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Fri11152019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What: The farro calamari salad

Where: Workshop Kitchen + Bar, 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $13

Contact info: 459-3451; workshoppalmsprings.com

Why: The variety of textures and flavors.

There are a lot of attention-grabbing items on Workshop Kitchen + Bar’s winter menu. A scallops dish with squid-ink risotto. Wood-charred Brussels sprouts. (An aside: Did Brussels sprouts become ubiquitous overnight, or what?) And the star of the show, the 30-ounce grass-fed rib eye, which is prepared sous vide before being grilled. (We endorse this steak, too, by the way, as long as there are at least four people in your party—and as long as the $77 price tag won’t give you a heart attack.)

Flying under the radar a bit, however, is arguably our favorite thing on the menu: the farro calamari salad with olive oil, red-wine vinegar, olives, tomatoes, herbs and lemon cucumber.

Some foods are just delicious; other foods are fun to eat. This salad is both: Delicious because the flavors work so well together (freshness from the cucumber; tartness from the vinegar; saltiness from the olives, etc.), and fun because of the whacked-out variety of textures. Crunchy (cucumber), slippery (oil), bouncy (calamari), chewy (farro)—it’s all there.

The portion is generous, too; it’s perfect for splitting with several friends, or as a main course for one. Actually … now that we think about it, this salad’s so fun to eat that it may be best to just order it for yourself. It’s best to avoid awkward I-don’t-want-to-share moments during a nice night out, after all.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

At a time when locally owned coffee houses across the world are closing due to ever-expanding chains (like Starbucks and McDonald's), here’s some refreshing news: Palm Springs’ Koffi recently announced plans to open a third location in Rancho Mirage.

However, a quick look at the spot slated to house the new location, at 71390 Highway 111, reveals that any opening is likely months away.

Koffi’s original spot, at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, was opened by owners John Abner and John Strohm in August 2002. They doubled the size of the place in 2005, and opened the second location, at 1700 S. Camino Real (at Palm Canyon Drive, across Camino Real from the Ace Hotel), in 2008.

At the Camino Real location, a large “Road Map to Koffi” poster has for weeks announced that the Rancho Mirage location—in the building that was formerly home to Amici Italian Trattoria, just a bit east of the Rancho Mirage Public Library—is “coming soon.”

Abner and Strohm, through Koffi general manager Troy Neifert, declined to comment for this story.

Therefore, I swung by 71390 Highway 111 today to peek in the windows. The space—which features a cute outdoor patio area to the west—was vacant and largely stripped out, save for some construction materials, including some orange cones.

We’ll keep our eye on the announced new Koffi location, and will post updates when available.

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Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: The ramen with pork belly

Where: Jiao, 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. B-10, Palm Springs

How much: A downright reasonable $10

Contact info: 321-1424; www.jiaops.com

Why: The flavors are a perfect mix.

It was an in-season Friday night, and we were wandering around the north part of downtown Palm Springs. We had no reservations anywhere—and as hunger started to set in, that lack of reservations became a problem.

There was an hour wait at Jake's. Double that at Birba. So we crossed Palm Canyon Drive and decided to check out Jiao. We're very happy that we did.

Jiao has not quite been around for a year yet; it was opened last spring by the same folks who own Cheeky's and the aforementioned Birba. While it does not draw the freaking-insane-sized crowds that its sister restaurants do, Jiao seems to do a nice business, and we were happy to immediately get seats at the counter. Like I said, we were hungry.

We sampled dishes from all over the reasonably priced pan-Asian menu (which changes every week, if the Jiao Facebook page to be believed), but one stood out: the ramen with pork belly.

Here's how good the pork ramen was: Despite some flaws, the dish was still amazing. Ramen noodles in a delicious broth were topped with perfectly prepared pork belly, greens and a sliced-in-half hard-boiled egg. Simple, but splendid. Every bite in which I could get all of the ingredients was pure heaven.

