Dining review: Five Palms

2013-10-30T09:47:00Z Dining review: Five PalmsKathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 30, 2013 9:47 am  • 

Brace yourself.

You may have to mortgage the house to dine at Five Palms.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. But so are the prices:

A rack of lamb for $69. A 2-pound, dry-aged porterhouse is $123. And the 2-pound Kobe-style tomahawk steak (tomahawk is a ribeye with the bone in)? That baby will set you back $169.

Is it worth it? Well, that depends.

Five Palms has options — you can eat upstairs in the casual and frequently packed Nino’s Bar & Grill, or in the downstairs bar. Both have simpler menus and more attainable prices.

Then there is the fine dining arm on the east end of the building. That was our destination.

Owner Nino Aidi has totally remade the restaurant, which opened in March in the former Terra Cota at3500 E. Sunrise Drive. There are floor-to-ceiling windows. Sliding doors open to the patio. Elaborate stained-glass ceilings are backlit so that every gorgeous detail is clear. And flat Van Gogh prints on the wall and small battery-operated lights on the tables, flickering like candle flames. Those last two were so oddly out of character — with so much attention to detail, you’d think that original art and real candles would be a given.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the sticker shock we experienced.

Our first visit, we chose the least-expensive steak on the menu at that time, the 16-ounce ribeye for $46. We were sure, positive, we’d get a thick, juicy piece of meat that was packed with the full flavor a good ribeye can offer.

Instead, it was a thin, thin steak, cooked the requested medium rare but so tasteless that we had to wonder if something was awry with our taste buds. Nope, we decided as we shared bites, it was the steak, not us.

The Chilean sea bass ($38) was cooked beautifully, but was so buried in an Andalusian sauce that it was hard to taste it. When we returned earlier this month, the sea bass was still on the menu, but the sauces had been taken off — maybe restaurant’s chefs and management realized that fresh fish — which Five Palms flies in daily — rarely needs much more than some butter and a few squirts of lemon to shine.

That return visit was a happier meal; perhaps because we were prepared for the prices and had resolved to try the signature dishes.

One of those, the Wagyu ribeye, was sublime. Of course, at $89 for the 1.125 pound steak, it’s hard not to feel obligated to enjoy it. While this ribeye was thin (though not as thin as the steak we had on the first visit), the meat was buttery and rich. It demanded to be savored.

As did the rack of lamb ($69). Four chops constituted the “double rack” and the meat was tender and a bit earthy, as lamb is wont to be. It was sublime.

The delight with the meal was tempered by the Caesar salad. Though the menu says it is for two and made tableside, it was brought to the table already prepared. Because it was to be the entrée for one, we figured the “for two” would satisfy that one. Here’s what we got: A plate with three crisp romaine leaves on it, and a few airy croutons on top of that. A drizzle of dressing. If there were anchovies, they weren’t decipherable. Here’s what it cost: $16. Yup, you read that right.

There's more, but you can grab Thursday's Caliente to read the full account of our experience.

So, back to that question: Is it worth the price?

Well, if you don’t care what you spend, maybe, though we can think of other restaurants in town that offer more rooted elegance, exquisite meals and prices that are high, but not nearly as high as these.

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