Dishing it Out
By Ashley Bennett
Palm Springs’ restaurants open their doors for a week of fantastic eats
2012 Palm Springs Restaurant Week
Photos by Ashley Bennett
Filet Mignon; Shallot puree, pommes anna, roasted asparagus.
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_02peaks.jpg]370(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Pan Seared Bass; Quinoa wild rice pilaf, carrot puree, braised white beans.
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_03peaks.jpg]410(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Beet and Ricotta Fettucini; Toasted pistachios, Gold and red beets.
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_04las-consuelas-terraza.jpg]320(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Las Casuelas Terraza
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_05copleys.jpg]290(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Copley’s on Palm Canyon
Copley’s Appetizer Sampler
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_06copleys.jpg]220(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Copley’s on Palm Canyon
Copley’s Appetizer Sampler
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_07copleys.jpg]170(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Copley’s on Palm Canyon
Copley’s Appetizer Sampler
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_08trio.jpg]120(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_09kings-highway.jpg]120(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_10kaiser-grille.jpg]130(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Pancetta Wrapped Grilled Shrimp; bed of Asian salad, tai sweet dressing.
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_11kaiser-grille.jpg]130(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Seared Sea Scallops; Artichoke Puree, dressed with chocolate and orange glaze, coconut foam.
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_11kaiser.jpg]40(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_12kaiser-grille.jpg]70(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Grilled tenderloin of Beef; Greek style, with humus, feta cheese and tapenade.
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_13matchbox.jpg]90(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Pei Mussels; Pablano chili, coconut broth.
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_14matchbox.jpg]120(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Prosciutto and black mission fig pizza; roasted garlic, mozzarella, gorgonzola, black pepper honey.
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_15matchbox.jpg]70(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Andoullie sausage and pork belly pizza; roasted garlic, spicy mustard, caramelized onions, smoked gouda cheese.
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_16lulu-american-bistro.jpg]80(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
LuLu California Bistro
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_17zin-american-bistro.jpg]60(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Zin American Bistro
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_18escena-lounge-and-grill.jpg]90(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Escena Lounge and Grill
Double cinnamon french toast
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_19escena-lounge-and-grill.jpg]100(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Escena Lounge and Grill
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_20escena-lounge-and-grill.jpg]70(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Escena Lounge and Grill
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_21view-from-mount-san-jacinto.jpg]100(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
View of Palm Springs taken at the top of Mount San Jacinto via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
[img src=http://ieweekly.com/wp-content/flagallery/2012-palm-springs-restaurant-week/thumbs/thumbs_22riviera.jpg]100(Photo by Ashley Bennett)
Room at the Riviera Palm Springs Resort and Spa.
Many of the restaurants in Palm Springs are prepping for a massive foodie event—Palm Springs Restaurant Week (June 1-10) where three course meals will be at a discounted prix fixe and you get the choice of some delicious gourmet meals. Restaurant Week’s slogan is all about “Eat, See, Stay.” You’ll soon learn that it’s not all about hiding out in your hotel room. With attractions like the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, you can take a gentle fifteen minute ride up the side of a mountain or take a jeep tour to a local oasis that you never knew existed. Staying in Palm Springs isn’t a problem because the city is well known for its popularity and attraction of golden-age Hollywood actors and singers. The Riviera Resort and Spa for instance was once a well known hotspot for Frank Sinatra and other famous celebs of the time. While the hotel has gone through major renovations, its new transition is an attractive sight. There will be about 65 participating restaurants for this event. The dilemma? Even with a narrowed down list of eleven on my own culinary adventure (Including Peaks Restaurant, Las Casuelas Terraza, Copley’s, TRIO, Norma’s at Night, King’s Highway, Kaiser Grille, Matchbox, LuLu California Bistro, Zin American Bistro and the Escena Lounge & Grill) there are too many restaurants to pick from. Here’s a much needed rundown.
