Inland Valley Daily Bulletin – Merrill Shindler

The realm of Red includes stunning cocktails and eclectic menu

By Merrill Shindler

RED AT PACIFIC PALMS

Pacific Palms Resort
One Industry Hills
Industry
(626) 854-2509

Lunch and dinner, every day.

The Food: Adjacent to the Industry Hills Golf Course, this hilltop restaurant is the latest addition to Pacific Palms, a combination hotel and conference center. The space is modern-but-cozy, with blazing fireplaces, plenty of steaks and seafood to choose from, as well as a selection of Asian dishes which change from night to night. This is one of the few restaurants around where you can get in nine holes before digging into a sirloin.

About $45 per person. MC, V.

Beverages: Full bar.

Reservations: Important.

Rating: (THREE STARS)

The Pacific Fusion Buffet at Cima, the restaurant that sits on an upper floor of the sprawling Pacific Palms Resort in Industry, has long been one of the more daunting culinary experiences in the San Gabriel Valley.

Served on Friday and Saturday nights, it attracts a who’s-who of local eaters to a Disneyland of dishes. But it’s also a meal that demands a serious commitment – and a strong arm. The buffet put an end to any promise I might have made to decrease the size of my bulk. It’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride through the Land of Gluttony. And I’m happy with most every bite.

But if it’s a more modest repast you seek at Pacific Palms (perhaps after a day of golf on the adjacent course; or an evening spent on the driving range, smacking balls into the nether distance), there’s the latest culinary addition to Pacific Palms.

It’s called Red (or perhaps RED, depending on which bit of documentation you’re looking at), though it might just as well carry the moniker “Large.” Or perhaps “Eclectic.” Or just plain “Cool.” For that’s what it is. More than “Red,” it’s spacious and varied. There’s even a pool table next to the bar. And enough TV sets tuned to the game-of-the-moment to allow it to be a sports bar as well. This is many things for many people, with convenient parking to boot.

For those who haven’t ventured up the hill to Pacific Palms Resort, it’s a mash-up of sorts, that combines a conference center with a spa, and a hotel that’s popular for local weddings and reunions. Add on the golf course, and you’ve got a busy facility that stretches up a hillside just north of the communities of Rowland Heights, Puente Hills and Hacienda Heights, and south of La Puente. If you can find Azusa Avenue, you can find Pacific Palms.

Turning on the grounds (the grandly named Industry Hills Parkway) is always a bit of a surprise, for you leave the land of mini-malls and suburban blight, and head into a bit of a fantasy, which includes the realm of Red – a restaurant that allows you to happily vanish into the heavily air-conditioned indoors, or luxuriate on a very spacious outdoor patio that gazes north into the hills.

On a still and warm summer’s eve, the patio is fine for those who enjoy a little last-minute basting. For me, an evening at Red is best begun at the bar, where the list of specialty beverages is long, and exotic. Indeed, the drinks are immodestly called “Stunning Cocktails” on the menu. And the name is well deserved.

In all honesty, I’ve had my ups and downs with the current generation of exotic cocktails. To me, a martini is a martini: a drink made of gin or vodka, flavored with vermouth, and served in a martini glass, with a couple of olives tossed in for their nutritional value. (They are green vegetables, after all.) A Chocolate Martini (defined on the bar menu at Red as a mixture of Grey Goose L’Vanilla Vodka, Godiva Chocolate, White Creme de Cacao, a splash of Bailey’s and whipped cream) is not a martini; it may be a fine dessert, but it’s not the sort of cocktail that one has while waiting for a table for dinner, or chatting with friends. It’s like eating a banana split in a pizza parlor; it just doesn’t fit.

But there are libations on the bar menu that, I must admit, are tempting. Like the house signature martini, the Red Martini, which is made with orange-infused vodka, Triple Sec and cranberry juice. I tasted it, fearing the worst. I finished it far too fast. Though some of the drinks are just too sweet for my taste (like the Lemon Drop, with its sugared rim; the Key Lime Martini with its float of whipped cream; and the Peachtini, which is made with Sprite), there are surprises. Who would think a red-blooded guy like me would like a Caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail made with Leblon Cachaca and fresh lime? It sounds a tad silly. But it tastes good. Or at least, it tastes citrusy. And since it’s a favorite of the dental-floss bikini crowd on Ipanema Beach in Rio, who am I to complain?

If you opt to spend your evening at the bar at Red, there’s an extensive menu of post-modernist pub grub, that should keep you well fed. There’s a snappy trio of sliders – three Kobe beef burgers topped with cheddar and “sweet chili ketchup” on tiny brioche buns; you don’t so much eat them, as you inhale them. The wings come in three flavors – teriyaki, sweet chili and Szechwan, which you can order individually or as a sampler; natch, I go with the latter, for I firmly believe that variety is the spice of life. Or maybe it’s spice that’s the spice of life. The wings work on both levels. (Funny, isn’t it, that there isn’t a standard-issue Buffalo-style chicken wing on the menu. That’s long been my fave rave.)

At the bar, you can order a full-sized Kobe burger as well (which comes with both a wasabi flavored cream cheese, and a mango salsa, neither of which seems quite right on a burger). There’s a Caesar salad made (very non-traditionally) with tomatoes, to which you can add chicken, ahi tuna, shrimp or steak. There are three types of oysters, and a trio of ceviches (shrimp and lime, scallop and tomatillo, snapper and mango).

The fried oysters are pretty good, too, with their habanero aioli dipping sauce. But do eat them quickly; once they start cooling, they’re not nearly as good. Or as crisp.

There’s also an option, at the bar, to order a tasting flight of four beers for $5. Which is a major deal. I got the Fat Tire, the Hefeweisen, the Heineken and the Stella Artois. I surprised myself by liking the Heineken most; I thought their current spate of silly ads would make the beer taste skunky. But it tasted like Heineken always has; hoppy and full of memories.

Though there’s some overlap between the bar menu and the table menu, for the most part, they’re two different experiences. This is mostly a steakhouse menu, where the specialty is Midwest corn-fed prime beef (wet-aged 28 days): bone-in filet, petite filet, ribeye, New York strip, porterhouse and prime rib, ranging in price from $29 to $47. They come with an option of four sauces on the side – green peppercorn, creamy gorgonzola, port wine and b arnaise. The b arnaise is the most classical of them, a wonderful sauce of emulsified egg yolk, shallot, tarragon vinegar and butter that tastes so much better than its composite parts.

Following the Asian theme of upstairs Cima, there’s a menu section called “The Wok” where you’ll find New York strip with orange peel, kung pao chicken, lobster Cantonese and mushroom-crusted tofu. And there are Asian flavors to be found all over the menu: the bok choy with the sea bass, the shiitake mushrooms and wasabi with the monkfish, the soba noodle side dish, the tempuraed short ribs.

Inside or out, at the bar or a table, the place is fun. And it’s not just Red. This is a very colorful restaurant, with a broad palette for broad palates.

mreats@aol.com

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One thought on “Inland Valley Daily Bulletin – Merrill Shindler

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

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