That leads to the aforementioned flaws: It was almost impossible to get all of those ingredients together in one bite. There is not enough of the earthy, salty (in a good way) broth—it goes fast—and the large pork-belly slices get devoured too quickly unless one cuts them up with a knife. 

But those bites where everything does come together? Perfection.

The next time I am at Jiao, I will order this dish with extra broth and a steak knife (that is, if the dish is on the ever-changing menu that week). I recommend you do the same.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The beef ’n’ latkas

Where: Sherman’s Deli and Bakery, 401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs; 73161 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert

How much: $13.95

Contact info: 325-1199 (Palm Springs); 568-1350 (Palm Desert); www.shermansdeli.com

Why: The crunchiness of the latkas.

OK, I know what you’re thinking: The Independent is endorsing a sandwich at Sherman’s? Well, duh. That’s like endorsing Meryl Streep for her acting ability. There’s no news there.

On one hand, you’re correct: The fact that Sherman’s Deli and Bakery has tasty sandwiches is no news. After all, the deli has been around for a half-century as of this year, and draws big crowds at both of its locations.

But on the other hand, you may have overlooked this sandwich. In fact, on the Sherman’s website, this sandwich is not even listed in the “sandwich” category. Instead, you can find the beef ’n’ latkas under “specials.”

The concept is pretty simple: The folks at Sherman’s take either the corned-beef or pastrami sandwich, your choice (we choose pastrami), and swap out the bread in favor of potato pancakes. But the change this simple swap makes to the flavor and mouth feel of this sandwich is out of this world. The earthiness of the potatoes melds perfectly with the saltiness of the pastrami; the outer crunch and soft interior of the latkas contrasts nicely with the subtle stringiness of the meat.

There’s only one problem, though (unless you’re a cardiologist, in which case this sandwich offers multiple problems): The latkas arrive at the table hot, and cool down much more slowly than the pastrami does. Therefore, we endorse eating this sandwich with a fork.

Perhaps that’s why this sandwich is not listed under “sandwiches.” But no matter where the beef ’n’ latkas are listed, this is one big plate o’ food worth ordering.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

A new Asian restaurant has started serving a selection of Chinese, Thai and Japanese food out of a spot on Palm Canyon Drive.

Jane Zou, manager of the new Asian Bistro at 362 S. Palm Canyon Drive, says the restaurant opened Tuesday, Jan. 1. Zou says the owners of Asian Bistro formerly ran a restaurant in Indiana called Exotic Thai, but this is their first restaurant in the Palm Springs area.

The restaurant encompasses the cuisine of several countries, so it stands to reason that the menu is somewhat lengthy. There’s a little of just about everything in there—Thai beef jerky, noodle dishes, traditional dumplings and so much more—with attention paid to well-known dishes and seldom-seen items alike.

In the sushi category, Asian Bistro offers traditional and specialty rolls. Zou says the Indiana roll made with spicy salmon, eel, avocado, crab and cream cheese has been one of her top sellers thus far.

The restaurant also offers boba tea—a beverage served with gelatinous edible pebbles bobbling around in it—as well as hot tea and a number of smoothies.

Prices fall in the $10 to $15 range, but a huge assortment of lunch specials are also available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., weekdays, for around $8.

Asian Bistro offers dine in and carry out, and the restaurant does catering, too. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

Call 322-9998, or visit asianbistroca.com for more information.

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Published in Restaurant & Food News

With a menu of traditional Latin America-inspired fare and an interior filled with colorful Mexican folk art, one of Palm Springs’ newest restaurants strives to offer a dining experience that’s as vibrant and authentic as the artist it’s named after.

Casa de Frida, which takes its name from well-known Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, deals largely in homemade dishes from regions across Mexico, but there’s cuisine from Cuba, Venezuelan and other countries to be had as well. One dish is even described as "a Latino version of the French classic beef bourguignon."

