The Palace Restaurant (you know, that ultra-fancy place in The Cincinnatian Hotel) is having one hell of a deal tomorrow night. Seriously. I'm blown away by this deal. And this deal sort of blows away the Restaurant Week deals from last week.
Not $60 each mind you, but $60 total, including the bottle of wine (but not tax and gratuity).
The Palace's new chef is a recent import from New York City. Chef Jose Salazar trained under Thomas Keller at Bouchon and Per Se. The Palace also recently brought in my all-time favorite pastry chef, Summer Genetti.
I don't know if this is an every Thursday sort of thing or just an experiment with this Thursday, but Kevin and I already have reservations for 5:45. Maybe we'll see you there?
The prix fixe menu and wine options are after the jump.
Those winemaker dinners hosted by the Cincinnati Int'l Wine Festival are pretty darn amazing. Of course, they're also pretty darned expensive. If you're like me, you're already shelling out $65 for a tasting ticket and maybe an additional $35 for the Special Tasting room. Multiply that by 2 and it's an expensive night on the town. The wine dinners on Thursday night cost an additional $125 – $150. I have no doubt they're worth it, and I look forward to the day when I can plop down $300 to go.
This year, there is an alternative. Oceanaire is having their own winemaker dinner for a much more affordable price. Can't make it on Thursday? Oceanaire is hosting a winemaker brunch, also affordable, on Sunday.
Thursday's dinner features winemaker Greg Graziano from Graziano Wine Cellars (Mendocino, CA). The dinner includes 5 courses with 5 paired wines for $65 plus tax/tip.
Sunday's wine brunch features McNab Ridge winemaker Rich Parducci. It includes four courses with paired wines for $30 plus tax/tip.
Of course, Oceanaire's wine dinners don't help out a charity, but if pennies are pinched and you still want an affordable night out with paired wine, it might be the way to go.
Menus are after the jump.
My word, March is a busy month. No sooner do we wrap up the Wine Festival, than the Spring offering of Greater Cincinnati Independents' Restaurant Week happens. March 16 – March 22 you can visit 26 locally owned restaurants for a 3-course, prix-fixe menu for $26.09.
As I've said the last few times we have had Restaurant Week, this is a great opportunity to try some restaurants you haven't experienced for a great price.
We've had both good and bad experiences. I believe that, because they are bringing in so many new customers, restaurants should always put their best foot forward during Restaurant Week. However, we've had a mediocre experience at Tink, a passable experience at Red, and amazing experiences at Bella Luna, The Pub, and Chalk. So it runs the gamut. I still think it's a great deal and the restaurants will, hopefully, take advantage of the chance to show off a little.
Keep in mind that the $26.09 does not include drinks, taxes, or tip. However, we've noticed in the past that a lot of restaurants offer a paired wine flight for a special price as well. According to the GCI web site, some of the casual themed restaurants are offering dinner for 2 for $26.09!
Restaurant Week is such a deal that it's our Recession Deal of the week.
Participating restaurants are after the jump, and you can read full details on the GCI web site.
My first night in town, I met up with some of the more party-prone folks at the conference and we hit the town. Our conference was at the Rio, off-strip, so it was natural that we'd head to the nearby Palms. If you follow any celebrity gossip, you know that the Maloofs own the Palms and they've somehow made it a celebrity haven. All I knew was that I was hungry.
We ate at Simon at Palms Place. Palms Place is the adjacent Palms tower (every casino seems to have a special second tower now) that you access via the SkyTube. I thought the SkyTube would be quite exciting, but it's more of an airport people mover. Rather boring for such a trendy hotel.
Simon is on the 6th floor of Palms Place. It's adjacent to a gorgeous pool area – closed in the winter – and surrounded by palm trees and fireplaces on the outside. Inside it boasts stark, clean, and modern lines. An interesting features was a sort of greenhouse in a far room, which was obviously growing herbs and assorted greens.
The by-the-glass wine list was okay, but not overly impressive. I ended up with a 2007 Ferrari-Carrano Sauvignon Blanc because I knew I could trust it. It ran me about $11/glass. The wine list was small but focused. I particularly liked their selection of organic and biodynamic wines. The one that stood out was the "Clor Sacres" Savennieres from Nicolas Joly, which costs $75. To give you an idea of the markups, the bottles in the Spanish section cost about $20 over the retail price. I suspect that was the sweet spot on the list, and I'm rather encouraged by that.
The menu was eclectic. I'm not a food blogger, but I'd say it was nouveau American cuisine + sushi. Chef Kerry Simon brings in fresh, locally grown products and in many cases, organically grown. I've read that since, but it was also pretty obvious to me just from the menu. As many of you know, I'm a complicated eater. I'm picky and I have food allergies. There was plenty on the menu that I would eat, which I found refreshing.
I ordered an endive salad (sans walnuts) followed by citrus-braised short ribs with corn tempura and a bed of grits. It's the first time I've ever had grits and I doubt I'll ever find them quite so soft, fluffy, and un-grit-like again. It was excellent. Several folks at the table had ahi tuna and sushi, both of which received rave reviews.
As far as service, I found the front waiter (er, waitress) to be rather condescending and rather lacking in customer service. That said, the back waiter was excellent. We chose not to have dessert but noticed a table next to us enjoying a huge serving of Cotton Candy. No kidding. We grabbed it and joked around, so the back waiter brought us a small serving of our own Cotton Candy, no charge.
Overall, I rate Simon with a , despite the fact I was so turned off by our server. After all, the rest of our service, from the bus boys to the hostess, was excellent.
Following Simon, we trekked back to the original Palms tower and visited the Playboy Club, which was surprisingly old-school and classy. Yes, both the waitresses and the dealers were wearing bunny outfits. It was a throwback to the '60s and didn't bother me in the least. We followed that up with a trip upstairs to the Moon nightclub. It wasn't my thing at all (a little too techno when I'm all about Sinatra) but I did enjoy the retractable roof and the gorgeous views of the mountains and Las Vegas.
View a complete slideshow of the Palms, including Simon and the Playboy Club here or on Flickr.
This makes me so sad. I know it's not wine related, but I thought it was worth sharing.
As many people know, there has been some tension between Jean-Robert de Cavel and his partners Martin & Marilyn Wade over the last year. Well, it looks like it's just too much. Jean-Robert at Pigall's, the flagship restaurant, will close on Feb 28 and Jean-Robert will leave the restaurant group.
There is this:
Of course, I'm not sure how the quality will be affected – and the morale of the employees. Everyone loved Chef Jean-Robert and I know he was inspiring to many of those who worked for him. Differences with the Wades have sent several of my favorite employees packing from those restaurants in the last year.
Compounding the sadness, Mobile gave Jean-Robert at Pigall's a 4-star rating last week. It's the 5th year for that rating, and the only restaurant in the tri-state area to acheive it.
Thanks to Julie for the tip!
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