Thursday, July 3, 2008

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales SCP - 06/21/2008

3333 South Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 352-2525

On a whim, my friend and I decided to try the recently opened Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales in South Coast Plaza. The restaurant is the California branch of Charlie Palmer's restaurant empire which includes the more well-known Aureole in New York and Las Vegas.

I was pleasantly surprised at the dining room and bar which were more upscale than I expected.

The restaurant also has a wine shop attached and unlike most restaurants charges retail plus a $25 dollar service charge for their wines. By and large the prices are on the upper end of retail but less than most restaurants would charge. We ended up bringing our own wines but we still had cocktails and added a bottle of dessert wine. The wine list at Charlie Palmer is easily the most advanced I have ever seen, basically a tablet PC loaded with the restaurant's wine inventory, definitely a cool talking point. We ended up bringing our own wines but we did order a half bottle of dessert wine to pair with dessert and the foie gras. Service was a bit off we expected the champagne first, but the sommelier opened the cab first. Not a terrible faux pas but we ended up opening the champagne immediately afterwards and at one point each of us had 5 drinks on the table simultaneously.

OMG - Mount Gay Rum, Contreau, Pineapple, Lime
I feel emasculated admitting that I ordered this. I couldn't quite define what I was tasting with this drink, all I could really get was a general sweetness.

Blood Orange Mojito - Bacardi O, Blood Orange, Lime, Mint, Soda
An interesting mojito with intense blood orange notes on the finish.

1998 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select, USA, California, Napa Valley, Stag's Leap District
The wine started out intensely jammy, loads of dark fruit, some tobacco. Exposure to air changed the wine somewhat resulting in more spice and mint.

NV Krug Grande Cuvée, France, Champagne
Intense nose and flavor of yeast and toast on opening as well as some citrus. Acidity starts out very strong and subsides somewhat over time.

2005 Francis Tannahill 'Passito' Gewurztraminer, USA, Oregon, Foris Vineyard
After consulting with the sommelier my friend and I decided on a late harvest Guwurz from Oregon. The wine was intensely sweet with flavors of candied apricot, raisins, and a hint of spice, unctuous and easy drinking.

Amuse: Blue Cheese Custard - Pickled Stone Fruit
A fairly tasty amuse, the flavor of blue cheese was quite mild and went very well with the smooth cool custard.

Bread - Olive, Multi-grain, Mini-baguette
Fairly standard breads. I liked the baguette the best.

01: Chilled Pacific Oysters - Smoked Cocktail Sauce, Meyer Lemon Mignonette
A fairly classic preparation of oysters. Nothing particularly good or bad about this offering.

02: Kampachi Sashimi - Pickled Celery Salad, Spicy Capicola, Black Lava Salt
A very disappointing dish, I love the natural taste of Kampachi, but it takes a back seat to the other flavors in this dish. The fish was utterly lost against the bitter green flavor of the celery and masked by the intense saltiness of the capicola and lava salt. To ensure the diner tastes absolutely no yellowtail, the fish came in covered in oil.

03: Ahi Tuna Carpaccio - Avocado Mousse, Shaved Fennel, Mandarin Oil
Another fish overpowered by the rest of the plate. The carpaccio was covered in a citrus oil that was just a bit too heavy. I do enjoy citrus with fish but the oil coated the fish completely making it impossible to taste anything else. If that wasn't enough this dish was also liberally covered with rock salt making it unbearably salty. Oil and salt, I see a pattern with the raw fish.

04: Artisan Salumi Santana - Rustic Pate, Dijon, Country Bread
A plate of Italian cold cuts, with summer sausage, prosciutto, pepperoni and plenty of cured meats. After the last two courses I really would have appreciated a break from the onslaught of sodium, but alas it was not to be.

05: Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras - Apricot Tarte Tatin, Carmelized Apricot
Finally a change, the foie gras was passable, not quite as fatty as I would have liked resulting in a faint livery flavor. The apricots served as a nice bridge with the wine which was loaded with apricot flavor as well.

