CVIndependent

Thu07162020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

What: The omakase

Where: Taka Shin, 641 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $75 to $100; $85 as described

Contact: 760-600-5806; takashin-ps.com

Why: It’s the ultimate splurge/treat.

When Miho Suma tells me something about Japanese food, I listen.

Miho is the owner of Shabu Shabu Zen, the amazing Rancho Mirage restaurant that is, for my money, one of the top places to dine in the valley. A little more than a year ago, she emailed me and urged me to visit Taka Shin, which had just opened in the former Thai Smile space in downtown Palm Springs.

“It is a REAL sushi restaurant,” she wrote, “not mainly serving American style rolls, but nigiri and authentic food. I suggest you to visit and try.”

I told her I would … and a year passed, with her email still highlighted in my inbox.

Then came the last month or so, during which my husband and I both suffered injuries involving broken or dislocated bones. We’re on the mend, fortunately, and we decided that we needed a good restaurant splurge to brighten our moods. Miho’s email came to mind—so I called Taka Shin and made a reservation.

It was time for omakase. It’s a Japanese word that means, more or less, to entrust—the chef would prepare whatever he saw fit. And the eight courses that came to our table ranged from good to fantastic.

First came an appetizer plate with an oyster, monkfish liver and seaweed salad. Second was cucumber salad with crab, followed by an egg custard containing mushrooms, shrimp and edamame. Fourth up was marinated sea bass in miso broth; then we received a tempura plate with shrimp, mushrooms, green beans and lotus root. Our six and seventh courses were sashimi (pictured) and sushi—and every bit of it was fresh and masterfully prepared. The meal concluded with cheese cake—one piece with strawberry, and the other with green tea.

It was $85—worth every penny, and then some. Trust Miho and I when we say that Taka Shin is a gem—whether you’re splurging, or you just want a “normal” authentic Japanese meal.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The carne asada tacos

Where: Baja Springs, 1800 N. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs

How much: $1.69 separately; $8.99 combo plate (as shown)

Contact: 760-322-9988

Why: They’re packed with yummy meat.

Tacos … is there a more popular food in the United States today? When you have the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron James, making “Taco Tuesday” a social-media sensation—to the point where he actually tried to trademark the term, but the application was denied because the phrase is too ubiquitous—that says something.

Did you know, however, that tacos were not the first Mexican food to become popular in the United States? Friend of the Independent Gustavo Arellano, now a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, literally wrote the book on the subject: Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. In 2012, he spoke with KCRW about how tacos became popular thanks largely to the food scene in Los Angeles—especially the birth of the taquito at Cielito Lindo on Olvera Street in 1934. This happened, however, well after chili became huge in San Antonio, and tamales were a craze in San Francisco.

While the Coachella Valley’s restaurant scene has its pluses and minuses, we’re blessed with a lot of good Mexican food—especially tacos. It’s often said that the best tacos can be found in unexpected, hole-in-the-wall places, and while this is not always correct, it is in the case of Baja Springs: This small market, tucked away on Sunrise Way just north of Vista Chino in Palm Springs, has been churning out great tacos (and other Mexican fare) for years—but I only recently discovered it when the place came up on a food-delivery app.

Pretty much every imaginable meat is stuffed into corn tortillas at Baja Springs, from chicken to fish to tripe to cabeza. While I haven’t been able to try all 12 of the tacos on offer, I can vouch for the fantastic carne asada tacos. They’re delicious—and only $1.69 each.

All hail the great taco!

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The machaca con verduras

Where: Asadero Los Corrales, 425 S. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs; also locations in La Quinta and Coachella

How much: $13.80

Contact: 760-992-5107

Why: It brought up delicious memories.

Food can be an intimate, emotional thing. We experience food with all five of our senses, and many of life’s important moments are focused around, or at least include, meals. As a result, we’ve all had the experience of taking a bite of food and being flooded with memories—sometimes good, sometimes bad—of an event or time from our past.

This happened to me during a recent breakfast at Asadero Los Corrales, which opened in Palm Springs not long ago inside the old Maxcy’s Grill space in the Ralph’s shopping center at Sunrise Drive and Ramon Road. I ordered the machaca con verudas—dried, shredded beef with sautéed tomatoes, onions and peppers.