The restaurant itself is somewhat of a shrine to Mexican art, with hand-painted tiles adorning many surfaces. Visitors are greeted at the entrance by a large papier-mache skeleton straight out of a traditional Day of the Dead celebration. Wooden masks, a huge stylized glass portrait of Frida Kahlo and other decorations complete the south-of-the-border vibe.

The food, however, is a far cry from what many diners think of when Mexican food comes to mind. There are no chimichangas covered in cheese and red sauce, nor are there quesadillas. At Casa de Frida, the focus is on dishes with items like rich mole sauce, or chile en nogado, a dish that hails from the city of Puebla and features pasilla chiles, walnut-cream sauce and pomegranate seeds.

"What we do here is a combination of recipes that my grandmother and my mother and basically all the women in my family have been making for years," says chef and part-owner Victoriano Rodriguez, who is originally from Sinaloa, Mexico. "Because of our heritage—French, Mexican and Spanish Castilian—the dishes are both traditional and, at times, unique."

Other dishes like tortilla soup, ceviche, enchiladas and several salads and starters are also available, as is a full bar and a medium-sized, yet ample, wine list.

Chef Rodriquez says the menu will change every three months and that he will be bringing in dishes from Peru, Brazil and other Central and South American countries.

"We’re trying to give American diners a chance to see how we really eat in Mexico," said Rodriguez. "We aren’t a restaurant with piñatas or tequila shots and beer signs. We try to be a little more gourmet and a little more aristocratic, without being pricey."

Casa de Frida, located at 450 S. Palm Canyon Drive, also has a weekday happy hour with drink specials and $6 small plates. Brunch is available on Sundays. For more information, call 459-1681, or visit www.casadefrida.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: Gypsy veal schnitzel

Where: Johannes Restaurant, 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $25

Contact info: 778-0017; http://www.johannesrestaurants.com/

Why: Because of the variety and intensity of flavor.

Johannes, located just a wee bit off the beaten path in downtown Palm Springs, offers a variety of Continental cuisine, especially Austrian/Viennese favorites—and while the restaurant celebrates its 13th anniversary, included is an entire menu of schnitzels (mostly made with veal, of course, but some made with organic chicken).

While the schnitzels offer a variety of ingredients and, therefore, flavors, the gypsy is the one that has the most flavor. On top of the nicely crunchy schnitzel is a flavorful green peppercorn-brandy sauce, capers, baby pickles, onions and roasted fingerling potatoes. This is not a dish for people who like nuance; this is a dish for people who like a full-throttle taste-buds assault.

The mix of intense flavors makes this dish a real winner. All dishes come with a ewer of yogurt with dill and cucumber, which makes a nice contrast to the schnitzel.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The fish tacos (Baja fried or grilled)

Where: Shanghai Reds, inside of Fisherman's Market and Grill, 235 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $3.95, or $2.95 during late-night happy hour (8 p.m. to close)

Contact info: 322-9293; www.fishermans.com/shanghaireds.php

Why: Because of the tortilla. Trust us.

These tacos aren't exactly a secret around these parts--they're perennial honorees in the Desert Magazine Best of the Valley competition (not that you should necessarily value such honors all that much)--but we're surprised at how many valley residents don't know about the delights at Shanghai Reds, the bar/casual area tucked behind Fisherman's (which also has a location in La Quinta).

The taco's ingredients are not that unusual: The taco includes white fish, topped with pico de gallo, shredded cabbage, citrus and a tasty white sauce. What makes these fish tacos special is the wrapping--namely, the tortilla. It's a thick corn variety that spends a moment or three on the grill before meeting its contents, and that maize/char/yummy flavor ties the whole package together.

Somewhere along the line, far too many Americans settled for tortillas that are mere packaging--flavorless vessels to deliver flavor to one's mouth. Shanghai Reds reminds us that it's not supposed to be that way--and proves that a good tortilla can make oh so much difference.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

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