Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Good Eats. That was the name I wanted to use for this blog...in honor of that great television show, Good Eats, hosted by Alton Brown. But it was taken for some reason. So Eats it is.

So why am I here? My good friend Dennis said I should and that's good enough for me. I had mentioned to him that I had thought about doing a restaurant review blog and he said go for it!

Will it be all restaurant reviews? No. I will have recipes and stories as well as a few reviews. In fact, as I was thinking about this new blog, I realized that a restaurant review is a dangerous thing. We all like the various restaurants that we patronize on a regular basis. We're comfortable with them...and to have some stranger, some yahoo like me come along and criticize that restaurant, well, that's like declaring war! How dare he!

I guess I will dare...and I hope you will forgive me if I don't find your favorite restaurant to be my favorite restaurant.

In fact, to be safe...I will start with a restaurant that doesn't have a presence in the local area. The Palomino restaurant rotisserie and bar. http://www.palomino.com/

The one I visited was located in Indiana, 49 West Maryland Street, #189 Indianapolis, IN 46204 Phone:(317) 974-0400. There are 11 restaurants in total, located in Charlotte, Cincinnatti, Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Seattle.

Ambiance? Plenty. A very stylish, modern look dominates the large restaurant. No cutesy themes here. Lots of glass and chrome under subdued lighting. When you first enter the reception area you are greeted pleasantly, asked about reservations and then told that there will be a (the usual) short wait. Odd, but they don't ask for your name? And you sort of wonder about that...but you find a place in the bar area and are soon served. I had a Buckler's, while my dining partner, Jack Smith, had a Gray Goose martini. All served efficiently and quickly. Not 10 minutes pass and a young lady walks up and announces that our table is ready, "would you like to add the drinks to your dinner?" Or did we wish to close out the tab? We chose to add them and followed her to our table. (I like being asked that question)

As we sat down, I told Jack that I was still mystified as to how we were found in a crowded bar without our name being called or being given one of those idiotic flashing and buzzing pagers. That was when Jack told me the trick; they have a spotter with the hostess and that person's only job is to discretely observe where you go, what you look like and to make a note of it that will allow the hostess, who has never seen you, to pick you out of the crowd. A nice touch!

The waitperson...a waitress, arrived quickly and made us welcome. She had a great smile and knew the menu quite well. We asked her for some suggestions and she jumped right into it...not like so many that will hem and haw, making it obvious that they wished that you had never asked that question. We settled on a mussel appetizer and it was quite good, the garlic not at all overpowering and the tomato in the broth was surprisingly sweet. Surprising, because this was wintertime in Indiana and the usual tomatoes are hothouse variety, pretty but no flavor.

We both chose the lamb loin chop with fresh roasted vegetables. It was served promptly, just a few minutes after the appetizer had been cleared. And our waitress served it, not some faceless person whose only job is to serve the food. One of my pet peeves is the waitperson whose only job is to hand you a menu and take the order. You never see them again, except in passing, when, with menu in hand, they will walk by your table and quickly ask, "How is everything?" It's quite obvious that they don't want an answer, so you smile at each other and then they're gone. Never to be seen again until they decide to pay you one last visit and hand you the bill.

The lamb was perfect, not greasy, and served warm. The vegetables were probably a little underdone, but still pleasant.

After a satisfying dinner, where our waitress visited twice more...we were shown a dessert menu. And that's where Jack threw them a curve. He asked if it were possible to find some plain strawberries in the kitchen? And if that were possible, could he have a bowl of those with a topping of "real" whipped cream? That dessert didn't exist on their menu...but she made it happen! And she made it quite pleasant, as if she wished that she had thought of it herself.

Yes, the atmosphere in the Palomino is all about customer service. And you know what? We tipped big!

If you're ever in one of those cities listed above...give the Palomino a try. And check out the menu and prices on their website.

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