Sunday, September 27, 2009

Palatable Pickels+ Pottage

Tucked between the rental car centers and auto dealerships on Glendale's Brand Boulevard of Cars is one of the most talked about restaurants to open in the last year: Palate Food + Wine. Specializing in pickling and charcuterie, Palate does these things well, but falls short in other areas.

The Palate menu is delivered in a legal size file folder, which will make lawyers feel like they're still at work -- pig claims intentional infliction of emotional distress based on excessively porky menu. The menu divides into five sections, the "porkfolio" which is a charcuterie plate, potted meats, pickles, cheeses and other dishes (i.e. soups, salads and entrees).

The two dishes we had that were excellent came from the potted meat and pickles sections of the menu. The potted lamb was a wonderfully salty, preserved lamb with ample fat. Much of the lamb gaminess had receded in favor of the salt and brine, which made it akin to an addictive, salty snack with a hint of game; I found myself wishing for a larger portion. Other potted items on the menu the night we were there included pork and hamachi.

For pickles, out of a selection of onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and grapes, we chose grapes. These grapes exploded in your mouth with vinegar and tarragon, almost as if they were one of Jose Andreas' "spherifications"; in fact, I'm not sure I could have identified them as grapes in a blind tasting, though a slight grape flavor does emerge later in the palate. These little wonders left me intrigued about the other menu items and reaffirmed my commitment to eat more pickled fruit.

The porkfolio, aside from the great name, fell a bit flat. It included parma prosciutto, lomo, speck, and three salumi, but all of it was rather ordinary. As a pork and charcuterie house, I held Palate to a high standard, and I didn't think they came through on this, their signature dish. Of everything on the plate, the speck and lomo were my favorites, but the salumi suffered from lack of distinction between the varieties and parma prosciutto is just not that special in these days of charcuterie innovation.

If the porkfolio didn't meet my rather high expectations, the entrees really disappointed. Flat iron steak was overcooked and the accompanying marrow was completely unseasoned. Calamari on greens with chili paste and garbanzos was a nice enough dish if not particularly memorable.

Since I have enough good cheese in my life, I didn't order a cheese course, though the menu selections looked nice enough.

The Palate wine list is creative and I appreciate that they offered three different sized pours of each wine (this is definitely a trend that should catch on), but avoid the cocktails. This is a wine place and the mixology was lacking.

Given the raves that have been heaped upon Palate, I was surprised to be largely underwhelmed. That being said, rave reviews are a mixed blessing and so I came with high expectations. If the place were in a more restaurant heavy district, I could see going back for a pre-meal snack of potted meat, pickles and a glass of wine. Alternatively, they are open for lunch on weekends and the aforementioned would make a nice light lunch. That being said, I'd stick to the top of the menu.

Palate Food + Wine
933 S Brand Blvd
Glendale, CA 91204-2107
(818) 662-9463

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