The plate came; I placed the meat inside a fresh corn tortilla; I took a bite—and memories of Tucson, Ariz., came rushing forth.

I spent 10 years of my life in Tucson, and one of my favorite dishes in that city is the carne seca at El Charro Café, a restaurant which has been in business since 1922. The dish has some degree of fame, both because of its unique preparation—it is shredded beef, dried in the sun on El Charro’s roof, as it has been for close to a century now—and because it’s quite delicious.

Well, the machaca con verduras at Asadero Los Corrales looks, feels, smells and tastes a lot like El Charro’s famous carne seca. (Four of the five senses ain’t bad!) While I can’t say that Los Corrales’ machaca is as good as El Charro’s carne seca, I can say that it is fantastic.

The machaca con verudas may not lead to an emotional experience for you like it did for me—but it will make your taste buds very happy.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The giant cinnamon roll

Where: Rick’s Restaurant, 1973 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $5.99

Contact: 760-416-0090; ricksrestaurant.biz

Why: It’s sweet comfort.

Sometimes, you just need comfort food.

It had been a rough couple days for my friend. His father was recovering from emergency surgery at Desert Regional Medical Center, and my friend wanted to meet somewhere not too far from the hospital for breakfast and a nice chat. I was having a stressful workday, and I was more than happy to take a break and oblige.

I knew exactly where to go: Rick’s Restaurant. It’s long been one of my favorite places to go for a nice, chill breakfast or lunch. It’s not fancy; instead, it’s comfortable and appealing, with friendly service and a menu full of Americana (plus some Cuban favorites as well).

This wasn’t a meal where calorie counts and carb intakes were concerns; we just wanted good, filling, comfort food. We both ordered the chicken-fried steak and eggs … and, of course, we had to split one of Rick’s fresh, house-made cinnamon rolls.

The chicken-fried steak was good. The cinnamon roll was out of this world. It was everything a classic, fresh cinnamon roll should be: sugary, warm and oh-so-pillowy. It was the perfect starter to pick at and enjoy while chatting—with occasional pauses to say “Yum!” or “Wow” in reference to the cinnamon roll.

The breakfast at Rick’s didn’t solve any problems; afterward, my friend needed to go back to the hospital to spend time with and advocate on behalf of his father. I had to go back to the pile of work and annoyances I faced. But for that hour or so … life, genuinely, was good—thanks to a great friendship, a welcoming and unpretentious atmosphere, and the type of delicious, down-home food that only fantastic places like Rick’s Restaurant can offer.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The double burger

Where: The Heyday; various locations, including Palm Springs VillageFest on Thursday nights, and The Alibi Palm Springs (369 N. Palm Canyon Drive) on Friday and Saturday nights

How much: $15 (including chips) plus fees via Doordash

Contact: 714-328-3825; theheyday.co

Why: It’s a juicy, perfectly prepared burger.

I had my first burger from The Heyday at Palm Springs Pride.

Several friends of mine had told me I must try the burgers from this pop-up burger joint after getting them at Palm Springs VillageFest, so when hunger struck, and it just so happened that the Independent’s booth was right next to The Heyday, I considered that a sign from the universe.

The hubby and I each ordered a double—featuring two Harris Ranch beef patties, shredded lettuce, American cheese and caramelized onions. Well, the burgers were splendid: juicy, flavorful and filling, despite their not-huge size.

After the madness of Palm Springs Pride had ended, I decided I needed (and, well, wanted) to give The Heyday’s burgers another try, to see if they were oh-so-good on a second devouring. I intended to head to The Alibi on a Friday night to get one after seeing a play … but I was exhausted, so I went home and decided to instead order a burger via Doordash, which can be done when The Heyday is set up at The Alibi on Fridays and Saturdays.

I balked at the price—$15 (more than the $12 we paid at Pride) plus delivery fees and tip—but I went ahead with the purchase anyway … and I am happy to report that the burger that arrived at my door was just as delicious as the burger I eagerly scarfed down at Pride.

