Saturday, December 5, 2009

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza- Costa Mesa

Charlie Palmer


I would have left this restaurant off the list of places to visit in the OC at first, but after seeing the South Coast Plaza Blogger Event from the eyes of the bloggers (ex. Gourmet Pigs, Pleasure Palate) that went there, it was definitely on the list. What made it sweeter? A great big thank you to Gourmet Pigs for sharing her 25 dollar Charlie Palmer Gift Certificate.


Arriving at the scene after checking out from Pelican Hill, we gave them our names and they started to prepare our table. Thus, I took the photos above of the interior. Quite dark, it first seemed. But it was quite nice with quirky chandeliers, a view of the wine cellars, white leather chairs, and paintings. Black and gold interior for the most part with hints of blue, white, and floral accents.



We were sat down after a 5 minute preparation for the table. The lady was going to push out the chairs to help sit us in but I was taking photos... she did help my other two dining companions who later came in after finding parking quickly even though it was Black Friday!

As you can the by the place settings, lunch would probably be elaborate in meal servings and service. It was, for the most part.


The highlight of our table was the interesting lamp over our table, as well as the flowers you see in the center. Also, the glasses were quite pretty too. Me want. ;)

Flowers and Butter
(Fiddling around with the macro lens. Hey, it looks I will be able to use it!)

Two diminutive, modern metal plates, made in Germany, both with a big pat of unsalted fresh butter, were placed on the table for bread.

Bread Basket
(Boo. Blurry pic. And with the fixed focal length, the employee was too close and I moved around. Bad me. Switch lens. (no!)

When all of our party members arrived (as two were parking while a dining companion and I went to be seated), bread came. Bread came not by a dish or a basket but actually a server who gave pieces of bread out as his job. Today's selections, from left to right, were olive bread, pupernickel (?- or multigrain), french onion, and baguette.

(Bad. Blurry!)

We tried all except for the olive and all were excellent, especially the multigrain which was very soft and mellow. The french onion had a good chew with a slight onion flavor, and the baugette had a slightly hard exterior and a soft interior. All quite pleasant to eat but not the best I've had. But we still scarfed them down anyway. We were too hungry after having cereal and milk (free in the room, according to our butler) for breakfast at Pelican Hill. After all, we were planning to eat more at Charlie Palmer :).

(Click for the full size image where you can actually see the photo)

While enjoying the bread we glanced at the menu, which I actually found out coming back home that the menu was constantly changing. After all, why would the menu be so thin and not laminated if not so? A simple, if slightly bit tattered, leather like cover though. I did ask for a employee to let me take pictures of the menu after we ordered, and he even helped me open the menu near their entrance so that I could get good lighting. How friendly and thoughtful! They know their stuff.

While waiting for the appetizers we watched the marble cart come through with orders. The french fries and the sliders were constantly seen being plopped onto tables. We did not order either though.

Hot Water

We were asked what we wanted to drink in the beginning of the meal and right away we got ice water filled in the regular cups. However, the hot water came slower but came in a beautiful cast iron pot like at Tokyo Table.

Soon, our appetizers arrived by a large marble cart with other customer's dishes, which were then passed down to the relating table. Two of us, including me, ordered from their prix fixe menu for 26 dollars (oh, this felt so affordable after Pelican Grill, but going back to Sesame Grill the week after brought us back to reality). One dining companion made their own set of dishes to try, and my other dining companion just ordered a main course.

Charlie's Onion Soup

The dining companion who created his own so called "prix fixe menu" had a starter of Charlie's onion soup (14USD). On top was a crispy layer of puff pastry, browned for too long in my opinion. However, it was exceedingly puffy!

Charlie's Onion Soup Detail

Inside the pot was a deep brew of caramelized onions and beef broth with plenty of slow cooked beef and caramelized onions to try. This was served extremely hot, and was still hot even after 10 minutes of cool down. Quite tasty but overpriced in my opinion, especially since all the other soups and salads had larger servings for around the same price. I could have gotten several giant bowls of clam chowder somewhere else, or maybe had my crispy quail salad from Pelican Grill the previous night (unsure as it is not on the regular menu. Boo. But they can do special order right?).

