Feeling we needed to see what Charlie Palmer's restaurant had become after five years, we took the whole clan. Service issues were still present, not spoiling dinner, but making it less than smooth: Wine glasses overfilled and spilled wine not wiped up. One of the dishes required sauce to be poured tableside, which resulted in over-pouring of that sauce around the table caused the waiter to run out and he had to leave to get a refill.
Our overall experience was better than in years past. The food was good and made the benchmark for expensive dining. The lack of finesse of the wait staff, the austere room and the safe choices from the kitchen makes this an expensive dinner out in wine country and one we do not rush to repeat.
The table ordered the tasting menu, but the requirement of the whole table ordering it was waived for our young dinner who ordered crab cakes as an entree - and were too heavily seasoned for him to enjoy.
Amuse: Crudite of Carrots, Celery, Radish and Cucumber with Aioli
A surprising amuse. Would have been better if the vegetables chosen were special in some way. One of the carrots was not well trimmed. The aioli was a bit mild.
Seven Tomato Gazpacho with Haogen Melon Sorbet, Young Basil
Good. The bell pepper was a strong element in the soup. The brioche was more of a construction item for the sorbet to sit upon than a great choice to mesh flavors. The sorbet on it own was pleasant and the melon and tomato pairing was an inspired choice. (Jack gives them a bonus point for using Haogen melon.)
Ahi Tuna Tartare with Haas Avocado Relish, Togarashi, Chili-Ponzu, Sesame Wonton Crackers A dish hard not to love. The tuna was fresh, piled in a little tower, and topped with guacamole. The sesame crackers resembled small papadams and were the perfect crunchy thing to scoop up bites.
Hook & Line Caught Local Halibut with Fox Island Mussels, Fennel Spinach, Oregano Infused Tomato Broth
The fish was sadly overcooked, ruining a pleasant dish.
Roasted Petaluma Chicken Breast with Fines Herb Gnocchi, Poultry Jus, Chanterelle and Corn Ragout
Pieces of a breast and on the stringy side. Certainly nothing special. The mushrooms were good but a small element of the dish. Quite a lot of salt.
Black Pepper Crusted Painted Hills New York Strip with Yukon Gold Potato Puree, Beer Battered Onion Rings, Truffle Jus
Served quite rare. Not a wonderful steak, but a good one. This course would have been vastly improved by a better choice of beef - and we expected better on a chef's tasting menu. Nice onion ring.
Choice of Dessert (the tasting menu dessert was a choice of any dessert on the regular dessert menu)
Café Glace with Opera Cake with Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream and Espresso Soda with Coffee, Chocolate and Almond Cake
Lots of coffee in this otherwise well made cake. I didn't like the coffee drink, which seemed like a cross between a float and a effervescing cappuccino. A weird hard sugar on the glass's rim further confused me. Daily Tasting of House-made Ice Creams and Sorbets
We really, really liked the grapefruit and orange sorbets. Vanilla, Chocolate, and Pistachio Ice Creams were all okay with the Pistachio the weakest.
Valhrona Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar, Dark Chocolate Marquis, Peanut Butter Mousse, Chocolate Sorbet
Good. Light style to it, but not enticing me to eat multiple bites. I wanted more texture.
Amaretto Crème Brulèe with Howard Miracle Plums, Almond Florentine
Good. Nicely balanced.
Very focused on California. We ordered a Littorai Pinot Noir and a Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc.
You may notice that we do not give out a lot of praise. Having been to so many high-quality restaurants, it's pretty tough to impress us.
Most of our reviews are based on just one visit. We neither have the time nor the money (or often, the inclination) to visit most restaurants multiple times. So, please keep in mind that a single-visit review is a snapshot - the restaurant may be "on it" that day - or not. If the meal has a calamity involved (foreign objects in the food, wine poured on us, etc.) we try not to let it shade the overall review.
We pay for the food and beverages; restaurants never comp us. We try to be discreet about taking photos so that the staff doesn't notice/get an idea we're going to do a review. We rarely take notes in the restaurant.
Like the rest of our website, we update our restaurant review pages based upon subsequent visits.