Mix experience with food while you take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to get to Peaks: The Restaurant. High above the desert city and heat is sight like nothing you’ll see below. Due to storms over the weekend I attended, snow still remained at the Peak of Mt. San Jacinto (although it was melting at rapid rate). While this attraction brings many to hike and explore, the restaurant shouldn’t be overlooked by any means. Some of the choices are fairly irregular, such as the Pink Shrimp Bisque starter topped with coca nibs. However I felt much happier with the Beet and Ricotta Fettuccini, a simple arrangement of noodles sitting on a bed of red and gold beets. If I were giving out awards, most unusually tasty would go to the Flourless Lemon Myrtle. My party and I would agree; it looks and smells like a pink spring candle. However it’s light and refreshing taste is something to behold. Among many other dishes, taking into account Peak’s beautiful view, makes it worth the trip.
Las Casuelas Terraza is a Mexican Restaurant that few can beat. They’ve been in Palm Springs since 1958 but don’t deny them spotlight because they pride themselves in having an in depth history. Despite a story behind the menu, they sport starters like the Mini Tropical Salad (a sweet salad of romaine dressed with mango, dates, avocado, peppers and jicama and finished with a date dressing) that shows they’re not afraid to experiment. Apparently dates are becoming a thing. As for entrees, the Pollo en Mole was an enticing and hearty meal. Chicken topped with mole poblano (among an amalgamation of other ingredients like chiles, cumin, pepper and garlic) created a saucy and flavorful meal with plenty of food. Not to mention a barely detectable amount of chocolate and nuts. Las Casuelas has an old feel with the right menu; perfect for Mexican-food lovers of the desert.
Those who have an appreciation for cooking (or those who can’t cook at all) might find a special niche here with Chef Andrew Copley at Copley’s . The place is cozy, complete with a special outdoor seating patio dedicated specifically to cooking demonstrations. I’d say getting a demonstration from a top notch chef while facing the great San Jacinto Mountain isn’t something you get to see every day. If you’re looking to get a taste early on with Copley’s contemporary creations, try Copley’s Appetizer Sampler. With the cutest little seeded taco filled with fresh Ahi, a smaller sized seared scallop and butternut squash it’s barely the much needed introduction to a list of enticing dishes. I might have to stop by when they’re offering Lemon and Lavender Scented Pound Cake. I’m unsure of how that might turn out but it sounds amazing.
TRIO on the other hand has its ups and downs. If you’re looking for a “hip and happening” spot then this busy joint will please you to no end. I can’t give this spot a proper review because I only tasted an appetizer platter but what I had was not overly impressive. With a side of mac and cheese, fried calamari, a few ribs and soy ceviche with tofu (my favorite of the bunch), none can merit revolutionary notice. However it was their extensive list of signature drinks that bring them up to speed. The waiters were attentive to everything and extremely energetic to offering their favorite drinks. TRIO’s Restaurant Week menu has a few promising second courses and I’m looking forward to getting so see them go all out.
Those searching for a relaxing dinner or wind-down evening might find Norma’s at Night to be the perfect place. This isn’t your busy eatery though. In fact with its soothing coffees and teas it’s the perfect place to sit down and chat after a long night partying at various hot spots. It’s interior is that of a redecorated house of some sort with various items of interest but outdoor patio is the perfect place to wind down. While I can attest to the interesting creations of their dessert menu, Norma’s will be your place of choice is you’re looking for a quiet sit-down with some traditional diner meals. Nothing says mom-and-pop better than an order of their Restaurant Week entree Chicken Pot-Pie Piping in Puff Pastry.
King’s Highway is a comfy diner that replaced a Denny’s a while back. Now neighboring the popular Ace Hotel, it has created a breakfast menu filled with meat and spice to wake you up. At the time, their Restaurant Week menu was unavailable but I’ll still praise the overfilling greatness that is the Chilaquiles. This dish has enough protein to power you up for the whole day with added chiles, ranchero, homemade corn tortilla chips. Hearty and delicious. Their upcoming prep for Restaurant Week will result in similar dishes that seem simple but prove to taste extraordinary.
I’ll say it upfront: your stomach will thank you if you take a stroll to the Kaiser Grille. This new spot sports a sweet patio area that’s perfect for both afternoon seating away from the sun’s brutal heat, allowing you to enjoy the warm days and nights of the city. The menu is equally refreshing with a plentiful selection of fresh and uniquely decorated meats. From the beginning it only took a bite of the simple Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp to win me over. No one can resist a juicy grilled prawn sitting atop a bed of colorful Asian salad and a sweet and zingy Thai dressing to boot, leaving you with a satisfyingly happy disposition. As for entrees, perhaps another unique flavor combo might entice you—here they turned an average cut of Seared Sea Scallop into a masterpiece of tender meat seductively lying on a bed of chocolate and orange glaze (salivation can’t be stopped at this point). This softened meat was exactly how I like it, a barely hardened exterior complimented with a tender and juicy inside. Dearest seafood fans: one bite and you’ll be hooked. Of course they also offer unique beef, veal and lamb meals too.
