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FIRST LOOK

Patina protege sets out on his own and scores one for the Eastside

June 05, 2008|S. Irene Virbila | Times Restaurant Critic

The place is barely 3 weeks old, yet walk in any night and Palate Food + Wine in Glendale is filled with the hum of happy eaters and drinkers, gob-smacked that such a terrific new restaurant has opened on Brand Boulevard in the 1928 Bekins warehouse - and that they've been lucky enough to secure a seat.

Chef-owner Octavio Becerra -- who started his career at Pinot Bistro in Studio City and has spent most of it in the Patina Group as Joachim Splichal's right-hand man -- has broken with tradition and produced a restaurant that's as un-Patina-like as you can imagine.

Informal and relaxed, Palate gives off a modern bistro vibe with tables lined up on either side of a long room divided by two giant vases filled with melon-sized faux grapes. The menu is a single page. The servers are experienced and jazzed about the place (as they well should be). Hey, isn't that the cheese sommelier from Comme Ca, waiting tables? Sommelier Steve Goldun is a familiar face too.

Becerra's food here is direct and simple, informed with a love of all things Mediterranean. Start with a plate of charcuterie -- which he's dubbed "porkfolio" -- maybe with a couple of house-made pickles, the spiced peaches or the sharp, vinegary cipollini onions. He's making potted pork shoulder too -- sort of like meatier and less fatty pork rillettes served in a Mason jar.

The menu reads so well, I want to order everything. How can you resist a butter lettuce soup? His pasta dishes are delightful, especially the cannelloni with violet artichokes, Parmigiano-Reggiano and arugula.

Main courses are all under $20, and they're not that small either: rustic pork belly with Romano beans, slow-cooked yellowtail, skirt steak mignon with creamed spinach. There's also chicken breast with forbidden rice that defies everything you've ever known about chicken breast with its melting, moist texture and crisp-fried skin.

The selection of cheeses is unusually interesting too, and as soon as everything is in place, will number 50 or so.

Palate, though, is not only a restaurant. It's also a wine shop, cheese shop and tasting bar. Buy a bottle in the wine store and you can drink it in the tasting bar for a $5 corkage, or bring it into the restaurant for an $18 corkage. Tempting, but Goldun's wine list is so compelling and the prices are so fair, it will take many visits just to explore what's in the restaurant.

I haven't been this excited about a new restaurant in a long time. The Glendale location is a smart move too; enabling Becerra and company to draw on eager eaters from not only the city itself, but also from Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Los Feliz, downtown L.A., Silver Lake, Mount Washington and Pasadena.

Here's one for the Eastsiders.

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virbila@latimes.com

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PALATE FOOD + WINE

WHERE: 933 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale.

WHEN: Open 5:30 to 10 p.m., Mon. to Sat. Wine shop bar and lounge open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Mon. to Sat. Valet and street parking.

PRICE: Porkfolio, $12; Mason jars, $5; pickles, $3; plates, $7 to $19.

INFO: (818) 662-9463; www.palatefoodwine.com

WEB: For more photos of Palate Food + Wine, go to latimes.com/palate

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