Never thought I'd say this - but I've been eating out so much recently that it's been hard to get caught up with the reviews!
Anyways, this one is too late to affect those weighing their options for dineLA - but thought it would be worth capturing our experience here anyway.
We decided on Palate Food+Wine as we needed a venue close to work for a weeknight outing, and the place had received hearty endorsements from several foodie friends, as well as "Miss Sassy's piloxing instructor. Unfortunately, despite the rave reviews (of their regular offerings), Palate's $34 dineLA menu and spotty service proved to be disappointing.
Located on a stretch of Brand Blvd occupied by mainly office buildings, auto and car parts dealers, Palate's exterior was not initially impressive. However, the much talked about fun back dining room with its racks of wine and bar did have character. We were seated directly below a window with a view into the cheese / fruit prep room with chic marble surfaces - where we could see a sous-chef, er, cutting the cheese...all night. The menus were printed on loose leaf paper clipped into green legal folders...not sure how this fit with the theme, but we shifted our attention quickly to the wine list, eager to kick off the evening.
Of the three of us who ordered wine - two were unpleasantly surprised by the small serving size of the alleged 12oz glass, and the third received bits of cork in her 'decanter' (used to 'rest' her white wine before pouring into her wine glass, complete with cork shrapnel). Our server made no attempt to explain the portions nor to replace the cork-filled glass.
Despite the faulty start, we were hopeful we would fare better with the food.
Two in our party started out with the Tahitian squash soup with chanterelles, bacon, crème fraîche and chives. The mix of ingredients sounded incredibly alluring - and aside from being a tad too salty, it was flavorful and appropriately creamy - and probably ended up being the best dish of the night.
Fancying myself a bit of a culinary adventurer, I will almost always opt for the unfamiliar dish or one that no one else wants to try. So for my starter, I chose the Roasted Bone Marrow with grilled toast, capers + parsley salad. Up until that evening, I had only tasted (and LOVE) stir-fried bone marrow cooked Chinese style with the pieces in white cylindrical shapes that almost resembles filled tube pasta.
With that disclaimer, that I do not have any frame of reference or basis for comparisan, I thought Palate's interpretation was a little too oily. The plating was interesting, with the marrow served up in two pieces of vertebrae. I didn't enjoy the oiliness nor the consistency of the marrow, which reminded me of lard except not as heavy or solid, and is semi-transparent. There wasn't much flavor either. I'm told this is the way roasted bone marrow is supposed to be - so perhaps it was great, and I just didn't have the appreciation for it.
For the main dish, two in our party ordered from the regular menu - the Vegetable Ravioli - and unanimously ruled the dish 'all salt'. No other flavors came through...at this stage, we were starting to see a theme emerge for the evening.
As a side dish, the same two people also gave the Beetroot Salad with haricot vert, ricotta salata, chickpea purée and pickled carrots a try - again only a single note came up: salty. We must have picked the wrong night - with a chef that is heavy-handed with the one particular seasoning!
For my entree, I went with the only seafood dish available from the dineLA menu: Loup du Mer (sea bass) with cavolo nero and sunchokes. The fish was a bit overcooked, and the filet was cut a bit too thin so that the crisp, salty skin completely overwhelmed the texture and expected fresh, natural flavor of the fish. And this dish too, did not escape from the chef's bottomless salt grinder.
Our fourth friend ordered the Short Ribs with pomme purée, wild broccoli, baby onions and horseradish crème fraîche (not pictured as the room and dish were both too dark for photography). So as not to break the streak - this dish was also lackluster, with the only taste that broke through, you guessed it - salt.
Thoroughly disappointed in the savory dishes, we hoped dessert would help salvage the night. Us two dineLA diners chose the Hazelnut Panna Cotta with pomegranate and grapes. Those who have read my previous reviews know Panna Cotta is one of my favorite desserts - and I really tried desperately to like Palate's (by this point, it was somewhat a matter of personal pride / vanity to find some good in the meal, as I was the one who ultimately pushed for us to dine at Palate!).
Despite my best efforts, I could not bring myself to go beyond the first spoonful. The panna cotta tasted like styrofoam-flavored Jello from a box - thin, watery and gelatinous. It sat in a pool of what we initially thought would be some sort of exquisite emulsion made from grapes and pomegranates - but soon realized must have been recycled dishwater. The pomegranate seeds randomly strewn on the plate, I get IN CONCEPT were supposed to add tartness and crunch to counterbalance the - in concept - subtle hazelnut flavor in the creamy panna cotta - but they served neither purpose in execution. The 'dishwater' soaked seeds did not hold a crunch, and, like the panna cotta, were completely flavorless.
All in all, I can safely say none of the ladies in our party will return to Palate - unless someone else is footing the bill, and we have personal guarantees of the quality of the exact dishes we would be served. I know this may be a bit hasty, as afterall we had not tried much on the regular menu, and the place comes highly recommended from food critics and friends alike...but our experience, fresh on our minds, is too difficult to get over at least in the short term. And there are still so many other great restaurants in LA I need to try - with my meager funds, and now tainted reputation with this particular set of friends - I'd rather not take a risk on Palate again...sorry!
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 2.5 bites
Presentation - 4 bites
Originality - 3 bites
Ambience - 4.5 stars
Service - 3 stars
Overall experience - 3.5 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 20%
Glendale, CA 91204