I take it you didn't have a reservation and that was why you ended up at the communal table? What time did you get to the restaurant? I didn't notice you listing anything to drink with your dinner. It must be very hard not to order wine at Palate I would imagine? That would probably help account for the very reasonable price of the dinner you had for 4.

      Finally, how do you recognize Sherry Virbila by sight?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Servorg

        We had a reservation for 8p. They called during the day to confirm with us and ask if we'd be okay with the back room. We said that we'd prefer the front and they said they'd do what they can.

        We had a bottle 2005 Beaune 1er Cru, Cent Vignes, Roland Thevenin, with our dinner. It was $52. It was difficult limiting ourselves to one bottle.

        We were talking to Octavio after dinner and he pointed her out to us. We didn't know it was she when we were talking with their party at dinner.

        1. re: Servorg

          I did have a reservation and got the communal table. Weekday, too..The backroom was empty and univiting.

          Next time I will ask when I make the reservation. The communal table was uncomfortable. One of those situations where the chairs don't clear the table legs.

        2. Thanks for the review. I'm looking forward to my upcoming visit and your description will definitely help me pick out the better items to try.

          1. I was floored by this restaurant. The food is incredible, the service unpretentious, and the prices so reasonable it would be a complete shame not to try it at least once. I for one will definitely be returning. Their cheese plate, especially, was on par with one I had at providence for probably half the price.

            1. I went just after they first opened, and loved it. We are going back Saturday, and I am counting the hours ;)