By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
Photos by RICH SCHMITT | Staff Photographer
Coming off of a recent reinvention, local Highlands destination Taste at the Palisades has definitely improved its already popular culinary and architectural scheme.
As many in the LA foodie scene know, this Pacific Palisades location is not the original Taste—that would be the one on Melrose Avenue, opened in 2005. Taste at the Palisades arrived at Highlands Plaza in 2009.
However, owner John Halter said both share a similar aesthetic, with the menu at Taste at the Palisades benefiting from the West Hollywood-based original’s decade-long trial and error.
The Palisades location went through an overhaul that included a re-do and expansion of its classy, contemporary interior, as well as a new menu and staff members. The bar is more expansive, while cozy table areas now push deeper back into the background.
Our meal was a medley from start to finish, beginning and ending on high notes. If you didn’t explore any further than the appetizers here, you’d still feel like you’re in paradise.
My personal favorite—White Truffle Oil and Mushroom Mac & Cheese—explodes with buttery, white-cheese flavor. It’s a terrific twist on standard comfort food. (Bonus good news: Certain entrées, such as the Caramelized Cumin Spiced Pork Chop, come with an order of Taste’s excellent mac and cheese.)
If there’s a running thread throughout the menu, it’s Taste’s signature “Kobe” Beef Meatballs. They appear in the “Kobe” Beef Meatballs Pasta and “Kobe” Meatballs Pizza, and they are indeed moist and scrumptious. If you order the appetizer version, Papaya Barbecue “Kobe” Meatballs, a flourish of corn adds a nice accent to this flavorful affair.
In terms of the house’s wide selection of pizza (priced at $9 to $16), there are many directions to take here, from the Grape Tomato Basil to a Buratta and Roasted Vegetables to Crispy Chicken. As gourmet pizza goes, there’s nothing auto pilot about these very creative pies.
We went for broke, ordering the ambitious Smoked Salmon Pizza, essentially a white pizza topped with dizzying concentric circles of potato fingerlings, Parmingiano-pecorino cheese and crème fraiche for deliriously delicious effect. It’s as visually dazzling and attractive as it is savory and pleasing to the palate.
The 10” pies here, divided into eight slices, work both as starter or entrée, and will definitely leave one feeling very satisfied.
Accompanied with a mug of beer, we really enjoyed the “Kobe” Beef Burger, a solid, if standard, gourmet hamburger with eight ounces of wagyu American beef, housed within a toasted brioche bun and topped with organic arugula, roasted oven tomato, onion jam with a nice side of well-made pomme frites with Taste’s housemade dipping sauce.
If you’re a meat lover, you’ll also want to consider the Caramelized Cumin Spiced Pork Chop, a brined 10-ounce, bone-in cut with the aforementioned near-holy side of White Truffle Oil and Mushroom Mac and Cheese and a batch of perfectly sautéed sugar snap peas.
The restaurant also offers two chicken breast-based options, Grilled Natural Salmon and Kabocha Squash Risotto, alive with dried cranberries, wild mushroom and shaved Parmesan.
For our pasta dish, it was back to la mer with Seafood Linguine, a spot-on hulking bowl of Italian noodle, teeming generously with tender and succulent chunks of octopus, squid and salmon. There’s nothing fried here, not even the calamari, and all of it tastes fresh.
For dessert, we took our cues from a regular—a mother enjoying Italian dinner with her
little boy (the restaurant was his pick, by the way). She ordered—and highly recommended—Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding, which arrives topped with a scoop of vanilla bean gelato and definitely lives up to the hype. We also indulged in some pitch-perfect Key Lime Pie.
The new cocktail program keeps the staple drinks from Taste’s previous incarnation while building on it mightily with several extra libations. The Carside is a bright, sweet and upbeat drink, combining Remy VSOP and Cointreau, lemon juice, vanilla peach bitters and served with a sugar rim. It leaves you with something of a black licorice aftertaste.
Conversely, the brooding Rum Raisin tastes darker and has more bite, with its Mt. Gay Black Barrel rum, orange cardamom, red wine, fino sherry and prune syrup. Botany Bay Gimlet features a Botanist gin base with lime juice, rosemary turmeric syrup, basil leaf and rosemary garnish.
Despite its candy-coated moniker, Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid, a combination of Skyy vodka, housemade hibiscus-berry tea, Pechaud’s bitters and rose water, is not overly sweet. In fact, it’s not that sweet at all—one of the subtler drinks we tried.
Taste at the Palisades also has four margaritas, with the new addition being Infante, a $14 glass of El Tesoro Silver, Oregat syrup, lime juice, rose water and ground nutmeg garnish.
The only “problem” at Taste on the Wednesday night when we dined was how packed it was, but that’s a good problem to have at this bustling, rejuvenated restaurant. Our advice: Just bring along some patience, order a Carside or a margarita, relax and enjoy. When it comes to the food menu, bar program and friendly staff, Taste is as sublime a restaurant experience as one can find in the Palisades.