However you might find that maybe Matchbox is more your style. This spot uniquely sits on the second floor of the small shopping area overlooking good ol’ Palm Canyon Drive. Matchbox has a bit of everything when it comes to food. As popular as seafood is in the desert, you can’t leave without trying the Pei Mussels with Pablano Chili & Coconut Broth. These perfectly cooked mussels peek through their now-opened exterior, beckoning diners to take a bite of the delicate meat within. With the addition of Thai chili oil, this made for a minor spicy treat. Whereas for entrees, many people write off pizza as a more common dish that cannot surmount gourmet meals. Those people haven’t had Matchbox’s Prosciutto and Black Mission Fig Pizza. The pizza here is out of the ordinary, utilizing some unique combinations to achieve memorable taste. I give it props just because they dare to sell pizza with innovative ingredients such as this one (or the Andoullie Sausage and Pork Belly Pizza) where few other restaurants will.
The newer restaurant on the block is LuLu California Bistro. There’s quite an interesting coordination of color in this place, featuring mainly pale white that’s accented with a few pastels and with a spacious interior it sticks to a modern feel. LuLu’s simple Caesar Salad was nothing special, just your average romaine lettuce leafs with parmesan cheese. It was served with a side of Wild Mushroom Soup which has a pleasant saltiness to it. The lobster Ravioli on the other hand sounded great on paper but appearing before me was fairly. The presentation and taste is simply fine at best. Similarly to TRIO’s alcohol selection though, this place has a few interesting signature drinks including a dessert cocktail menu with a Banana Split Martini that begins to make up for misgivings with the food menu. It looks like their prixe fixe menu has more ambition so I’ll keep an eye on this spot.
Zin American Bistro is literally across the street from LuLu’s and might not sport a fancy interior but don’t let it’s more humble appearance trick you. As for meals, the dessert is tasty and enjoyable. Maybe it wasn’t the most enticing presentation (hot evenings will melt scoops of ice cream faster than you can eat it) but they offer a small platter including Belgian Chocolate Mousse Cake and Mindy’s Chévre Cheesecake that will be satisfying for any sweet lover. With plenty of wines and beers on hand, waiters here will be very willing to pair your dessert up. The Restaurant Week menu will have more variance in the form of rabbit or the most interesting choice: XXX Mac and Cheese. Enticement is key and Zin has my attention.
Last on my trip was a visit to the Escena Lounge and Grill. It was morning, early enough to enjoy a bright and clear day overlooking the massive golf course that Escena is connected with (which by the way isn’t private; you may golf ’till your heart’s content). Escena’s was still serving breakfast of which I partook in a childhood favorite of mine, simple French Toast. Thick but fluffy and topped lightly with powdered sugar and syrup, it’s just something I had to indulge in and I’m so glad I did. Not everyone can handle high amounts of sugar that early so if you’re more of an eggs and meat breakfast eater, Escena’s also offers some well presented and fulfilling breakfast options as well. During Restaurant Week Escena’s evolves into an even more desirable establishment. Temptation lies in sound of the Escena Surf and Turf, a lovely hybrid of short ribs and large prawns, and the Seafood Lover’s Pasta, a combination of sea critters such as shrimp, crab, mussels and fish.
My tips? Prepare yourself. Check out the website find specific Restaurant Week menus, make reservations accordingly and eat very little all day to ready your stomach for some good eats. This is no time to be shy; for either $24 or $36 depending on the venue you’ll be getting a great amount of food for an even greater price. Check out the sights and stay somewhere local but make the food your highlight—you’ll be glad you did.
Palm Springs Restaurant Week, June 1-10. Restaurants located between Palm Springs and Indio, www.palmspringsrestaurantweek.com.All Restaurant Week-specific menus are available for viewing here.