Do bright lights and a high noise level guarantee a successful restaurant? If THE PALM (267 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills (310) 550-8811) is any indication, the answer is a resounding 'yes.' The first night I walked into the new premises in mid-November I was overwhelmed by 'the buzz,' the feeling of being in a popular club, Soho House on steroids. I walked over to the first booth to say hello to the beautiful, popular author Jackie Collins, sitting there with her star sister Joan Collins, and Jackie articulated to me her unhappiness with the bright light shining down on her booth. I laughed and told her I knew another friend of ours, G.M, who would express herself about the lighting even more forcefully. Later that evening, ensconced in my booth, I was having trouble hearing the person across from me. So I suggest that if you want to have a serious conversation with your friends, take a table in the center of the spacious room. (If you want to avoid a meaningful conversation, then by all means request one of the spacious booths along the south wall, under the stunning murals of Beverly Hills painted on the wall, replacing the iconoclastic people sketches of the original restaurant. The Exec VP, 48-year old Bruce Bozzi, Jr., told me that many people did pick up their cut-out caricatures, as was reported in a front-page article on November 12th in the New York Times. That story was the envy of every restaurateur in town.
You may recall my Huffington post in mid-September which described the imminent closing of the long-time premises in West Hollywood to make way for an office tower. Co-owner Bozzi assured me that they would be open in mid-November at their new $4 million home in Beverly Hills and he fulfilled that promise with days to spare. After several dining expeditions here, I can confidentally say that this is the most successful restaurant opening to occur in Beverly Hills in many, many months. The new Ocean Prime 'round the corner has also been a major success, diners packed into their larger place every evening, proving that the public's hunger for steaks and seafood has not yet been satiated. What will happen six months or a year down the line? We'll have to wait and see. Mastro's, across from The Palm, is still packing them in, so I guess there is a continuing desire for the basic offerings of these eateries.
But as always, it all comes down to the food.....and The Palm more than fulfills its promise to not change, only get better. The menu is almost the same as before, a few dollars added to some dishes, with some added salads and side dishes. But my lovely friend and I shared a 3 lb. lobster at our first meal and it was perfect, steamed as requested, then placed under the grill for just a moment to tighten the meat. They expertly cut it into halves and served it in all its glory....and I pointed out to my friend, who had not a lobster in years, that we were fortunate to have a female crustacean, for it was ripe with tommaly and roe, which I love. Their Nova Scotia lobsters begin at 3 lbs for about $70, and go up from there depending upon the size and hunger of your party. I have a tick in the back of my head which tells me that over 5 or 6 lbs, the lobster gets less juicy...but hey, I would not reject a 7 lb. lobster if it crawled to my table. My experienced wait person, Heather Sagon, a Maine native who has worked at The Palm for several years, expertly supervised the splitting and the cracking of the shells, bringing cups of drawn butter which I had requested. You can get a 'Surf and Turf' by adding a half-lobster to your steak order for its half-price.
Heather had recommended a "Chef's Special" (Tony's grandmother's recipe), served either as an appetizer or even a main course, three hefty meatballs made with beef, veal and pork, in a yummy tomato-cheese sauce. (Took the one left home for lunch the next day.) That was followed by a new Iceberg Wedge Lettuce Salad ($14) with blue cheese, toasted walnuts, bacon, cherry tomatoes, fried onions and chives which I eagerly ordered. My companion is completely gluten-free and Heather arranged for a salad which met her specifications. We both were happy campers. The legendary Louis "GIGI" Delmaestro Salad ($17) is, of course, the lead salad item...its just the same, with its shrimp, green beans, tomato, onion, bacon, iceberg, roasted pepper, egg and avocado tossed in garlic vinaigrette. The other classic salad is the Monday Night ($13), with its finely-chopped romaine, iceberg, tomato, onion, roasted pepper, radish, scallion, and anchovy. Delicious.
Over the years, we have reported extensively on the Palm menu, so we will not repeat ourself here. But note: The Crabmeat Lump Cocktail is now $24; the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake is $16 and superb; I really like the Shrimp Bruno ($17) which is three jumbo shrimp which have been sauteed in a Dijon mustard sauce, while the regular Shrimp Cocktail is $21. (Beware, the cocktail sauce is atomic.) The best Baked Clams Casino ($14) are here, and the Fred Calamari ($13) is a bargain. Good soups, carpaccio, seared ahi tuna, all here and good. I told my companion that they had a handful of classic Italian dishes which rivaled the best of any Italian restaurant in town (well, perhaps not Gino Angelini's, but others.) I have partaken of the Veal Martini ($35) many times, a veal scallop made with shallots, mushrooms, fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, white wine, marsala and basil. A treat, as is the Veal Parmigiana and Grilled Chicken Paillard ($34). Salmon, Tuna, Swordfish, Branzino, Crab Cakes...all on offer.
The Palm beef is prime 35-day aged meat. It's all corn-fed, although lately I have been seeking out more grass-fed beef. They have one dish on the menu yet to be tried, a Natural Hormone-Free 'Butcher's Cut" which they say is market priced...sounds intriguing but costly. My steak of choice is always the Bone-in Rib-Eye Steak, 24 oz. for $57. I frequently order it "black and blue", which means charred on the outside and rare on the inside, hard to achieve Always get it perfectly here. All steaks are served with a dollop of parsley butter on top. The most popular steak is the Prime NewYork Strip, 14 oz. for $49 or 18 oz. for $53. At the next table some friends had ordered the Prime Double Cut New York Strip, a massive hunk, 36 oz. of beef for a hunded bucks, but it was feeding three hungry people as it was carved at the table. When I hunger for my favorite meat, lamb, I come here for an order of Double Cut Lamb Rib Chops, 18 oz. for $49. (At home, I favor the less-expensive but juicier shoulder lamb chops.) The signature Steak Stone , a prime New York which has been sliced and served on a bed of sautéed onions and pimientos, was not on the menu, but the genial general manager, Tayna Hodge, assured me that it was available if requested. Sidney Furie, the director of my film, "Lady Sings The Blues," had that dish last night.....and noticed a photograph of our star, Diana Ross, with the Billie Holiday gardenia in her hair, on the wall as you enter.
All of the sides are served family-style, placed in the middle of the table, and enough for two or more people, all $13. Spinach, either creamed (my choice), steamed or sautéed. Their signature Wild Mushrooms are excellent, but in the end I always end up with an order of Half & Half, a pile of cottage fries and fried onions. Enough for a tableful of people with lots left over. One night my date ordered the Roasted Brussels Sprouts, cooked with shallots and lemon zest She loved it, not me. Yes for asparagus with lemon garlic butter.
The desserts are all $10 and I never get by the New York-style Cheesecake with raspberry sauce or the Key Lime Pie which they swear is made with real Florida key limes, served with blueberry compote. Only once have I ordered the Donut Holes, which are warm cinnamon-sugar spiked chunks which comes with creme anglais and raspberry sauce. Filling, intriguing. There's a major boutique wine list, pricey, choice. New here is a major After Dinner Cocktail List, with many dessert wines and even a half-dozen good Ports.
As I have said before about THE PALM, "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose".....the more things change, the more they stay the same. In the case of The Palm, thank god for that!
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