Well, well, well… To my absolute delight Dixon treated me to dinner on my birthday! Not surprising as it has become our tradition; I take Dixon to dinner on his birthday as well. Included in the tradition is that it must be a new (or, at least, new for us) and exciting spot. We had both been curious about Palate since its opening about a year ago.
Located on the motor mile of Brand Avenue in Glendale, it occupies the former Bekins warehouse built in 1928. There's a curved bar at the front of a long narrow room, illuminated primarily by pink neon and candles with handblown glass grapes spilling over the sides of a pair of giant urns. While I found it to be an intimate and comfortable environment, I couldn’t help but feel a bit like part of a Patrick Nagel painting.
Palate is the breakout restaurant for Octavio Becerra, who put in years with Patina Restaurant Group and was the original chef at Pinot Bistro in Studio City. But his cooking at Palate is nothing like the saucy Joachim Splichal style. This is more of a California-Mediterranean bistro and wine bar.
We were seated immediately (at arguably the best table in the house). Just as timely was our server requesting our drink order (rosé for Dixon and a glass of champagne for me) and presenting us with fresh bread and a house made butter, topped with fresh herbs and sea salt. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned my predilection, no – my LOVE of butter? No? Well, let me tell you, this was some of the most fantastic stuff to hit my taste buds in memory. Wine. Bread. Butter. Done.
Palate’s menu, which changes every Thursday, is divided into four sections and is really a tasting menu of sorts. One is meant to try a number of different items, share, and pair them with one or many of the wines on their extensive list. Dixon and I skipped over the Porkfolio (a charcuterie plate with: prosciutto di parma / speck la quercia / salumi: nostrano / toscano / peperone /salame cotto ($12)) and went straight for the Potted Berkshire Pork ($6) from the Mason Jar section (rillettes and confits served in small clear glass canning jars). This was a lush mixture of shredded long-cooked heirloom pork, which was flaky and fork tender with a slightly smoky flavor. With this, we tried the Cherries ($3) from the Pickled section. I am generally dubious of cooked fruit, fruit touching other fruit, jellied fruit and fruit in my savory dishes. But this was something very special (and made me truly wonder how much I’m missing out with this fear of mine). They were fresh (and very much in season), simple and wonderful.
We then moved onto the roasted heirloom tomato soup, garnished with a fried ball of Serrano ham. Simplicity is the hallmark of genius and this soup was testimony. This was followed by Dixon’s Fried Pork Belly with apricots over stone ground grits and my Roasted Salmon over braised fennel and wild rice. Both dishes I found to be impressive, but the pork belly was divine. The apricot added a scrumptious accent and the grits were creamy perfection. The portions were, in the words of Goldilocks, "just right," not overly generous but enough to share tastes and experience every nuance.
We went with our server’s suggestions with the wine pairings and had a different glass with each dish. The plus was that he really knew his wines and did a stellar job with all of the pairings. The minus is that I had no idea what we were drinking and can’t share his suggestions with you. I suppose I would recommend that, should you go, trust your server. They all really know their beeswax and Palate has a wine cellar that would be any wine geek’s dream.
I look forward to more evenings at Palate, different seasons and new tastes. Good plan: Have enough people at the table to order practically the entire menu so you can revel in share-y, noshy, nibbly times!
Palate Food & Wine
933 S Brand Blvd
Glendale, CA 91204-2107