CVIndependent

Thu08222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

New: Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant has opened at 330 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in the downtown Palm Springs space occupied until recently by Kimy Sushi.

While we have not yet had a chance to check out Pho Lan, the restaurant’s Facebook page offers some details about the place: The restaurant opened in September, and offers the appetizers, pho dishes and entrées one would expect to find at a Vietnamese joint—at reasonable prices. For example, a large bowl of pho will only you back $8.50.

We’ll offer a more detailed report when we have a chance to try out the restaurant in person. In the meantime, call 760-778-1473, or visit the aforementioned Facebook page for more information.

Hacienda Hosts a Benefit for Meals on Wheels

The newish Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, located at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, will be the location of Playa de los Muertos—a Dia de los Muertos Celebration, at 11 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 1.

The event will feature an open sangria bar, tray-passed appetizers, great DJ music poolside, and all sorts of Day of the Dead-themed activities, like sugar-skull face-painting.

Sounds fun, yes? Well, there’s even better news: The event is a benefit for Meals on Wheels Coachella Valley.

“We wanted to honor and capture the color and vibrancy of Dia de los Muertos celebrations and combine it with a beach party like only Palm Springs can offer,” said event coordinator George Nasci-Sinatra in a news release.

Admission to the event is $45. Visit playadelosmuertos.brownpapertickets.com, or call 760-323-5689, ext. 112, for tickets or more info.

Citron at the Viceroy Gets a New Executive Chef

The Viceroy Palm Springs has hired a French-born chef with impeccable credentials to lead up the hotel’s well-regarded Citron Restaurant.

Patrice Martineau is a native of Champagne, France, who trained at several Michelin-starred restaurants before becoming the No. 2 chef at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous Daniel, in New York City. He also served as the executive chef at London’s Savoy Hotel, and was most recently at the Belmond El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara.

“I look forward to adding some international flair to Citron’s menu and sharing my interest in regional California cuisine with Viceroy Palm Springs’ gastronomically minded guests,” said Martineau in what has to be one of the most ho-hum press-release quotes in recent memory.

New menus should have been launched by the time you read this.

For more information, call 760-320-4117, or visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings.

Restaurant Musical Chairs in Cathedral City

The spot they optimistically call “downtown Cathedral City” will soon be the home of two new restaurants.

Bontá, a Latin-European restaurant, is slated to soon open in the space that used to house Picanha Churrascaria at 68510 Highway 111. Practically next door, in the spot once occupied by Big Mama’s Soul Food, Taqueria Los Arcos is scheduled to open.

Watch this column for details.

Also: Last month in this space, we noted that a new “art bar and live music” venue called Bart Lounge was coming to the valley, perhaps in Cathedral City. Well, a lease has been signed, and Bart Lounge is indeed coming to Cathedral City—specifically, the old Level 2/Elevation/Sidewinders space, at 67555 E Palm Canyon Drive. Watch www.facebook.com/bartlounge for updates.

In Brief

Congratulations to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, located at 71800 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. The valley’s oldest microbrewery took home a silver medal from Denver’s 2014 Great American Beer Festival for Babe’s Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale. … Dish Creative Cuisine remains on hiatus as its new home at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive—next to Ernest Coffee and Bootlegger Tiki—gets constructed. A Facebook-page update from Oct. 20 states that restaurant management is keeping its fingers crossed for a mid-November opening. … Also in downtown Palm Springs: Brandini Toffee just celebrated the grand opening of a store at 132 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Brandini is in the spot formerly occupied by the Red Black Café; last year, the prospective owners of what was to be the Gin and Juice Bar announced they’d be taking over the space, but that obviously never happened.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: The Desert Jewel

Where: Citron, inside the Viceroy Palm Springs, 415 S. Belardo Road, Palm Springs

How much: $14

Contact: 760-318-3005; www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings

Why: It’s a perfect craft cocktail.

Regular readers of this feature know that your humble scribe likes—no, loves—a good craft cocktail.

Regular readers between the lines of this feature know that your humble scribe is pretty frustrated at the relative dearth of great craft cocktails in this valley.

Thankfully, more and more bars and restaurants are moving beyond Cape Cods and Jack-and-Cokes—and Citron at the Viceroy is undeniably one of the leaders of our valley’s emerging craft-cocktail scene.

Consider the Desert Jewel, Citron’s signature drink. The ingredient list: Absolut Mandarin, Aperol, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and Veuve champagne.

Great ingredients, yes, but the result of their combination is, as the saying goes, greater than the sum of the parts. The Desert Jewel is sweet, but subtly so. It’s citrusy, but not acidic. None of the ingredients overwhelm—which was a concern I had after reading the menu, because grapefruit tends to dominate. The cocktail is simply a refreshing, flavorful, slightly savory delight.