06: Chilled Foie Gras Torchon - Pineapple Chutney, Rum Rasin Brioche
This was probably my favorite course of the night. The foie was seasoned with the right amount of salt and the mildly sweet pineapple added some fruitiness without overpowering the foie gras.

07: Ricotta Tortellini - Sweet Pea Variation, Carrot Emulsion
I didn't care for this dish at all. This reminded me of a similar flavor pairing I had in San Francisco. The use of sweet pea and carrots makes this dish sickly sweet. The ricotta tortellini was grainy and already slightly sweet when combined with the sauce it threatened to bludgeon my tastebuds into oblivion with its sweetness.

08: Wild Mushrooms - Shallot, Fresh Thyme
A disappointing course, overly salty and heavy not at all pleasing to eat.

09: Farro Risotto - Morels
The farro was a fairly solid dish, texture a bit tough but much more balanced in flavor.

10: Shrimp Kabobs A la Plancha - Tamarind Chive Glaze, Caponata Salad
Another weak course, the shrimp was badly overdone and had a rubbery texture. Not a big fan of the tamarind glaze which gave a heavy sweet and sour flavor or the caponata. No harmony between the flavors at all.

11: Crisp Pork Belly - Melon, Pickled Onion, Aged Sherry Vinegar
After a string of very good pork bellies I suppose I was due for a weaker one. The pork was too lean and a bit overcooked. I realize the idea was to make it crisp, but with the lack of fat the meat just ended up being tough and dry.

12: Cremini Mushrooms - Oxtail Ragout
I know I sound like a broken record, but these mushrooms, like much of the rest of the meal were overly salty and not at all appealing.

13: Mushroom Fried Rice - Coriander
I seriously wonder where these people get their mushrooms. There is none of the rich earthiness that I love in mushrooms. Also the rice was overly dry and hard, even for fried rice.

14: Chino Farms Strawberries - Frozen Cream Cheese, Angel Food, Shiso
A bit simple and straightforward but quite good strawberries, cake, cream, and a bit of sweet mintiness all work together very well.

15: Caramelized Milk Panna Cotta - Pickled Stone Fruit, Garden Basil, Crispy Meringue
The panna cotta was a bit sweet, but still very good. The pickled stone fruit was a nice foil to the panna cotta as was the basil ice cream. The basil ice cream was a pure expression of basil, definitely a distinctive experience for me.

Petit Fours
Tasty petit fours, but nothing impressive or distinctive.

At the end of our meal we took a brief tour of the kitchen. The chef was kind enough to speak with us, apparently he used to work at Aureole in New York (yes I was drunk in the picture).

Its been a while since I have had a meal this bad. Maybe it can be chalked up to an off night or simply the restaurant needing more time, but I got the feeling some of it has to do with the dishes themselves. Walking out of the restaurant, I felt this might be a nice place to get a drink after shopping but I wouldn't come here for a serious dining experience.


Anonymous said...

Wow, pretty tasteless- cheesing for a "buddy-buddy" photo with the chef so that you can post it on your blog and pan his restaurant.

Anonymous said...

I've been wanting to try CP but reading your review about the saltiness of the dishes and looking at the pictures with all those brown sauces made me hesitant now. It's so hard to find a good restaurant in OC, imho.

Tangbro1 said...

Yeah it is definitely harder to find good restaurants here than in LA but I think there are a handful of them. Leatherby's Cafe Rouge has been fairly impressive my last couple trips. Marche Moderne also offers a very nice 3-course lunch. I've also enjoyed the lunch omakase at Bluefin, but at times the quality has been spotty.

Anonymous said...

Wow! We just took friends there for there anniversary and I have to say it was one of the best meals we have had. We dine at man high end restaurants and we found the food to be very very good. The blue cheese crusted filet was amazing and we loved the blood orange mojitos's. All in our group absolutely loved what they ordered.

Tangbro1 said...

I am glad you enjoyed your dinner. I have heard lots of positive things from friends and online. I just didn't enjoy the courses I tasted. Maybe if I tried different courses maybe say the steak I would think differently.

