The Palm Restaurant in the Gaslamp is an interesting bag of nuts. Opened 3 ½ years ago, they quickly tried to establish it as a “go-to” place. To entice the players of San Diego, caricatures of city officials, well known business people, celebrities and cartoon characters adorn the walls. And all of them don’t look a day over twenty, talk about the Dorian Gray! The entourage of faces peers down on you and create almost a Brown Derby, Hollywood vibe even though we doubt that Mayor Sanders is acryliced on too many walls in Tinsletown.
The dining area is of good size, not overwhelmingly huge, yet not so small that you feel everyone in the room is at your table. The booths and tables are of classic, simple dark wood (very old style), with nice, high backs separating you for plenty of privacy. Very high ceilings gives the room a sense of openness, while nice for space, created acoustics that magnified the voices in the dining room to noisy levels.
Our server Sam gave us a brief history of the restaurant which was a great way to introduce us to their “home”. The chain began in 1926 in New York and has made its way across the continent to sunny San Diego. Sam also shared a couple of their unique approaches to food like 35-day aged steaks instead of the usual 28, the lobsters (and they have them up to 6 lbs!) are grilled, not the usual steamed (ahh, reminds us of Puerto Nuevo). They also prepare your cut of meat to order, pull it from the grill just before being perfectly cooked, and then place it in a broiler for the finishing touch. You let them know when you’re ready so your steak is always delivered smoking hot and at an exact level of doneness.
We were fortunate enough to dine on a Wednesday evening which is 50% off any bottle of wine night. And a great, but not overwhelming list they have to choose from. We ordered a step up from our usual price range to enjoy and even finer vintage. If you order a bottle they decant it at the table which is a rare occurrence these days, especially of half-price night Also of note were their martini and mojito selections. Loved the Key Lime Martini…just sweet enough with a tart kick.
We started with salads, the Hearts of Palm ($11 with romaine, hearts of palm, tomatoes, kalamata olives and egg) and the Mixed Green Salad ($9). Both were huge, refreshing, crisp and a nice way to start the evening. We also snuck in a bowl of Chicken and Leek soup to add a little warming comfort. The soup was nicely prepared and flavorful.
Being a steakhouse we had to give one a go, so the 12oz New York Strip was the cut of choice (Brandy Peppercorn, Port Wine Demi-Glaze or Classic Bordelaise sauces are available, $39.50). The steak was cooked dead-on perfect, was incredibly tender and bursting with flavor. Our server recommended Wild Alaskan Halibut Fillet, while listed on the menu as Puttanesca style dish; we ordered it grilled ($34). The Halibut unfortunately came out seriously overcooked, lacking in flavor and pretty much went untouched. Thank goodness we ordered some terrific side dishes of Wild Mushrooms ($10.50) and Three Cheese Potatoes ($10). The mushrooms were pleasantly prepared with a nice variety of textures and flavors. The potatoes were another home run, very cheesy, hot and delicious. We skipped dessert, but if you have a sweet tooth there are numerous options to savor.
Everything on the menu is served a la carte and The Palm is a bit on the expensive side so your bill is going to add up quickly. Our server started out being an impeccable, devout host, even to the point of us commenting to each other how great he was. But after our entrees were delivered…he took to flirting with some young ladies at the next table. We literally could not even make eye contact and he was only three feet away. San Diego service at its best. He redeemed himself a bit after the objects of his affection had paid and left. What can we say? Two old guys or two attractive young ladies? Bet we tip better though.
The Palm makes a strong effort at setting itself apart from being “Just another restaurant” with its décor, cooking methods and desire to be a cut above the rest. They have a roomy bar/lounge area that offers live piano aficionados every night. The Palm has an adult atmosphere so we recommend leaving the kiddies at home for this one. Enjoy!
The good – Awesome steak, they know their stuff
The bad – the service was spotty and we felt guilty for taking that poor Halibut’s life for nothing. Hope the kitchen cat got it. Go for the steaks.
- City: San Diego
- Phone: 619-702-6500
- Name: The Palm
- Address: 615 J Street