Of course, there’s a downside to craft cocktails at places like the Viceroy: They tend to be expensive, and this $14 drink is not an exception to that rule. One way to lessen the financial blow is to head to Citron’s oddly lit bar during Happy Hour—that’s 4:30 to 7 p.m., Sunday through Thursday—when some nice appetizers (including a revelatory watermelon gazpacho) and great cocktails can be had for just $6 each.

Sadly, the Desert Jewel is not one of those $6 cocktails. However, I’d take one $14 Desert Jewel over two $7 Cape Cods anytime. Life’s just too short for crappy cocktails. 

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club Offers a Taste of Santa Fe

Last month in this space, we wrote these somewhat prophetic words about the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs (emphasis newly added): “If everything goes according to plan, the Hacienda … will quietly open its doors the weekend of May 30. It’ll be a baptism-by-fire sort of opening for the Hacienda: Just two weeks later, the new restaurant/beach club/events space will be hosting thousands of people as one of the three venues that are part of the second annual Splash House.”

Well, guess what? That May 30 soft opening didn’t happen, because … well, things didn’t go according to plan. In fact, even the first day of the Hacienda’s Splash House lineup had to be moved to The Saguaro because of delays.

That meant that the Hacienda finally opened its doors for the second (and heaviest) day of Splash House on Saturday, June 14.

And it was executive chef Robert Wepplo’s job to make sure his brand-new crew and brand-new kitchen were up to the task. How’d it go?

“That was a really fast learning curve, that’s for sure,” he said in what we’re going to call the Understatement of the Month.

Of course, Wepplo and his crew now have several weeks of serving the Hacienda’s decidedly Mexican-inspired menu under their figurative belts, and the kinks are being worked out.

What led Wepplo to create lunch, dinner and brunch menus with such a Mexican/Southwestern theme?

“I moved here from Santa Fe, New Mexico,” said the veteran of Piero’s PizzaVino on El Paseo. “I love green chiles and red chiles, and really lean on those two sauces.”

When I asked him what his go-to dishes are, he picked the shrimp adobo taco for lunch, and the fresh catch with his cilantro-saffron sauce for dinner; on the day I talked to him, he said the restaurant had gotten in some nice barramundi.

And more food’s on the way at the Hacienda: He said he’s in the process of developing a small, taco stand-like kitchen for the Hacienda’s pool area, which will serve simple yet tasty fare such as empanadas and tacos. He’s also honing the late-night bar menu.

The restaurant at the Hacienda is currently open from Wednesday through Sunday; call 760-778-8954 to confirm hours, and visit www.haciendacantina.com for more information.

Summer Specials in Abundance!

We keep finding out more news about various summer specials being offered by local restaurants. Here’s just a small sampling:

Cello’s American Bistro, at 35943 Date Palm Drive in Cathedral City, is offering $5 specials each week during the summer to celebrate the restaurant’s fifth birthday.

• Each weekday in the Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, from 3 to 6 p.m., enjoy half-off “small plates” as well as drink discounts.

• A number of restaurants on El Paseo are teaming up to offer great summer specials, including Café des Beaux-Arts (happy hour every day in the bar from 4:30 to closing), and Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar (happy hour every day from 3 to 6 p.m.).

Know of any other amazing summer specials? Share the details by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

PS Underground Gets ‘Light’

The people responsible for the wandering supper club known as PS Underground continue to innovate.

The next event being put on by Michael Fietsam and David Horgen, called “Light,” has already been extended from two dates to four due to the extensive demand. The $150-per-person event, held at a location not disclosed to attendees until the day of the event, is shrouded in even more secrecy than some previous PS Underground events: All the briefs for the event say simply that it’s “an avant-garde dinner experience,” and that attendees should wear white; a Vimeo teaser video for the event includes a lot of pictures of light bulbs, and little else.

Hmm.

PS Underground is currently taking “Light” reservations for Friday, July 18, and Saturday, July 19. Make said reservations or sign up for updates at www.psunderground.com.

In Brief

The folks at the Kaiser family of restaurants—which includes the Kaiser Grille, Chop House and Grind Brgr Bar in Palm Springs, as well as Jackalope Ranch in Indio—are continuing to mix things up. A couple of months after closing the Hog’s Breath Inn in La Quinta, they announced they will convert the Palm Desert Chop House, located at 74040 Highway 111, into a Kaiser Grille. … Level 2, the LGBT bar located at 67555 Highway 111 in Cathedral City, has closed, about a year after the latest ownership change. Who knows what will come of the spot previously known as Sidewinders and Elevation? … Citron at the Viceroy, located at 415 S. Belardo Road, is offering special summer cocktails using No. 209 barrel-aged gin. If you’ve never tried barrel-aged gin, you’re in for a treat. Call 760-318-3005 for more details.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Hey, Locals: Give Thai House Another Shot

Nisa Hennecke, the new owner of the Thai House in downtown Palm Springs, doesn’t think her personal story is all that special—but she thinks her food is.

Well, I’ve got some news for Hennecke: Both her food and her personal story are pretty gosh-darned special.

