The newly opened understated Palihouse on Holloway in West Hollywood may have the grandest unexpected entryway since we walked into Galatoire's in the French Quarter on the occasion of my 17th birthday in 1972. A friend and I opened the double doors off of the street directly across from IHOP that revealed a mini grand staircase, plush lobby and lounge with a simple patio for dining beyond that. Nicely done. The hotel's restaurant, The Hall, continued to the left of the patio reflecting the contemporary but warm interior that sets it apart from other cooler and hipper establishments.
The greeting was warm and the service smart, though somewhat surprising that a restaurant this new would have only one server scheduled albeit on what can be a slow Sunday. No matter, the one food runner and two busboys acquitted themselves well with Julie, the manager/hostess, lending the sort of able support (initiating drink orders, clearing plates) that can be all too lacking these days. Mathew, our waiter, connected the dots well.
Stephanie O'Mary is the chef and hers is yet another well executed version of a classic French bistro menu. Recently, a good friend, and outstanding chef, complained of his meal at Comme Ca, citing an unmanageable crowd and a bistro approach that seemed to be playing more to the Food Network than the discerning diner. Although, that was not my experience on either of the two occasions that I dined there (coq au vin to die for), I immediately recommended this less hectic and less celebrity chef driven option when I called him yesterday.
Appetizers included a refreshing tomato and watermelon salad with buratta like cheese, a delicate squash gnocchi with browned butter both for $10 and the classic frisee and lardon salad for $14, generously portioned. We followed with a lightly cooked and well buttered skate with sauteed potatoes and arugula for $21, nicely steamed mussels in a delicious broth with crisp fries for $22 and one of the best roast chickens in recent memory with a panzanella type salad for around the same price. The pear cobbler was rich in fruit rather than sugar and the top was freshly crisp and begging for ice cream while a creme brulee was just what it needed to be - fruitless and silky. One coffee and a Kaliber completed the check as well as a $25 corkage bringing the total to around $141.00. I had to peak over a friend's shoulder since this was another birthday bash, number 53 and counting.
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