Saturday, August 4, 2007

Palatte - Central Phoenix

Recently on the Southwest board on Chowhound, there's been quite a dust up over Palatte, a new breakfast/lunch/brunch place near downtown. It all started two weeks ago, when someone posted asking if anyone had gone. Tara and I looked at the link to their menu, and intrigued, we decided to try it last Saturday.

We got there around 1pm or so and found it to be fairly busy. It's located in an old house at the the corner of Filmore and 4th Ave. There is an extensive courtyard out side with lots of tables and comfy patio furniture. Inside, there is a large front room housing a long table, a couple small tables, a couch, and some chairs for waiting. A small bar area with coffee, tea, and the like is on the right side. A narrow hallway bisects the rest of the house, with the kitchen area in the right side, and the left side split again into a four table seating area and a small boutique in the way back. At the beginning of the hallway on the right is the counter where your order and pay, along with a small glass display case of the days pastry selection. Funky bathrooms are off the back wall of the boutique. Right next to the door is a stand containing metal hosptial-like clipboards containing the menu. On our first visit, a waiter explained procedure: grab a menu, decide what you like, and order at the counter, and take a seat. After you order, they give you a small stand with a numbered card to help the server deliver your order.

After looking over the menu, Tara decided to get The Carmelized Onion tarte: a tarte containing carmelized onions, eggs and crispy bacon on top. It included a choice of side salads and she got the fava bean salad. I got the Sausage "mish-mash", an egg scramble with grass-fed beef sausage, sweet plantains, black beans, almonds, and feta. It came with a choice of toast and choice of side. I opted for a sourdough bread and a fruit salad. We got water to drink.

After ordering, we were able to snag the last free table, a small round two-top in the corner of the small dining room. The large table in the front room seemed to be communal for smaller groups and single people. Our table was hidden from easy view, so some people missed it before us. A few minutes after we sat down, a server brought a large stoppered bottle of water and two glasses filled with ice. The water was somewhat cold, but the ice water chilled it nicely. It was obviously tap water, so when a waiter came by, I asked for some lemon slices. He returned a few minutes later with a single slice, realized that we probably wanted at least two slice, and grabbed us another one. That was the only glitch in the service for the visit.

Our meals arrived a few minutes later. Tara's tarte was a three to four inch square pastry shell with the egg and onion mixture filling it, topped with a small mound of bacon pieces. Her salad was off to the side on the same plate. I took a sample from a corner and thought it was great. The pastry crust had a great flavor and the eggs were very airy. I immediately wished my mish-mash had come in the same type of crust. She loved the dish.

My mish-mash was a good sized pile of the above ingredients. It was cooked perfectly and tasted great as well. The feta provided a wonderful sharp contrast to the rest of the dish and pushed it over the top. The fruit salad consited of nectarine, strawberry, and plum slices. There were much more plums than the other ingredients. The toast was very crispy and came with a tangy orange spread.

We had a great meal all around and decided that we really liked this place.

And then we got home and saw a posting from another CH person (and friend of mine) who had a horrible experience and walked out without ordering. I emailed her and told her she should give it another try, as we had a completely different experience. So she went back the next day, had another horrible time, this time including the food, and has since wrote it off. That kicked off a HUGE firestorm on the CH board, resulting in many moderator deletions of posts both for and against, various personal attacks from people who appeared to be Palatte shills, and just general ugliness. Most people seemed to have had great food, including us obviously. Knowing my friend as I do, I know she wasn't wantonly trashing the restaurant. She had bad experiences and if it had happened to me, I wouldn't blame her. Tara and I have a similar thing with Fate in the same neighborhood. We had horrible service and treatment, didn't like the food, and haven't been back. However, Fate has a huge following and most people love it, including my friend.

So cut to today. One of the people in our Chowhound Gathering group decided she needed to try the place for herself. She said she'd be there this morning around 8:30 after some shopping at the nearby farmer's market. Tara and I decided to go as well to see if we would have a positive or negative time.

We got there a little after 8:30. We didn't see any single women dining with a newspaper, as the other lady said she'd be doing. The restaurant was again busy and as we were looking over the menu, a waiter told us there was one last table in the other room if we wanted to grab it. We did and it turned out to be the same table as our first visit. I got The Sausage again, this time with potatoes as a side and whole grain toast. I also got an order of bacon. Tara opted for The Egg: house-made crème fraiche, bacon, garlic chives, roasted grape tomatoes, and puff pastry. However, to paraphrase Alton Brown, tomatoes are ALWAYS optional for us, so she asked that they hold them, which they did with no problem. She got the fruit salad this time. She also got an order of bacon.

My meal was better than the first time. The plantains seemed sweeter than last week and again, the contrast of the feta was perfect. The toast came with a very strong and tart currant spread. My potatoes were finely diced and heavily peppered. A few of them were under-cooked, but otherwise very good. The potatoes came with a ramekin of dreme fraiche for dipping, but I'm not a creme fraiche fan. Tara liked it though, so she she ate the potatoes, she used it.

Tara LOVED her Egg. A square puff pastry shell was filled with strips of bacon and a fried egg was on top of it. A couple chives were criss-crossed on top of the egg. Neither of us noticed any creme fraiche, but it didn't matter. Again, the pastry was perfect and the taste I had was heavenly. Her fruit salad was the same as I got last time, but with only three tiny pieces of strawberry and again a ton of plum slices.

Both our bacon sides were super crispy, but not burnt. It was a very good bacon. The only odd thing is that she got four slices and I only got three. However, I was in the bathroom when our meal arrived. Knowing what a bacon fanatic she is, I can only take her word that she didn't liberate my fourth slice before I got back.

So this visit confirmed our first one. It was nearly identical and we both loved the food. I'm curious to see how the other Chound's visit went and get her take. It's still high on our list. Our meal came to $21, which I consider a great value for what we got.

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