Octavio Becerra Goes Solo With Palate Food + Wine
Chef Octavio Becerra has been a loyal accomplice to Joachim Splichal since the Smiths were still playing live — working in the kitchen at both Patina and Max au Triangle, opening the Pinot Bistros in Sherman Oaks and Las Vegas, helping to develop the produce-intensive modern California style. Finally, Becerra has his own restaurant, a relaxed butter-yellow space where the old Cinnabar used to be, and it turns out to have been worth the wait. Palate Food + Wine, occupying the ground floor of the Wine Vault — a huge storage building in Glendale’s car-dealer district — is an enormous enterprise, a venture still inchoate in its various parts but which will incorporate over the next several weeks the newly opened restaurant, a sprawling wine bar, a room for curing meats and another for aging cheese, a small food-and-wine bookstore and a curated wine shop stocked with small-production bottles from Italy, Burgundy and the Rhône. (Because of the shop, the restaurant’s wine prices tend to be reasonable, basically retail plus $18, which means you can drink well even in the $30 to $40 range.)
In the restaurant, several dozen wines are available by the half glass, the glass and the quarter liter, including things like Chave Hermitage, which would ordinarily set you back several hundred dollars a bottle; and bountiful charcuterie plates, potted meats and pickles to accompany them — a soft, ripe pickled peach was one of the best things I’ve tasted this year. Becerra’s food is informed by the latest techniques but appears to be deceptively simple: Rare slices of rib steak, for example, are coaxed to impossible juiciness, probably using the French vacuum-cooking method sous vide. A dish of scallops with corn brings out the subtle sweetness in both ingredients. A chicken breast, cooked for many hours at ultralow temperatures, still firm but bursting with flavor, is served under a sheet of what amounts to chicken-skin chicharrones— this may be the first chicken breast in history that I have preferred to pork belly, and the crisp, meltingly rich pork belly was damned good. 933 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 662-9463 or www.palatefoodwine.com.
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