Butter Poached Shrimp and Grits

The dining companion other than me who had the prix fixe menu chose butter poached baby shrimp with garlic grits and caramelized brussels sprouts for their starter dish to share. Excellent simple dish, other than the fact it seemed like the baby shrimp was just a tad overcooked (not exceedingly crisp in the mouth). The garlic grits were extremely creamy and smooth and was perfectly seasoned- a slight hint of garlic was there. Caramelized brussels sprouts added a nice deep and green feel to the dish. This rated highly among the table. Chives also added pop to the otherwise creamy dish. Only if there were more of the grits and shrimp to eat! More, more, more! :) Just like the crispy quail salad.

Boston Bibb Lettuce Salad

Since my dining companion was also eating from the prix fixe menu and there were only two choices, I went for the second choice, Boston bibb lettuce salad, with green apple, blue cheese, and a caramelized honey-bacon vinagrette just so that you readers could see more items available at Charlie Palmer. :) This was quite simple but it was a good combination nevertheless. The bibb lettuce was crunchy but a bit bitter on the ribs. Apples were of course exceedingly crisp, showing that their produce was fresh. There were also pieces of thick cut bacon which were not very salty. Blue cheese, an ingredient I would never thought I would like, was creamy and worked exceptionally with the other ingredients. The caramelized honey-bacon vinagrette tied everything together with a sweet flavor to it, which was quite unusual. Not everyone at the table liked it- the vinagrette was quite unusual being quite sweet. I thought it was pretty interesting (not in the bad way). But if you asked me if I wanted the butter poached shrimp or this dish, I would choose the butter poached shrimp.

Yellow Glass Tiles

Our dishes were whisked away when we finished them but still we did have to wait a bit until we got our main courses. And then, all the cutlery and silverware was switched for the main courses, and they even took away silverware that we did not use for the starter course as it was not necessary. Waiting, I visited the bathroom, after a dining companion was talking about the glass tiles. Quite beautiful actually- the handicapped section even had its own sink separate from the rest of the restroom. The top of the yellow tiles was translucent and shiny while the bottom of the tile was colored a bright sunny yellow.

Ahi Tuna Tartare1

For the "main course" the dining companion who made his own prix fixe menu ordered the Ahi Tuna Tartare (15USD), from the salad portion of the menu. Yes, the same small portion just like at Woo, if not slightly larger. This was disappointing, as the ingredients were not as they described and the dish just felt like tuna with a hint of seasoned soy sauce. The dish was described as sesame crackers, mango, spicy ponzu, and baby cilantro. There was also a small quail egg too.

Ahi Tuna Tartare 2

I was able to sample some of the ahi tuna tartare with the sesame cracker, which was lightly crunchy and not salty and felt no spiciness at all, unlike what was stated in the menu. Instead, it felt like eating good quality tuna with soy sauce (seasoned and not as salty) that did not overpower the tuna flavors- with the sesame crackers adding a nice crunch. Not as described in my feeling, but still good as the soy did not overpower the tuna but instead let the tuna flavors sing. Also, there was no mango at all too. My dining companion thought this was a disappointment due to the difference in the menu and the real dish and even said Claim Jumper's version was better. Boo.

Sonoma Roasted Chicken

The dining companion who only wanted a main course ordered the pan roasted Sonoma chicken, which consisted of a crisp thigh, broccolini, truffle risotto cake, and roasted porcini mushrooms (26 USD). Definitely something special- after all, a chicken dish for 26 dollars is quite high. Well, it made sense to one dining companion who did not want to try the prefix menu. And the dish did stand to its 26 dollars price tag. The chicken was juicy, tender, and smooth on the palate, with a chicken cooking juice (and red wine?) reduction. Pieces of risotto cake were quite special- the rice was tender and slightly cheesy, with a hint of truffle. Best of all, everything was enclosed in a crispy exterior. The brocolini was actually broccoli rabe according to our server who gave the dish to our dining companion- it was slightly charred, giving a deep depth of flavor with everything else. Maybe that was a typo on the menu. Bold and deep flavored dish- perfect for those who like those sort of flavors.


I was not as nice as I was during the starter round and both the dining companion and I ordered the main entree of pan roasted scottish salmon from the prix fixe menu (26 dollars total). It was presented beautifully and simply with the salmon resting on top of the saffron risotto which had a beautiful golden yellow tinge to it. There was definitely thought about the colors as the piquillo pepper sauce and the parsley pesto added pops of color to the already colorful dish. Each component of the dish was excellent. The salmon was ultra tender and buttery, cooked to medium. Almost equally as delicious as the best salmon I have ever tasted- Sesame Grill's Artic Salmon which was a previous special. The piquillo pepper sauce was itself, adding a smooth bell pepper like taste to the dish. Parsley pesto was an interesting idea and was exceptionally herby and cheesy. Small amounts of it worked with the medley of ingredients. Saffron risotto was creamy with hints of chicken stock flavor and tender pieces of rice. Overall, an excellent salmon dish that rates near the highest of salmon dishes I've had. Not as bold flavored as the Sonoma chicken but still delicious nevertheless.


