For me, the mark of a really great restaurant hits me the minute I walk out the door and I start planning when I can visit again. If the ambiance, the service and the meal all add up correctly, I’ll be back. It happened considerably earlier for me at Charlie Palmer at Blommingdale’s. I started thinking about my next trip after the first sip of my first drink!
And oh, what a drink it is. Their Lavender Lemon Drop (shown above) is a thing of beauty, with it’s sugared rim and sprig of fresh lavender floating in the glass. It tastes as beautiful as it looks too, with tart lemon mingling with the flower essence. It produced an eyes-closed “yum!” A look that I saw from all sides of the table as the crew sipped their hand crafted, equally unique cocktails. The shame is that, except for one of us, we didn’t even get to try the wines. Because located right inside of the restaurant is Next Vintage, their trademark shop carrying eclectic, food forward wines. Where you can search over 600 wines by price, region, winery, year and even food pairing through an in-store, touch screen eWinebooks to ensure the perfect purchase. (Be sure to check out all the wine events they hold.)
Wine influences the decor as well, as the restaurant flooring is crafted from reclaimed wine barrels. We sat in the bar area, which is a bright, airy space with mid-century touches mixing with the rustic floors beautifully. To say it’s a gorgeous setting is really putting it mildly.
But what about the food, you say? Great cocktails and beautiful decor mean nothing if the food isn’t good. Happily the food is, in a word, mind-blowing (or is that two?) The SCP location is just one of twelve restaurants and award-winning boutique hotels (including an upcoming resort hotel in downtown Las Vegas) founded by Charlie Palmer. Author of 4 cookbooks, including The Guide to the New American Kitchen. Palmer uses an interesting term to describe his food- “I called it Progressive American cuisine because every time I stepped into the kitchen, I felt things moving forward.” Following that concept, robust flavors and unexpected combinations used in a sophisticated yet approachable manner are abound under the direction of Executive Chef Amar Santana.
We were lucky to sample a selection from their new small plates menu, a concept I adore because it’s made for sharing. We literally felt like queens as Ahmed, one of the most kind and gracious GM’s I’ve ever met, brought us plate after plate of amazing selections. Some stand out selections were Chicken Wings, with Sriracha bbq sauce and a blue cheese fondue (about as far from a sports bar version as possible) and Tuna Tartar with an avocado mango salsa and soy flavored onions. And when when I told Ahmed Tyna was a vegetarian, out came Truffle Macaroni and Cheese and Sauteed Asparagus.
But the best dish we tried, hands down, was the Kobe Beef Sliders with Truffle Mayo and Housemade Pickles (and ABC7 agrees, calling them one of the Top 10 restaurants to get sliders in SoCal). I honestly can say, I don’t think I’ve had a better burger in my life. The Kobe seems to melt in your mouth, the rich mayo, tangy pickles, and toasted, buttery roll complimenting it perfectly. It was agreed around the table, this was the most amazing thing we had all eaten in quite some time.
So, who’s meeting me at Charlie Palmer for sliders and cocktails? I’ll be the girl with a huge smile on her face, datebook in hand, planning her next visit…