Hennecke, a native of Thailand, had worked for years at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, as a poker dealer. But last year, she decided to make a huge change: In June, she purchased Thai House, at 246 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs.

Why?

“My whole family owned a restaurant, everybody, in Thailand,” she told me.

Indeed, Thai House is a family affair: Hennecke’s sister and brother-in-law moved to the Coachella Valley from Thailand to cook at the restaurant, and her children help out as well.

Hennecke said she and her family completely revamped Thai House’s menu, and that they cook food the way people cook at home back in Thailand.

“My sister is the best cook you will see,” she said.

Hennecke emphasizes freshness, and that was apparent when she treated me to lunch: The tom yum soup was some of the best I’ve ever had.

While Thai House is doing well with tourists, Hennecke said, she’s had a difficult time attracting locals, perhaps because they are unaware that the food has changed. So, Thai-food-loving locals, take it from me: Give Hennecke and Thai House another shot.

For more information, call 760-778-1728, or visit www.thaihousepalmsprings.com.

Viceroy Introduces a New Handcrafted Cocktail Menu

David Nepove knows his cocktails—and residents of the Coachella Valley should be elated that he’s sharing his knowledge with local bartenders.

Nepove is the president of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, as well as the director of mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits in California. He was recently in town for a couple of days to help the good folks at the Viceroy Palm Springs’ Citron Restaurant revamp their cocktail menu for the season.

The goal of the Viceroy’s new menu: To use fresh ingredients that are locally sourced, if possible—and to include something for everyone. The results are refreshing and delicious.

I spoke to Nepove as I sipped on a rosemary gimlet, made with 209 gin, fresh lime and rosemary syrup—made from rosemary grown on-site at the Viceroy. Nepove said it’s his goal to make sure all of the bartenders he works with get inspired to take their craft to the next level, and to think of new ways to present lovely ingredients to their customers.

“My job is to steal information from friends and peers, and show that to the people I work with,” Nepove said. “… The staff here at the Viceroy was extra-receptive to this training. They walked in here as bartenders; now they’re craft bartenders.”

The drinks aren’t cheap—the specialty drinks at Citron cost $14—but they’re also a lot more complex and better-thought-out than the drinks you’ll find almost anywhere else.

Citron is located at the Viceroy, 415 S. Belardo Road, in Palm Springs. For more information, call 760-320-4117, or visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings.

Now Open: Shabu-Shabu Zen

I was first introduced to shabu shabu in Tucson, Ariz.—and I was instantly smitten.

It was at a restaurant (which, alas, has since closed) called Shabu Shabu Takaka, and if memory serves, here’s how shabu shabu works: Diners are brought a soup broth, along with sauces and a variety of raw veggies and meats. The broth is brought to a boil at the table—think fondue, sort of—and the diners cook the raw meats and veggies themselves in that broth. The cooked veggies and meats can be dipped into the sauces and eaten; when they’re all gone, noodles can be added to the broth, and the concoction can be eaten as soup.

It was, in a word, delicious.

Anyway, flash-forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I was driving down Highway 111 through Rancho Mirage. I spotted a sign for a new restaurant, called Shabu-Shabu Zen, with the description “Japanese hot pot, tapas and sake bar.”

Ooh.

The restaurant opened in late January, at 71860 Highway 111, and has been getting rave reviews on the citizen-review websites ever since. My schedule has not allowed me to visit Shabu-Shabu Zen for a meal yet; after I stop in, I’ll share the details here.

As of this writing, there’s no info other than a logo at the restaurant’s website, www.shabu-shabu-zen.com; presumably, more details will show up there eventually. Watch this space for details, too.

In Brief

Tonga Hut, at long last, is open. The tiki bar and restaurant, located at 254 N. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, celebrated its grand opening on Valentine’s Day. … Smoothie fans, take note: Juice It Up! has opened at 79775 Highway 111, No. 102, in La Quinta. It’s the second valley location of the Irvine-based chain, joining the store at 72877 Dinah Shore Drive, No. 101, in Rancho Mirage. … Morgan’s in the Desert, located at the La Quinta Resort and Club at 49499 Eisenhower Drive in La Quinta, is kicking off its Spring Peak Harvest Festival. Expect a series of three-course prix-fixe meals highlighting seasonal ingredients—from blue mussels from Puget Sound, Wash., to morel mushrooms from Mesik, Mich.—between now and early June. Get details at www.morgansinthedesert.com. … Congrats to the folks at Las Casuelas Terraza, the humongous restaurant at 222 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. The restaurant celebrated its 35th anniversary in February. … Appetito, a “Cal-Italian Deli” restaurant featuring the food of chef Chad Shaner, is expected to open any day now next at 1700 S. Camino Real, No. 2, in Palm Springs. That’s the spot right next to the Koffi across from the Ace Hotel and Swim Club.

Published in Restaurant & Food News