Taking a break from the main course to the dessert portion of the meal, I took some more photos. Can you see how a slower shutter speed (compared to everything else) can change a photo quite significantly? The second photo looks much brighter. Now if the person was not in the way, and the flowers were facing the camera...

And while my dining companion who ordered the prix fixe menu and I waited for our desserts to come, the employees gave the rest of the party dessert menus to look at. Click for the large, not as blurry (but the photo itself was blurry (boo), photo of the dessert menu- uploaded onto Blogger.

NY Cheesecake with Yogurt Lime Sorbet

Dessert came and I ordered the New York style cheesecake from the prix fixe menu, which was simply garnished with a strawberry sauce, an eliptical shaped orb of yogurt lime sorbet, and a white chocolate tuile. This was an excellent dessert that was not too sweet. The cheesecake mixture was not too heavy or too light on the mouth and was nicely creamy, with a texture that was in between dense and light. Graham cracker crust was moist and paired well with the cheesecake due to that. The strawberry sauce did not overpower the cheesecake and was only lightly sweetened but full of natural strawberry flavors. Yogurt-lime sorbet was slightly tart with yogurt flavors- similar to CPK's key lime pie filling but definitely no where as tart and not as creamy. White chocolate was tasty by itself and so were the strawberries. A great combination and a great ending to the prix fixe lunch!

Fresh Mixed Berries

The other dining companion who ordered off from the prix fixe menu chose the seasonal mixed berries with Chantilly creme, which was basically a creamy, fluffy, and rich whipped cream. The berries were fresh and included blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Simple but exceptionally fresh and yummy. Big portion of berries too, which made it all for the better in terms of pricing. That many berries itself would cost 4 dollars or so now in the supermarket, if not more. (shopping at Dogwoods, less than 2 dollars)

Apple Crumble

The dining companion who made his own prix fixe menu had the Honey-Crisp Apple Crumble with almond streusel, calvados ice cream and cranberry caramel (10USD) for dessert. This was served in a beautiful oval shaped minipot and inside was tons of fresh apple and slightly tart cranberry caramel apple juice from the cooking process, with a topping of the crispy honey almond streusel. The apple mixture was quite cinammony and sweet in my opinion but when eaten with everything else it was okay. Apples were soft but still had a nice bite to them. The calvados ice cream was fresh and smooth and had a slight alcoholic taste to it (think tiramisu), and the cranberry caramel mound added zing and brightness to otherwise a very cinnamon-y and sweet dish.

Overall? A great dining experience at Charlie Palmer for lunch made even better with Gourmet Pig's dining certificate. Even better than the Clubhouse which prices are approximately the same. We'll definitely be back here if we plan on having lunch at South Coast Plaza.

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza
3333 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: (714)-352-2525

Charlie Palmer at South Coast Plaza on Urbanspoon

Charlie Palmer in Los Angeles

November 29 2009 12.34am start

Read the series in order:
China Garden- Irvine (Lunch Day 1)
The Resort at Pelican Hill: Introduction and Villa Clubhouse
The Resort at Pelican Hill: Three Bedroom Villa #805
The Resort at Pelican Hill: Three Bedroom Villa #805 Kitchen
Pelican Grill- Newport Coast (Thanksgiving Pre-fix Dinner
The Resort at Pelican Hill: Second Day Thoughts
Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza- Costa Mesa (Lunch Day 2)



gourmetpigs said...

Glad to see you had some good use out of that gift card! :)
I'm always wary about ordering chicken as it tends to be overcooked and dry, so I'm happy to hear that the one here was good for you and your dining companion.

foodbin said...

like the saffron risotto with the salmon and the New York cheesecake is lovely.

joanh said...

i've always wondered about their food. thanks for sharing!

tigerfish said...

From bread, appetizer, main course and seems like a long dinner!

EatTravelEat said...

Definitely the gift card went into good use :). Their Sonoma Chicken seems to be one of their popular items as it seems, according to their website. I too am always wary about ordering chicken as it either is weird in taste or is dry.

It definitely was lovely. Loved my meal :)

Thanks! Hope to share even more soon.

It quite was, if about a hour and a half is considered a long lunch, which for us it is.