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Palate - Food & Wine (a review)

Just came back from a horrible experience here. Here's the short version: good food, abysmal service, plus they tried to rip us off on the bill!!

Here's the long version. From NY, in LA for holidays. I read a variety of posts on this blog about the great food, as well as posts from some skeptics. We booked the first seating at 530 (nothing else available) because I really wanted to try it. We were ten mins. early. We walked in, and the team was still having the pre-seating meeting to discuss strategies for that night and NY Eve -- all fine. However, after taking our name, we were given no direction or explanation. We sat at the bar for 15 mins (past opening) without offer of drink etc., and then inquired about table -- told, "we're not seating for another 5 mins." 10 mins later, we were seated. Waiter was young, did not understand menu, was incompetent about the wine menu; I asked for sommelier, who pointed us in right direction -- also fine. Waiter seemed highly anxious of making a mistake. Still, we puzzled through the menu. Food was excellent in parts -- the beef trotters and short ribs were succulent; cod was boring; the much touted porkfolio seemed ... ordinary. Dessert (choc pudding) was ok; not extraordinary given the place. But we were in a good mood and determined to have fun. Waiter was largely absent -- when present, remarks like "so you had enough to eat right?" (no effort to ask for dessert orders, more wine, etc.; seemed overwhelmed by his other tables, or perhaps just uninterested in waitering -- very hard to tell!

Then the coup de grace -- at the end, for 3, the bill was 180, about 30 more than expected. Upon inspection, saw they charged us for TWO porkfolios, plus an entree (pork belly) we never ordered! Have heard of this bill-padding trick before. Called over the waiter, told him to tell the manager; waiter agreed it was unacceptable; manager came over and merely said, we've taken it off the bill. As if!! I explained the customer service problems throughout, and he had nothing to say. Now mind you, I did it politely. I do not get this high-end restaurant's woeful customer service plus management's unwillingness to do anything about generating/keeping goodwill. Both waiter and manager claimed they were testing the printer in the kitchen and that's why 2 extra items appeared on our bill, but neither could explain the logistics of this alleged occurrence.

So, be warned .... (PS am not usually an unhappy diner).

Palate Food & Wine
933 South Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91204

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  1. Did you forget that you were within the TMZ, where we don't have professional waiters, only actors waiting for their next gig.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ChinoWayne

      Good one! Thanks for making me laugh.

      1. re: ChinoWayne

        For acronym collectors ( courtesy of the Wikipedia ):

        'TMZ' stands for "Thirty Mile Zone," a term which originated in the 1960s. Due to the growth of "on location" shoots, studios and various talent guilds established a "thirty mile zone" -- outside of which shooting is considered to be a location shoot -- requiring per diems and other travel and living expenses to be paid. The zone remains centered in Los Angeles around the old offices of The Association of Motion Pictures and Television Producers at Beverly and La Cienega Boulevards in California. It was often said that "Everything entertainment happens in the 'Thirty Mile Zone.'" So essentially, the "Thirty Mile Zone" represents the center of Hollywood.

      2. i've only been here once- loved the food and the wine - but the service really stinks here. our waiter totally forgot about us more than once- we could hardly track him down- and he wasn't very in touch with food or wine it seemed. i haven't been anxious to return because of the service. also, i think i've read on this board that the bill situation can be sketchy. too bad, great cheese plate here. when we finally got it half hour after trying to order it- mind you we never finished ordering it, our waiter walked away mid sentence and eventually just brought us whatever after asking him twice for a cheese plate- anyway, it was really good.

        1. Palate may be one of those restaurants (Anisette another) where the service remarkably improves if you make your reservation under the name Virbila.

          1. I'd agree with the service issues. Had dinner here last week and while our waitress was competent she was remarkably cold (in that "I can't be bothered to discuss the wine with you, despite the fact that it's a freakin' wine bar and the list is five pages long, and we were just asking for some recommendations") and while it didn't quite wreck the evening it did dampen it a bit. Great pickled persimmons though.

