Friday, August 16, 2013

The Palace at The Cincinnatian

Excellent food, mature service, 
charming surroundings combine 
for a purr-fect experience

Dexter Takes a Special Seat at The Palace
     During last week’s restaurant week, Neil thought we should try one of the mostly downtown establishments.  Some offered $35 menus/couple while others offered $35 menus/diner.  We thought, what the heck, we’re not going on vacation anywhere soon so let’s look at the high fliers.  The menu at The Palace featured choices from the actual menu, but there weren’t any
reservations immediately available.  Neil tried a couple of times and one reservation opened up as long as we could go that night at 8 so he clicked yes and off we went.

The Hotel Lobby
     The Palace is located off the hotel’s quiet lobby, upscale bar, and interior atrium.  It’s an understated space with current artwork by Camille Pisarro’s grandson (it has that contemporary Impressionist feel about it, though I prefer Donna Talerico’s work – her studio’s in The Pendleton and it’s worth visiting), elegant yet comfortable seating, and acoustics that allow for intimate conversation, which sets it apart from many other restaurants.  We saw Chef Matthew Beaudin quietly conferring with the two Maitresses d’, looking around at the serving stations, and returning to the kitchen.  We were seated quickly and were gratified to see a variety – especially people in their 20s and 30s – of diners.

Pomegranate Martini and Campartini
     Our Maitress d’ led us through the menus and gave recommendations.  The teamwork between front of house, servers, and assistants was smooth and inconspicuous and this was a weeknight where the restaurant was almost full.  Neil and I opted for a cocktail.  He had a Campartini (Campari, orange vodka, and other orange highlights).  It wasn’t as sweet as we’d expected, but it had a fullness that was mature.  I had the Pomegranate (Vodka and pomegranate juice), which was a little sweeter and hit with a whomp – I know, I’m such a lightweight with alcohol.

Amuse Bouche

     As I said before, though it was restaurant week, the dishes were from the main menu.  However, we started with an amuse bouche, which was a Watermelon Gazpacho shooter.  It was pink-red in color and combined sweet, savory, and spicy in one wild gulp.  Neil ordered the Olive

Olive OIl Poached Asparagus
Oil Poached Asparagus, where the vegetable shaved by a mandoline to resemble fettucine is then tossed in truffle butter and topped with moon cheese – akin to parmesan.  The asparagus was perfectly prepared.  It was poached until it was slightly firm, but tender to eat.  I had the Steak and Eggs, which consisted of three small slices of strip loin, a sunny side up quail egg, and hazelnut French toast.  The smokiness of the meat was offset nicely by the sweet nuttiness, but my heart went out to the cooks that had to create such a beautiful yet fiddly dish.  

Steak and Eggs
Burrata Cheese
     Neil followed the staff’s advice on the Burrata Cheese as his second course.  Served on a long plate, it’s like a charcuterie with the cheese, compressed melon (sort of a chutney), marcona almonds, farm honey, and speck – a meat that is like prosciutto).  Again, a gorgeous dish that was both filling and abundant in interesting accoutrements.

Steak Tar-Tar
I chose the Steak Tar-Tar.  The raw aged prime tenderloin was evenly mixed with finely diced red onion and capers so this would be a good tartare to try for those diners a little intimidated by raw meat.  The quail egg was a nice touch, but the parmesan puffs were terrific.

Head On Gulf Shrimp
Beef Tenderloin
     There were six entrée choices and they sounded excellent so we again relied on staff picks.  Neil really liked the Beef Tenderloin, served with duxelle marrow bones that were smooth and earthy, though they looked like they’d be grainy, truffled asparagus, and a whiskey demi glace.  Our server didn’t bat an eye when Neil ordered it medium well and, mercifully, it was exactly that temperature yet had culinary life in it.  I ordered the Head On Gulf Shrimp (two fish that were enormous – each about five inches) seasoned in a New Orleans style barbecue manner and served on creamy cheese grits with bits of tasso sausage and the best onion straws I think I’ve ever eaten.  This is one of Chef Beaudin’s specialties and, in Tony the Tiger’s parlance, “It’s GREAT!”

Raspberry Mousse Cake and Chocolate Toffee Dome
     There were three dessert choices.  We shared the Raspberry Mousse Cake, wherein a bite of chocolate cake is surrounded by a cloud of soufflé-like berry mousse, and the Chocolate Toffee Dome, a huge truffle of chocolate filling with the crunch of English toffee held together by a hard ganache.  Any chef would be proud to serve these two desserts, new on the menu with the Bailey’s Cheesecake.  The Dome, especially, was a knockout, though it initially looked unassuming.  Honestly, the focus and punch of flavor in both dishes was a welcome relief from some top-drawer restaurants that add so many elements to the dessert that they become a fussy conversation piece, rather than something that’s simply delectable.  

     We later found out that the Chef is working without a sous chef or a dessert chef.  Hats off to him because the meticulousness of the savory courses did not hint of an understaffed kitchen and the desserts were gems.  Chefs seem to come to The Palace, make their mark, and are gone almost by the time they’re attracting a following.  I hope whatever elements contributed to those earlier departures do not sap Chef Beaudin’s excellence, endurance, and enthusiasm.  Although usually pricey, The Palace features Tapas nights and Third Thursday special Regional menus for $35/diner.  We’re hoping that this engenders a strong following.  Overall, the current experience at The Palace reminds me of the detailed care and spectacular results that the Brennan family of New Orleans have achieved in their fleet of establishments, most particularly Café Adelaide and Commander’s Palace. 

The Palace on Urbanspoon


Heather Johnson said...

seriously - wasnt' that grits/shrimp AMAZING! holy wow!

hollymayberry said...

you say he was working with no sous or "dessert" is pastry chef russ wheeler no longer there?

Dexter said...

Eric thought they were some of the best, and he's had them several places in the country. Hope you're doing well.

Dexter said...

They mentioned that their pastry chef left a couple of weeks prior to our visit so we'll have to assume that was him if he was the last one there.

Matthew Beaudin said...

Chef Russ no longer is with the Palace as of 6/2013

Dexter said...

Thanks for the update, and thanks for a fabulous evening! Great job, Chef!!