Sunday, March 13, 2016

Shirlington's new PALETTE 22, perhaps in need of a more thorough review (3-11-16)

Samuel and I had theater tickets at Signature last night and decided to eat at PALETTE 22 ( which opened up across the street where Extra Virgin held court for so many years until it closed about 2 years ago. The large space has been empty for a long time, so the restaurant was a welcome neighbor for sure. The place opened only three weeks ago, yet the lines were out the door when we arrived before 6pm. Luckily we had a reservation.
Inside the folks were lined up in a crowd around the reception area, blocking access to the restaurant and huge bar entry beyond. As they have outdoor seating and it was gorgeous last night, the servers were having lots of trouble maneuvering around the crowd to get to the people seated outside.
We were seated quickly at a table right next to a woman who was on a computer hooked up to a large screen. She was photoshopping her photographs, many of which were quite interesting. Other artists are scattered around the place painting or doing their things and artwork adorns the walls and is for sale, as our server Elizabeth explained. This clearly explained the Palette name, but not the 22, which seemed a bit harder for anyone to figure out. It seems the owners have another place with a "22" in the name, but nobody knows why.
The décor is simple with concrete floors, lots of glass walls to see outside and let the light in, high ceilings and wooden tables and chairs which all tend to lend to loud noise reverberation. Sadly, there was loud thumping music making the decibel level even higher. At times, I had to ask Elizabeth to come closer to explain the menu or repeat what she had said as it was indeed so noisy. Each table has a small tin of flatware and a pile of plates, so that you don't have to ask for fresh flatware as the many different plates arrive. Tapas-style is the rule here with every dish ringing in at less than $15 and most being quite large and filling.
I ordered a White Sangria made from Gin, Spanish Brandy, apple orange and citrus which was a fruitless drink(not your typical sangria) that was strong and tasty, but nowhere near as refreshing as the super white sangria from La Tasca that I have loved for years.
My biggest problem here is that once we ordered, Elizabeth explained that the dishes come out when ready and in no particular order. Well, they all came out together and since we ordered 5 that was not good. I like to eat in a leisurely mode, and I like my food hot or at least warm if meant to be. The three dishes I ordered came out in reverse order, causing me to rethink my drinks and order a glass of white instead of red later on. When a place is so crazy, as this was, I often feel that we are rushed. Indeed, we were out the door in less than an hour!
I ordered (in this order, but arrival was reversed) TAKAYAKI, SINGAPORE CHILI-CRAB Potstickers and TACOS VAMPIROS.
Samuel ordered the same tacos and a CAPRESE FLATBREAD.
There are many flatbread and taco options, but I wanted to taste different things.
Indeed Sam & I agreed the Tacos Vampiros of skirt steak, serrano rajas, avocado, chipotle salsa and melted gooey queso cotijo were super. They come on upright taco holders with soft tortillas doubled so the cheese can be on one layer and the fillings on the other. Samuel liked his flatbread for sure, but said it won no prizes.
I went on to the Potstickers which for me were the star of the evening filled with sambal, nappa (why do they spell Napa wrong on the menu?) cabbage, crab and have a sweet soy dipping sauce. The sambal packs a punch and the dish is ndeed very spicy which made it even better.
May Takoyaki arrived late and I was not sure what to expect even after Elizabeth explained the dish (Spanish Octopus, Ginger, Bonito, Nori, Citrus and Kewpie Mayo) more like a salmon cake on potato. Well, you can see a phot on my FB page, and while it looks fascinating I can best describe it as a fish gnocchi with dried tuna flakes. It was tasty for sure with an oddity to the consistency and indeed was more fishy than octopus in flavor, largely due to the showering of the bonito in large amounts. The flakes were cellophane-like and large and actually repeatedly got stuck to the roof of my mouth. I ordered a glass of Washington State Pacific Rim Gruner Veltliner which was nice to wash down this dish as it was so fishy.
We were full indeed so 2-3 tapas is plenty depending on what you choose, and be sure to make a trip to the loo where the room has cool and lively wall  paintings.
Shirlington lost Extra Virgin a long time ago, and it had become a very noisy disco-like place with bands playing all the time at its demise. Most recently The Curious Grape also came to its end. The neighborhood has plenty of good dining spots, but still yearns for something a bit finer.