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Restaurant Review:

Fill up with Charlie's venture

January 08, 2010|By John Reger

It is so obvious when chefs-turned-restaurant owners understand what it means to dine out. There are a lot of them who don’t, and it is painful when they attempt to merge their brilliance in the kitchen to the front of the establishment.

Charlie Palmer fully understands that concept. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, left to chance and that is what ultimately impressed me about his restaurant at Bloomingdale’s, South Coast Plaza.

The impressive wine room is the first amenity that catches your eye when you walk into the restaurant, and they have worked on building a world-class selection.

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The wines are available for purchase and just about every region is covered. I loved the touch screens that show you what is in the restaurant’s collection.

The bar area is just as impressive and has become popular with the after-work crowd. Happy hour specials and word of mouth have brought business professionals and shoppers here to gawk at beautiful people and enjoy drinks.

Elegance is the word I would use to describe his first effort in Southern California, and it mirrors in philosophy many of his ideas when it comes to dining and hospitality.

It is the subtle touches that always impress me, such as the effort taken to make a sugar bowl look nondescript, yet perfectly in sync with the rest of the table.

It certainly is apparent with the food. Our lunch began with an item that is now only on the dinner menu, but if you plead enough with the wait staff they can persuade the chefs to make it for you.

The house-made sausage and pâté is an incredible selection of meat that is primarily pork-made sausage, pâté and condiments.

On this plate were pork rillette, prosciutto, chorizo blanco, bresaola and fennel sausage. The quality was outstanding because it is made in house and Executive Chef Amar Santana is changing the selection occasionally.

It is part of many changes Santana likes to bring to both the lunch and dinner menu.

“It is mostly seasonal changes, but I do like to constantly change certain items on the menu,” Santana said. “It makes it fun to come to work.”

It also makes it enjoyable for diners as well. When I came in for a recent lunch, I enjoyed the prix fixe menu that Santana has created.

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