By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
When masterminding the newly opened Palisades Village in the heart of Pacific Palisades, the people at Caruso didn’t take any short cuts when it came to quality and class.
One of the restaurants in the development, Porta Via Palisades, is a spin-off of Peter Garland’s classic upscale casual bistro, which has been operating in Beverly Hills for over 25 years.
“Peter was doing farm-to-table before it was a thing,” said restaurant’s spokesman Laurence Cohen of TLC Media Works.
Cohen said that the menu at Porta Via Palisades distills all of the greatest hits from the original restaurant. However, in the arena of breakfast, there are a few items local to the Palisades, such as the Village Breakfast—two eggs, bacon, avocado and cheddar sandwiched inside a ciabatta roll.
Affable General Manager Ryan Hill, who had worked at the Beverly Hills flagship since 2003 and served as general manager for the last decade of his time there, has been running Porta Via Palisades since its September 22 debut.
According to Hill, Caruso, who also cultivated such retail centers as The Grove in LA’s Fairfax District, The Americana at Brand in downtown Glendale and The Commons at Calabasas, approached Garland about installing a branch of his famed restaurant at the Palisades Village because the 424 N. Canon Drive original was a personal favorite.
Caruso is no doubt enjoying having a Porta Via geographically closer to his Brentwood home, and this version of Garland’s restaurant does not disappoint on a culinary or environmental level.
In Pacific Palisades, Porta Via (“take away” in Italian) serves a handful of appetizers, from Burrata with Heirloom Tomato to Sauteed Calamari, but a triumphant way to kickstart your meal would be to indulge in Steamed Mussels, a heaping miniature mountain of Prince Edward Island black mussels with shallots, chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs, white wine and a fromage-blasted crostini.
Among the salads, the house serves all the traditional favorites but forego the Caesar or Cobb for the scrumptious Kale Salad, a visually and gastronomically vibrant mound of kale and quinoa with grilled red onion, pine nuts, crispy leeks, oven-dried tomatoes and large shards of Parmesan shrapnel, doused in a very understated honey mustard vinaigrette. (Meat- and seafood-lovers, for an additional charge, upgrade your order with shrimp, salon, chicken or skirt steak toppings.)
Under House Specialties, one will find many proteins to choose from, prepared and presented in California fashion with farm-to-table freshness, including Grass Fed Filet Mignon, Brick-Pressed Roasted Chicken and Branzino served with organic asparagus and brown rice.
The Grilled Salmon and Grilled Skirt Steak come with the same mix of farmers’ market veggies (including purple broccoli). The salmon, a signature dish of the Beverly Hills location, lives up to its legend here; a generous slab of fish accompanied by a very tasty organic brown rice.
The steak, also flavorful, arrives with the same lean pomme frites that is paired here with its Bistro Burger, a ground chuck-and-brisket patty topped with jalapeño jack cheese and vegetables.
For vegans, a plant-based version of the Bistro dish dubbed “Impossible” Burger and topped with avocado is available for the same price.
If you go the pasta route, Rigatoni Bolognese is one of their most popular dishes. But for something extra colorful and different than what you might find at other restaurants, indulge in the colorful, complex Zucchini Noodles with Shrimp, a dish integrating broccolini, cherry tomato and chili flakes into the titular vegetable-forged pasta.
One of Porta Via’s strongest suits is its cocktail program, crafted by Hill.
The cocktail program carries over the spirit (so to speak) of the drinks he concocted for the Beverly Hills restaurant, most notably, The Bar Flower, a vodka and elderflower liquor drink with muddled blackberry and lemon that became the original Porta’s signature drink.
Philosophically, Hill wants the ingredients that go into his drinks menu to be an extension of what Chef Armando Roblas (a veteran of the Beverly Hills location) has outlined for the plates.
“We use fresh products in our dishes, so we want to use fresh products in our cocktails, too,” said Hill, who noted that the restaurant grows the rosemary it uses in its Jardin de Oaxaca—which fulfills the cucumber-spiked beverage here with mezcal, fresh cucumber and lemon with house-infused rosemary simple syrup—in the planters around the restaurant’s patio.
For something lighter, the Pali Spritz, a refreshing and already popular splash of gin, Aperol, grapefruit juice, Elderflower liquor and prosecco, will sure to be the restaurant’s best-seller this summer.
The restaurant has its own brand of tequila—Porta Via Reposado by Avion, and Hill personally went down to Mexico to personally oversee this selection, which has been aged nine months.
At the end of the day, with its fun and fit menu, its inviting interior and patio spaces, and its attentive service, Porta Via proves to be an excellent addition to the Palisades’ culinary scene.