Was it worth $15 plus all the fees? No. Was it worth $12 in person at the popup? Yeah … The Heyday’s burgers are that good.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The New York supreme pizza

Where: Palermo’s New York Pizza, 400 S. El Cielo Road, No. C, Palm Springs

How much: $24.99 for the extra large (16-inch), as shown

Contact: 760-416-1138; www.palermosnypizza.com

Why: The delicious, pliable, strong thin crust.

As deadline approaches for the print edition of this fine newspaper, I usually order a huge pizza. It’s not the healthiest thing, but it’s convenient and time-saving: Whenever I get hungry, I can grab a slice or two out of the fridge and chow down as I work.

I have my usual go-to pizza places, but this month, I decided to try somewhere different: Palermo’s New York Pizza. I have seen people rave about the place on the social-media sites, but I’d never been there before. So as deadline approached, I went online to the Palermo’s website and ordered what seemed like the logical pie, given the pizzeria’s full name—the New York supreme pizza.

Well, now I have what will become another usual go-to pizza place.

There was nothing on top of this huge pizza that made it stand out: The ample toppings were all good, and the sauce was decent, but nothing made me jump up and down. What did have me (figuratively) hopping was what was on the other side of the pizza—the crust.

Much is made of the strong pliability of good thin-crust New York pizza: The crust should be sturdy enough to support all of the yumminess on top, yet flexible enough for on-the-go folding and devouring. However, the crust at many so-called “New York-style” pizza places fails on at least one of these criteria.

Palermo’s pizza does not: It passes the two-prong test with flying colors. It’s delicious, too—elevating the pizza from “pretty good” to “I think I want to order another one.”

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The creamy coconut cake

Where: John Henry’s Café, 1785 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way

How much: $8.50

Contact: 760-327-7667; johnhenryscafe.com

Why: The ice cream pushes it over the top.

The website for John Henry’s Café calls the restaurant “the best kept secret in the desert”—and even though the place has been around for more than 30 years, and is consistently busy, there paradoxically may be some truth to that statement: I drive by John Henry’s no less than several times per week, but for some reason, it’s one of those places that doesn’t come to mind regularly when I am considering a nice night out.

On my part, this is a shame: John Henry’s is a fantastic place for good food, top service, great cocktails and an old-school Palm Springs vibe.

On a recent visit, we couldn’t get a seat on the lovely patio, so we sat inside. My chop-chop salad ($7.95) and veal scaloppini, marsala-style ($23.95), were both delicious. However, none of those dishes wound up being the highlight of the night—and in fact, we almost didn’t order what became that highlight.

Toward the end of the meal, someone mentioned how amazing the creamy coconut cake was, and we debated whether to order a piece for the table to split. Most of my companions decided against it, but my friend Brad and I were curious, so we decided—after originally telling our server we weren’t having dessert—to get a piece and have a couple of bites; I’d then take the rest to go.

The cake was perfect—soft, perfectly sweet (but not too sweet) and delicious. However, the coconut-pineapple ice cream was what made the dish truly special: It was one of the tastiest ice creams I’ve ever had. I was pretty stuffed after the salad and the veal, but the ice cream was so fantastic that I didn’t want to stop devouring it.

This cake helps show why John Henry’s is consistently busy—even if the restaurant does, in some ways, remain a “secret.”

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The grilled shrimp tacos

Where: El Patron Crafted Tacos and Drinks, 101 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $13

Contact: 888-340-8226; www.elpatronps.com

Why: They’re simply delicious.

It was a bit strange to walk into the space I’d known for years as the downtown Palm Springs Starbucks … and instead find a vibrant, colorful Mexican restaurant.

Strange … but good. Starbucks fans (A note to y’all: Considering buying local instead, damn it!) have a gorgeous new Reserve shop across the street, and fans of tasty Mexican fare and yummy drinks now have El Patron.

I stopped in for a recent weekday lunch, walked to the counter where one orders, and requested an order of shrimp tacos and a michelada ($10) with Negro Modelo. Take note of these prices: They ain’t cheap. Fortunately, everything that showed up at my table a short time later was delicious.

The tacos, in particular, were fantastic: The Mexican white shrimp (you can get ’em either fried or grilled) were prepared juuust right, topped with cabbage and pico de gallo, and tucked in a thick, house-made tortilla. They came with a handful of house-made chips and a red salsa. The person who dropped off the food asked if I wanted any other salsas; after he listed a spicy green salsa as one of the options, I responded with an enthusiastic: “Yes, please!” It was splendid.

