June 17, 2009
Palate Food + Wine: A Glendale Fine Dining Destination
The first time I went to Palate, it had just opened. Before all the wonderful praise from Virbila and the blogosphere, I made a quick stop at the bar for some of the small plates. I wasn't able to get a full meal but I did get the porkfolio and the cheese, the film photo of which dons the headline of my blog.
This time around, Christine gave us the carte blanche: order whatever you want, and however much you want. We opted to come early to take advantage of the gorgeous soft light that bathes the interior for the few hours before sunset.
Personally I enjoy good design, but the quirky legal-folder type menus that are frayed and dirty aren't appealing to me. I, along with thousands of local white-collar office dwellers deal with these folders on a normal basis and would like a break come dinnertime. It's not a big deal though, as the folder houses the entire wine, beer, and dinner menu. We pounced on the first section, featuring a number of pickled items, the porkfolio or charcuterie platter, some rilettes cheekily called "mason jars" though they're only most likely served in them, not actually preserved in the glass jars.
The smooth layout of butter dusted with seasalt is sure pretty.
I think the wine bar is a swell place to get a glass or order a few appetizers while noshing with friends. The glasses of red are accompanied by wide, large bowls that are perfect for swirling and sniffing. If only they were dusted profusely with lint. I had to request a second glass since the first had so much lint, but the second one wasn't much better. I guess I'm spoiled by Silver Lake Wine, which uses high-quality Riedel swipes to clean their glasses to a spotless sheen.
The well-known porkfolio, a clever portmaneau that's perhaps little easier to mouth than (though not literally) than charcuterie, whose pronunciation I've grappled with and finally settled up in its own right (I like to say "shar-cu-TREE" like in French). In either event, though Palate formerly acquired their charcuterie from well known Paul Bertolotti enterprise Fra-Mani, they now make their salamis and cured meats in-house, for the most part. I didn't think this visit afforded a particularly better experience with the meats, and I might even venture to say the previous occasion was more generously portioned. Still it's worth getting as a signature dish.
Next was a bevy of pickled and confited items such as pickled green and cipollini onions, pork & duck rilettes, and pickled cauliflower. Light, crispy crostinis came in a pack to accompany. The pickling was rather sweet, balancing out the vinegary tang. The vegetables were addictive. I found the duck and pork rilettes to be nearly identical, with each respective one imparted with a sligth flavor of each animal.
The first side was an appealing agnolotti stuffed with cheese and some other elements that elude me. Maybe I should keep a notebook, but Jonathan Gold relates that to taking notes erstwhile having sex. To rid myself of any such connotation, I prefer to keep track of what I remember mentally, knowing that anything worth remembering is (ta-da) worth remembering. The velvety butter sauce provided an able swimming pool, adding richness to the well-crafted pasta.
Next came asparagus topped with a beurre noisette or brown butter and a fried egg, whose oozy yolk made a perfect sauce to the seasonal vegetable. This isn't an inventive preparation, but it was still delicious. A parsnip was the instrument of this soup which was poured out and served at the table, with flecks of bacon studding the dish. The flavor was blander than expected.
Octopus is a difficult dish to make tender, but this version had just enough bite to charactize to mollusk, which was chopped and sauteed amongst soft, roasted bell peppers, and this yellow edible flower that seemed like it was a baby mustard flower. A fantastic dish that Christine loved more than I did.
While this roasted lamb was a bit on the dry side, the flavor was exemplary, proffering a robust flavor with a generous bite of texture. Grilled radicchio and a subtle jus kept it simple and appealing.
The celebrated pork belly, which was widely discussed after the first annual (hopefully) Gold Standard food event, was good as advertised. It came apart with the flick of a fork while retaining moisture and a nice crispy sear. Bitter greens and tender farro came underneath with a savory sauce. It was gone before we knew it.
Perhaps a disappointment compared to my previous experience with Palate's cheese, who photo is pasted upon my headline (I love film), this trio was mildly portioned. We had a sheepsmilk basque, epoisses, and pungent blue.
As a Glendale resident over the past two decades, I've yearned for a notable restaurant to put the city on the map. While there are excellent Middle Eastern restaurants and a city-wide famous Cuban Bakery, it was time that Glendale grew up and hosted a formidable restaurant of its own. While there were some hiccups such as the linty wine glasses and boring soup, I found Palate Food + Wine to be both relevant and compelling. Oh, I would recommend that they hire addditional servers, as one poor fellow ended up serving over half the dining room by the time we were leaving. No wonder they've gotten complaints on that avenue. If Palate is going to retain its status, they should do best to have service as a priority even in lean times such as ours.
Note: many thanks to my dearest Christine, who generously paid for our meal. Beautiful and willing to pay for meals = an unbeatable combination.
Palate Food + Wine
933 South Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204