The Palm Court, 11111 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (213) 479-1400. Open Monday-Friday, 7:30 to 11 a.m. (breakfast), 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (lunch), 3 to 7 p.m. (cocktails and hors d'oeuvres). Validated parking. Full bar. All major credit cards accepted. Lunch for two (food only), $25-$40.
It is one of the great secrets of the restaurant reviewer's trade that, as a class, most of us genuinely want to like the restaurants we address. We approach each new eating place hopefully and occasionally even a bit dewy-eyed. We expect the best. We long to be the bearers of good news.
Popular opinion (and the plaints of panned innkeepers) to the contrary, we'd much rather write straightforward raves than clever put-downs. And if we seem to tend too often toward the latter sometimes, it's only out of honest disappointment, sheer frustration--real dismay that so many of the restaurants we encounter turn out to be run by bunglers, incompetents, and/or pretentious popinjays with all the food sense of a rock.
I was having thoughts along these lines the other day as I sat, being handsomely (and not at all pretentiously) taken care of at the extremely pleasant restaurant called the Palm Court. Now, the Palm Court--which, like the nearby Trident Room, is a breakfast-and-lunch establishment in a new West L.A. office building--is hardly a great restaurant. It isn't worth much of a detour. Its specialties aren't likely to be featured in Bon Appetit. But it is a nice place to sit down in, airy and comfortable, restful even, light and cool, with deft decorative touches and a tranquil view out tall windows onto a beige marble courtyard graced with a water wall, a reflecting pool, and several clumps not of palms but of 40-foot-high bird-of-paradise trees. There are decorative touches to the service, too--among them fresh chunks of grana grated over pasta dishes to the customer's specifications, and wines-by-the-glass (of which there are quite a few) poured at the table with a minor flourish. The food? Adequate at worst, in a mixed-bag California-contemporary style (Russell Armstrong of Trees in Corona del Mar is consulting chef)--and sometimes quite good.