My one concern about El Patron involves price: A block and a half away, I can get two shrimp tacos of similar quality—and get table service to boot—at a beloved restaurant for $2 less (or $4 less if it’s after 9 p.m.). Tourists won’t care, of course, but cost-conscious locals may.

Aside from that one potential problem, however, I must tip my figurative hat to El Patron. The service is great; the food is delicious; and the vibe inside that former Starbucks is fun and festive.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The shrimp ceviche

Where: Tac/Quila, 415 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $16

Contact: 760-417-4471; www.tacquila.com

Why: It’s refreshing and tasty.

I had decidedly mixed feelings when I learned that Tac/Quila was going to be opening in the space most recently occupied by Watercress Vietnamese Bistro.

On the minus side, the Coachella Valley is not suffering from a dearth of good Mexican restaurants—taqueria, upscale Mexican, regional fare … it can all be found here. In other words, Tac/Quila would not be filling a defined culinary need in the valley.

On the plus side, Mark and Liz Ostoich know what they’re doing. The owners of Tac/Quila have proven themselves to be shrewd restaurateurs and fantastic members of the community with Farm, the mostly outdoor French restaurant in La Plaza the Ostoiches purchased in 2016. Given what they’ve done with Farm, I was curious to see what they’d do with a Mexican concept.

As for what they’ve done … they’ve knocked it out of the park with Tac/Quila. They’ve taken what was a somewhat clunky space and infused it with class, beauty and charm—and the menu is absolutely mouth-watering. Consider yourself warned: You’ll pay more at Tac/Quila than you will at the vast majority of other Mexican restaurants around the valley—but what comes out of the kitchen and is delivered to your table will most likely be worth it.

I met a friend at Tac/Quila for a recent lunch. (There’s not a separate lunch menu, so be prepared to pay dinner prices.) I decided to try the chicken tortilla soup ($11) and the shrimp ceviche ($16). The soup was quite good, if misnamed—it’s actually a chicken vegetable soup, with tortillas having nothing to do with it other than being tossed on top. The ceviche, meanwhile, was perfect—fresh, delicious and refreshing on a hot summer day.

Tac/Quila may wind up filling a local culinary need after all: While many good restaurants call the Coachella Valley home, there are few great restaurants—and Tac/Quila has the potential to become one.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The French dip with tots

Where: Revel Public House, 140 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $15.50 at lunch

Contact: 760-325-9464; revelps.com

Why: It’s a perfectly put-together sandwich.

The French dip sandwich, despite the name, is not at all French—it was actually born right here in Southern California, a little more than a century ago, at a downtown Los Angeles restaurant. The exact place of birth is a matter of debate; both Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet and Philippe’s claim the invention.

While I have no idea which of those two restaurants deserves the credit, I do know that Revel Public House in downtown Palm Springs deserves the credit for having the best French dip I’ve had in the Coachella Valley.

Two things make the sandwich at Revel so gosh-darned good. First, the ingredients are fantastic: Owner Mindy Reed uses McLean’s all-natural roast beef, as well as a particularly tasty Swiss cheese. Second: The sandwich is assembled and prepared perfectly. Rather than just slapping the ingredients between two French-roll slices and throwing it on the plate, the folks in Revel’s kitchen press the sandwich, so it’s easy to hold, dip and devour. The horseradish mayo that comes with it is fantastic; as for the au jus, it could have been a little stronger on my recent visit—although the sandwich was great despite this tiny flaw.

The sandwich normally comes with either cole slaw, fries, roasted potatoes or quinoa, but I recommend forking out the extra $2.50 and throwing the diet (even further) out the window so you can get the tater tots. The Revel kitchen prepares the tots perfectly: They’re crisp, crunchy and addictive. (The tots are also available on their own, topped with cheese and pulled barbecue pork, if you want to completely annihilate the diet.)

I can hear some of you retorting: “A hot sandwich? In the summer? Are you mad?!” No, I just love delicious, well-prepared food—and Revel’s French dip is a tasty, pleasing choice no matter the weather.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

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