This was supposed to be a review of Latitude, a very nice restaurant on the West End of town. Instead, it’s a review of The Palms, located in the former Thunderbird Motor Inn, reborn some years ago as the Phoenix Inn. Five of us had reservations for Latitude, but when we arrived, the restaurant had no power. They treated us wonderfully – free drinks and an offer to change reservations to their companion restaurant, The Palms. We could have driven over, but were up for an adventure, so we boarded the hotel shuttle and arrived at our new destination.
The decor is lush and well-appointed, but there is no mistaking where you really are – between the lobby and swimming pool of a motel. Although I didn’t see a smoking secton, I did detect a faint odor of cigarette smoke throughout the evening, possibly wafted in on the clothing of a server.
Since our original dinner plans had been disrupted, the staff was very attentive. Service was superb without being overly solitious.
Several of the same items appear on both the Latitude and Palms menus. Apparently they share a chef in addition to ownership. While limited in scope – you won’t find multiple pages of combo dinners here – there is enough variety to satisfy most. Entres tended toward fish and beef or veal. Oddly enough, I didn’t see any poultry in the list except for a duck comfit in the appetizer section. The prices were in line with a place that advertises itself as a fine restaurant.
Two of us started with spinach salads. We had expected a leafy green salad, but what we got was quintessential architectural quisine. A perfectly round bit of cooked spinach formed the base, topped with a bit of onion, then a single large round crouton and a dollop of goat cheese with peppercorns. All of this was placed in the middle of a plate with a ginger soy vinegrette dressing adorned with various nuts. Even though it didn’t look like a “salad”, as I know salads to be, it was still delicious, with hints of smokey bacon mixing with the spinach and onion. One of my companions commented on how I was carefully cutting the crouton with knife and fork. My reply? Someone else touched this dish enough to get it into this configuration. I will use utensils.
Our entres arrived in due time. On recommendation of the waitress, I ordered the red grouper on a pasta bed with Japanese bread crumbs and tomato lemon sauce. Mine was not bad at all, however, this is a dish for those that prefer more subtle (ie bland) flavors. It was much like eating spaghetti with fish. Having caught my own grouper and had it expertly prepared that same day, I guess my expectations were a bit high for the quality of the fish. My companions had much more luck with their dinners. The salmon in ginger soy was the same dish offered at Latitude, and was just as good. The seared Ahi tuna was apparently quite delicious, as were the tenderloin medallions. Overall, an excellent meal, with some entres beating out others for flavor.
We were presented a wide variety of desserts. Three of our group got the chocolate dou – a chocolate cakelet accompanied by chocolate mousse, with very good reviews from all. One got a sampling of sorbet on a cookie shell. The sorbets were wonderful, but the shell should have been treated as another dish. Once again, I apparently took the lesser choice for desserts. I got a creme brule’ trio – vanilla, caramel, and chocolate each served in their own dish. The chocolate was delicious, much like a mousse. The vanilla and caramel weren’t so good. It looked like the only warmth these had seen were the blow torch that brazed the tops of the dishes. Neither had cooked or congealed properly, and were a a gooey mess.
Service was outstanding and we were treated very well since we had been incovenienced. However,I think our preference is for Latitude. The quality seems to be more consistent, and the setting is much, much more appealing.