Who guessed how many 21st century malls would have a 19th century feel? The newish Valencia Town Center looks like a small-town shopping district, complete with cobblestone streets. It's a fine place to take the family for Sunday dinner and a stroll.
One of its showpieces is Twin Palms. With its brick front room under a tent-like ceiling, and main dining room with the feel of a romantic California bungalow, it's an almost unreasonably handsome place to dine.
Don't look here for the rustic French food that the Pasadena Twin Palms was originally known for. This one serves solid Americana with a few California twists.
Two of the most impressive first courses are the crisp fried calamari and the beefy roasted Maui onion soup, topped with a judicious amount of cheese.
There's a warm Sonoma goat cheese salad with fresh mesclun greens and a toasted lump of creamy, pungent cheese. The Caesar salad has a thick, complex dressing, and the seared ahi tuna salad isn't bad either.
Yes, there are pizzas, with reasonably thin crusts and simple toppings. Try the classic pepperoni pizza or the spicy roasted chicken pizza weighted down with big chunks of white meat. As for the pastas, the best choices are the four-cheese ravioli and the seafood linguine with Totten Inlet clams and Prince Edward Island mussels.
The best main course I tasted was sea bass togorashi, a moist, flaky piece of fish with a Japanese-style soy glaze and a side of Japanese rice flecked with sesame seeds. I wouldn't order the filet mignon again without asking the kitchen to go easy on the cloying Port wine sauce it's normally served with. The smoky glazed baby back ribs are almost perfect, though, and the signature dish, Twin Palms' double-thick pork chop, is a beautiful piece of meat.
Desserts are prepared on the premises daily. The vanilla and milk chocolate creme bru^lee has a crackling sugar crust and will appeal to the kid in you. The pecan pumpkin cheesecake is wonderful, though it seems to have disappeared from the menu of late.
I didn't spot two palms (or even one), but then almost everything about this place, from the intelligently chosen wine list to the efficient service, comes as a mild surprise.
Twin Palms, 24300 Town Center Drive, Valencia. Breakfast/lunch 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner, 5:30-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Full bar. Parking in structure. All major credit cards. Dinner for two, $48-$75. Suggested dishes: Caesar salad, $7.50; classic pepperoni pizza, $8.95; sea bass togorashi, $16.95; smoky glazed baby back ribs, $19.95. Call (661) 253-0100.