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Had heard a lot about La Palma, and finding it impossible to reserve at any time other than 10 pm via its website, decided to drop in at 5 pm. We were seated promptly in a near-empty restaurant (though it filled up quickly within 30 or so minutes), and warned by the mechanical but competent hostess that our table would be needed at 8 - which was fine - in fact we left around 6:15. Our table was on the kitchen side of a partition; some people might like this view of the kitchen; some might feel disturbed by the proximity of the nightly briefing of the staff, and their subsequent comings and goings to the pass - didn’t bother us, though one didn’t get the open, white-toned “feeling” of the “hip” restaurant, as a 20-something with me referred to it.
As warned by earlier reviews, the food comes out as the kitchen has it ready. Our absolutely charming waitress asked if this was all right - we might have demurred had we known the first four plates would arrive within 10 minutes, followed by a bit of a wait for the next two. Not a problem - but one did feel they might have been eager to turn tables. Anyway, service was warm and informed, a pleasant surprise; and that included the three different individuals who brought the dishes to the table. We had drinks, and then set to enjoy the varied menu items, each of which were of a smaller size than what one might expect, but not “small.”
The absolute hit of the evening was the first dish to arrive: Chicken Liver with Vin Cotto - on the moussish side of a spread more than a firm paté. Delicious! On seasoned and well toasted crostini, the meat spread was topped with a few slices of grape. Don’t be afraid to try it if you’re not a fan of chicken liver, as it had a unctuous palate feel more of richness and “meat” than of liver per se. This was followed within a few moments by the arrival of the dry sausage and gruyere. Didn’t taste the sausage, though friend said it was flavourful and not “dry” in any unpleasant way. But the gruyere, usually my favorite cheese, was a disappointment: pre-cubed, a bit dried out and extremely bland, not at all as gruyere should be.
My friend then had a fairly substantial flatbread pizza of mushrooms, and figs, which he said was very good - and a chilled king salmon with avocado and citrus- healthy portion, and he called it delicious. He then devoured a lentil and corn salad (growing boy!) which he enjoyed. Couldn’t have paid me to touch it - but then I am Mr Meat and Taters.
Meanwhile I consumed the much vaunted “100-layer” lasagne. Not sure via what numerical base they arrive at 100 - I would have said five or 10! It arrived, custom fried so that the edges were pleasantly charred, and sitting in a pool of ok bolognese.. However, it was no different than many well-meaning attempts at lasagne; the pasta seemed to have a faint raw/undercooked taste, though nothing wrong with the texture; the cheese and sauce somehow contrived to be at once both bland and salty - again, not “bad” just dull. Terroni does a much better one with less fuss.
Only I had room for dessert: another let down in the form of a “Caffe [sic] Corretto Mousse with a white chocolate ganache.” It looked beautiful - a hemisphere of glistening chocolate topping it. In fact, one only tasted the thin chocolate outer layer, as the pale beige mousse it covered tasted one-note: sweet: no palpable coffee-ness, no liquor or liqueur “correcting” said mousse, and the so-called “ganache” being a pool of a white runny substance that again tasted just sweet. Actually I was too generous in calling it a “let down” as it was more truly a disgrace to any pastry/dessert-maker’s art. Form over substance. Appearance over taste. One wonders who in the management has tasted this dessert and found it acceptable for a restaurant evidently striving for high standards.
Bill before tip for the above food, two cocktails, a glass of wine and sparkling water came to around $160. My friend thought it was great. I thought it was undistinguished: tries for great things and falls short, though there were for sure some pleasant moments.. Its sister restaurant Campognolo is imho a much better bang for your buck: great food, spot-on service, a much more pleasant room + patio though this may be particularly a matter of taste - and the feeling that some sophisticated managers are in charge and on top of things. I won’t return but will tell my 20/30-something friends to give it a try: they’ll enjoy the vibe and quite possibly much of the food, as well.
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