Ever since he helped co-found Patina, Octavio Becerra has been the darling of the L.A. food community. So when he opened his own restaurant last year, the whole city was talking about his seasonal menu of small plates, and the diverse wine list.
Palate Food + Wine is an interesting mixture of spaces -- including a neon-lit dining room, reminiscent of South Beach, that fronts auto row on busy Brand Boulevard in Glendale; a few assorted smaller spaces for larger parties; a back room called "the Library," with the odd bookshelf here and there; and finally, a wine store in the back. The lively ambiance makes for good people-watching (and celeb-spotting).
Unfortunately, the fun stops there since the staff was downright brusque at points, explaining that each person should order three of the small plates from the menu (which changes every Thursday), and then exhibiting disappointment when we only ordered two each. What's more, they gave no advice on which dishes might be best together, or in which order they should come out. They were also very quick to try and clear unfinished plates, which gave the whole meal a rushed feeling, as though our table was to be used for another party imminently and we would barely have time to pay the bill before being shown the door.
Front-of-house issues aside, Becerra does play with unusual flavors and concepts on the plate, and we came across some surprising combinations and presentations. We started with a few of the famous Mason jars (basically minuscule terrines): one with salmon with dill, and another with smoky duck meat to spread on assorted crostini. Both were delicious, but were barely two tablespoons each. There is also a cutely named "Porkfolio" of assorted cured meats, and various picked items like cherries and sweet onions.
For the main courses, the standouts were the grilled octopus with Maui onions, lending the meat a bittersweet sticky texture; and the fluffy white sea bass with dragon beans and bacon-artichoke relish. The duck confit with coastal squash and corn also looked good.
Our final verdict? The inspired menu and original presentation is still great, but that just barely makes up for the abysmal treatment we got from the staff.
Here's another little tip just from us to you: Check in at the wine store before your meal and pick out a nice bottle or two there. The discounts there are often big enough that they more than make up for the $20 corkage fee.
Palate Food + Wine
Address: 933 S. Brand Blvd.
Cross Street: W. Acacia Ave.
Phone: (818) 662-9463
Hours: Mon-Fri 5:30-10:00pm, Sat 5:00-10:00pm, Sun 5:00-9:00pm