            2 Replies
            1. re: pronek

              I'm very surprised by these comments. My husband & I also ate there last week and had an entirely different experience. We were warmly welcomed, given an excellent table and the service couldn't have been better. Our waiter was attentive, made thoughtful wine recommendations (respecting our budget of mid-30s or so for a bottle) and was very helpful in terms of food suggestions as well. Our dinner was outstanding & the entire evening was delightful. Can't wait to return to try other dishes! (By the way, friends who have dined there several times & love the place have had the same satisfying experience & they are very particular about service)

              1. re: pronek

                My SO and I were just there the other night and we had the exact same experience. Our waitress was quite unhelpful. The food was good, but the service left much to be desired.

              2. @ BklynCook, maybe you should have had our waiter.

                The service was so odd, it actually ticked me off for days. A waiter came over 10 minutes after we were seated. Once he got there, instead of asking if we'd like a drink, he literally spent 5 minutes explaining everything on the menu, from top to bottom. Having read so many reviews, I knew what I wanted going in. I finally stopped him, just to ask what vegetables were in the papillote. Then I said, thanks, now we'll have wine.

                We asked some questions about some of the cheeses and he was all over the place with recommendations. My cheese-knowledgeable dining companion finally decided on an all Pyrenees plate which was kind of cute - cow, goat and sheep. The porkfolio and cheese took about 30 minutes to arrive.

                The aforementioned papillote was lovely - brussel sprouts, rapini, snow peas, Tahitian squash. We split the short rib main course and it was honestly divine.

                The waiter was barely attentive. He spent a lot of time at the cash register, figuring stuff out. I asked for a $9 glass of wine - he talked me into a $15 one. That was my fault...

                1 Reply
                1. re: outshined

                  Just ate at Palate for the first time tonight. went in at 6:45 without a reservation. asked about bar seating and the girls at the front were completely unhelpful, told us to go look and wait and see what we would get. we walked to the wine bar in the back and found two seats open and sat for 10 minutes before anyone even came over. i asked for water when someone finally came and did not get it so i had to grab someone to ask again. the service was horrible. asked bout cheese, got no information. asked about wine and the waiter said, 'oh i'll be right back' and never came back. we grabbed someone else who helped us at that point. won't go into the whole play-by-play but the staff was running around and everyone seemed confused and overworked and nobody seemed knowledgeable. great wines, great cheeses but not served with panache. the porkfolio was boring but good and the short ribs were nice but not exciting. i would go back for the good wine and cheese but the service and sense of madness going on there seemed very unrefined for place trying to be refined and casual.

                2. I've been to Palate about eight times now. Half were at the bar where you get the French bartender who knows the wine very well.

                  The porkfolio by itself is good, but best with the accoutrements - the pickled stuff. Then it gets much more interesting. There's also a nice cremant rose that goes well with it . Then Palate is in it's element.

                  One time I had service that wasn't stellar. This was early in the restaurant and they were only opened a week or so. The waiter was asking us what wine we liked and when we asked for a recommendation (part of the fun of this restaurant is trying new and different wines - and they're all reasonably priced, often downright bargains) he seemed like, well Sara Palin on auto B.S. I was polite and asked him more questions - which you could see made him go into a trance, excuse himself and someone else took his place (that's usually the way to handle these things - be very polite with pressure - I've had too many friends who owned/worked in restaurants to get testy.)

                  Part of Palate at its best is when you get a great waiter. Then the experience is informal and fun.

                  In fact, there's a sense of playfulness at the restaurant.

                  I don't know. I might be a little more tolerant than most when it comes to service. There are times when things are not perfect - when I'm at a serious restaurant and my foie gras comes before my sauterne! Sacre bleu! That's when I start turning over tables, smashing chairs through plate glass windows "WHERE'S THE F......! SAUTERNE?!!"

                  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                    It is all about frenchy at the bar, he is HILARIOUS and a complete dick but in that endearing "i'm french and know everything" kind of way. I believe he is one of the main sommeliers, you will love him if you dont take yourself too seriously, however if you think you are a wine genius he will prob put you to shame. Both times i have been were at the bar, i wouldn't want to sit anywhere else.