Anonymous said...

I went last night and have to disagree with your review. We had the ahi and seared fois gras appetizer, which we both thought were excellent. I thought that the fois gras was perfectly cooked and the fig was the perfect foil for it. The ahi carpaccio was neither too salty or citrus-y - we both found it very refreshing a dish. As for our entrees, I had the lobster which was very good - there just wasn't enough of it. The salmon was a bit of a disappointment, though - partly, it is because we were just at Jean-Georges in NYC where we had the BEST salmon with rice cakes. As for dessert, I liked the panna cotta fine but it did not blow me away.

I would definitely go back and consider this a good restaurant for OC. I like it just a tad more than Marche Moderne but it's a close race.

Tangbro1 said...

Good to hear you enjoyed your meal. I'd consider trying the restaurant again in a few months once if people keep giving it strong reviews.

I had no problems with the way the foie was cooked, I thought it wasn't quite fatty enough. The most memorable foie gras I have experienced has an even silky texture throughout. The one I had at Palmer just lacked that consistency.

Anonymous said...

Wow I have to say that you have some balls of steel to ham it up with the chef and then trash his restaurant. One suggestion based upon looking at the picture of you: don't get so drunk and maybe your taste buds will work properly. I've eaten at Charlie Palmer several times and every time the food was excellent; well seasoned, and perfectly cooked.

Tangbro1 said...

Even if I drank too much by the end of the meal it doesn't explain the earlier courses. I felt both the tuna and the yellowtail had too much oil and other flavors masking the natural taste of the fish.

I actually enjoyed the dessert dishes quite a bit... so maybe I should have started out drunk.

Kat said...

Oooh Ryan, you done ticked some Charlie Palmer fans off ... I kid. Please keep the reviews coming. I understand the economy's gone to sh*t and money is tighter these days, but I can't think of a better time to eat vicariously, my friend ...

... Kat

Tangbro1 said...

Haha and you just gave em all my name. Thanks Kat, now I'll have to change my identity to hide from the forthcoming death threats. :-P

Seriously though, none of my other posts have anywhere near this many comments... maybe I should only give out negative reviews.

Charlie Fu said...

negative reviews always get tons of posts =) Who cares tho, they hide behind "anonymous" for all we know they are the same exact person.

I haven't been able to find an older bottle of NV krug in awhile, all recent labelings which kinda sucks cause.. well.. they suck? haha. Whomever brought that one, good job on the find!

Tangbro1 said...

I have a friend who is really into wines and looks for good deals at wine auctions. He split the DRC from Napa with me.

Anonymous said...

your reviews are spot on for the wines and restaraunts which i have been to. i cannot disagree with anything you have said in any post and now with your blog. don't ever pull your punches both good and bad. suggest only you add a ranking score. and review more of your wines. martin weiner is having a large DRC dinner next month if you are interested.

Tangbro1 said...

I appreciate the vote of confidence, I do my best to be honest and thorough with my reviews. I'll consider adding a ranking system of some sort.

I'd appreciate any information you have on the DRC dinner. I tried Google, but couldn't find anything about an upcoming tasting although I did see stuff about a tasting on 10/19/07.

Anonymous said...

We just had dinner there last week.
Talk about a let down. How did they make it in NYC?
Beautiful room, What a waste. The dining room was lit like a hospital, way too bright for dinner service.
My entree, although lovely to look at, was not up to the description and served cold. The service was non-existent (or I would have mentioned my cold food). Other than taking our order and dropping the check we barely saw our server.
Even getting water and bread was like pulling teeth.
When notified of the poor service and food the General Managers only reply was "So sorry, we'll do better next time".
$300.00 for dinner-for-two and an apology?
No next time for you Charlie!
Go back to square 1 to re-learn good service and food standards, success has clearly made your team lazy.
It is heartbreaking to see such great ingredients make a such bad restaurant.

Tangbro1 said...

Sorry to hear about your experience, I had hoped the food would improve with time, but I guess that wasn't the case. Based on your comment, it seems like they are headed in the wrong direction.