I’m not a steak snob or a meathead, as my wife, Sybil, would call a beef aficionado, but when the venerable old Palm recently opened a franchise in Atlantic City, I was skeptical. After all, the original Palm, established at 837 Second Avenue in Manhattan in 1926, had long resisted opening a branch. In 1974, the Palm Too debuted on the east side of the avenue, and over the years I’ve eaten at least a dozen times at those two restaurants, happily indulging in perfectly charred steaks and scary-large lobsters and reveling in the cramped, clubby atmosphere.
But I and other Palm patrons no longer belong to an exclusive club. Thirty Palms now exist, the A.C. outpost opening in early 2005. And as I feared, it does feel like it’s in a mall, with its big, dark-wood bar with multiple flat-screen TVs and loud, wide-open dining room whose ambience doesn’t come close to that of the flagship restaurant.
But enough about history and appearances. Ultimately, the super-attentive staff and superb steaks more than compensate for the ersatz atmosphere and minor menu missteps. It’s the meat that really matters, and on that count this Palm does the name proud. Perfectly cooked cuts—a 28-ounce porterhouse ($52), 24-ounce rib-eye ($37.50), and 18-ounce sirloin ($36.50)—are presented crisp on the outside and red and tender on the inside, as requested. I’ve heard that certain other well-known steakhouses doctor their meat with butter or other flavor enhancers, but the Palm’s meat is unadulterated, a straight, tasty shot of dry-aged bovine beauty. I also successfully stray from the steak path, enjoying a sweet, tender lobster—a five pounder!—and crab cakes made of succulent chunks of crabmeat and little else.
Outside the main courses, I fare worse. I have to send back sides of creamed spinach and mashed potatoes for re-heating, and the Gigi salad (green beans, tomatoes, onions, and shrimp in vinaigrette) is bland.
The extensive wine list features primarily California labels and offers bottles for high-rollers and quarter-slot players alike. One evening we enjoy a rich Liberty School Cabernet for a reasonable $36 and on another splurge on a rare Merryvale Becksstoffer Vineyard X Cabernet for $133. When you win a few bucks at the tables, why not?
The Palm is almost as famous for its massive desserts—cheesecake, crème brûlée, tiramisù, and the like—as it is for its steaks. Sybil and I could use three friends to help us finish the chocolate layer cake, but we do our best to demolish it on our own.
Reviewed in: March 2006Click here to leave a comment