                  2. I haven't wanted to say aything bad about Palate, living in the Gleandale area and hoping for something more than Cabinita and Far Niente (no complaints there). I had hoped Palate was going to work out but it hasn't. Wines are reasonably priced but underwhelming. Food looks great on the menu, with clever concepts and descriptions, but never fails to disappoint, IMHO. I have not had any problems with the service, but then again four of us tend to order around $100 in wine. But I have had enough of the consistent let downs in the cuisine, interesting concepts or not.

                    1. Just wanted to throw my 2cents in the ring because I actually had a good experience with service here about 2 weeks ago. Sat at the wine bar close to the rear entrance. Attentive and friendly waiter. And the sommeliers were wandering around so they were available for wine recommendations.

                      Like a few others have mentioned here, not a big fan of the porkfolio, which seems to be the toast of the town over on yelp. I'm pretty sure I could get that entire plate of meats for free by asking for samples at Claro's. But the rest of the food was good.

                      1. I've been three times, three different servers... once the service was very good, twice the service was indifferent to completely disinterested. Given all the other places I enjoy, and Canele' right down the street, the food itself isn't enough to overcome the service.

                        1. Horrible Experience as well, w/mediocre food... BIG Dissapointment. I was so upset, I wrote an email to them... and they didn't bother to repond... That kind of arrogence say's it all. Here's what I wrote: "Good Morning,
                          First off, I should tell you that I love food, and regularly dine out. I’m an avid reader of all the local food columns, Chowhound, and other food blogs. I’m an avid listener to KCRW’s Good Food radio show. I will drive for several hours just for an ingredient or a meal. It’s a real passion of mine
                          I’m writing to you to let you know about my dinner last night, in hopes that nobody has to go through the same experience that I did.
                          I chose Palate based on a great review in Los Angeles Magazine, and was looking forward to my meal.
                          As I’m sure you know, regardless of how good the food is, if the service is bad; it ruins it all. Well, to say my service was bad was an understatement.
                          1. Our server tried to bully us into ordering food we weren’t interested in; even before we actually got to look at the menu. Did he really think we couldn’t understand how it was laid out?
                          2. Our server gave us all of about 1minute before he came back to take our order, when we asked him for some more time, he didn’t come back for almost 20minutes… we actually considered asking for a new server… wish we had.
                          3. Our server didn’t know the menu. There were several different items I had questions on: Q: What is forbidden rice? A: Black rice. Q: Ok, well, is it short grain, long grain, wild? A: not “mushy”… Q: What is this veggie (sorry I don’t remember it’s name – Italian), A: hmmm um, ah, um, cabbage? Sivvy? Q: do you mean Savoy Cabbage? A: yeah that’s it…. Classic.
                          4. After ordering a specific bottle of wine, using the menu number to make it easier for him, he came back to the table and asked us if we wanted just a glass… then came back a second time, and showed us a different wine for over $200, and said ‘this is the one you want, right? I’m laughing while writing this… it’s so ridiculous….
                          5. I have a severe seafood allergy. When I made my reservation, I told your team about it. I always double check with my server to make sure they’re aware. When I told our server last night. He literally grunted at me, ‘yeah, I already know’.
                          6. Our ‘porkfolio’ arrived, and we had to wing it to figure out what was what. He didn’t come over to explain until after we’d already eaten quite a bit of it. When I asked about the mustards, first he said, ‘they’re mustard’… then when I asked for more details, what kind, what’s in them, where are they from, what do they go with… all I got was ‘dijon, and seed’…. Nice.
                          By the time we finished our meal, the last thing we wanted to do was stick around and go through same nonsense over cheese and dessert….
                          Why would I ever return? Why would I ever recommend Palate to anyone?"

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: rednax8

                            wow, that is pretty horrible. Jesus. I would have walked out or at least asked for a manager, did you?

                            1. re: laeditormatthew

                              I would have definitely tried to talk to a manager. I've noticed a lot of comments about Palate's staff, yet most of the complaints revolve around servers/waiters. In my experience the managerial staff is tremendous. I don't understand how the waiters can't get things right as I've seen the managers giving a rundown to them prior to the night's service.

                              Then again, service in L.A. tends to stink anyway (at least compared to San Fran).

                          2. After reading all the various comments, I hope the management pays heed. I've been here 3 times and always had a wonderful experience and decent service.