Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Charlie Palmer Steak - Reno

I spent the New Years weekend in Reno at the Grand Sierra Resort this year with Tori and her family. We had a really great time and one of the highlights of the trip was the Reserve Wine Bar and an excellent dinner at the Charlie Palmer Steak. Charlie Palmer has been on the American cooking scene since the 80's creating what he calls "Progressive American Cuisine". At Charlie Palmer Steak we enjoyed just that: both classic and not so classic steak house fare with a refined finesse. Charlie is well known throughout the Hospitality industry for both his creativity in the kitchen as well as his evident business acumen. It was an exciting privilege to get to dine at one of his establishments and familiarize myself with his style.

Before dinner we spent sometime at the Reserve wine bar. This is one of the coolest wine bar concepts I have seen, I really wish there was one in the area. The Enomatic system stores the wines in a sealed temp controlled dispensing system that let's you choose 1, 3, or 5 oz's at a time and tallies your charges on a card that you insert in the machine. Because the bottles are sealed with the distribution pumps so that air can't get in they are able to open over 80 bottles for sampling and not be concerned they will go bad in a few days. We had such a great time sampling many varieties! Most 1 oz pours are between $1.50- $3 so you can get a great flight for under $15. There was a lot of variety although I did notice that the bulk were easily recognizable "high end" labels. Hopefully this set up will be a new trend in the wine industry and we can enjoy something similar in the Bay Area!

Once we were done at the wine bar we headed over to our reservation at the restaurant. The decor felt current and comfortable, while we were seated at a regular table I admired the crescent shaped booths in set into the wall space with dark red leather going all the way up to the top. Large modern sculptures hung from the ceiling and the lighting was warm and intimate. We enjoyed a team wait staff of a gentleman and a younger woman both whom were very friendly and had an easy conversational style to their service. This can sometimes be hard to come upon in a white table cloth establishment like this one and it was really nice and put us all at ease. We started with one of their signature cocktails a "Strawberry Belletini" a strawberry cocktail with the essence of a Bellini in a martini format. I also couldn't resist ordering a half dozen oysters which they served with your classic cocktail sauce, horseradish, and a house made apple mignonette (that was my favorite! not too tart and a little sweet such a compliment to the briny oysters)
We were also brought a bread basket with so many tasty choices that I ended up having 3 different pieces (this would later be my downfall). I first tried a sweet onion pinwheel which was flaky and flavorful, then a jalapeno corn bread muffin, and lastly a piece of baguette (just out of curiosity... and foolishness). When it came time to order we all agreed that sharing the side dishes is the best way to go at steak houses. We chose some classics- creamed spinach, potatoes au gratin, & asparagus.
The asparagus spears were nice and fat, trimmed and shaved. They were dressed lightly with Bearnaise sauce and cooked to a nice al dente texture. The creamed spinach had a good thick creamy texture and great flavor although it was almost too salty for me. The potatoes also had a great texture and the cheeses integrated well not separating or taking on a weird consistency that au gratin potatoes sometimes can.
Both of the girls chose steaks for their entree. Fiona had the Filet with shallot reduction that was served with Charlie Palmer's signature steak sauce (sweet with a little bit of mango), an Argentinian Chimichurri (and olive oil based sauce similar to a pesto but with parsley, garlic, oregano, red or white wine vinegar, lemon, and other seasonings), & the Bearnaise. The table favorite was the chimichurri and the steak was excellently cooked perfectly medium and tender. After my bite I wished I had chosen steak!
The Filet was topped with a Red Wine Shallot Reduction
I wanted to give the table some diversity so I made a game time decision and went with the Pheasant Breast served with a butternut squash risotto and a rosemary red wine reduction.

Pheasant is a gamier poultry but I really enjoyed the new experience. The skin was nicely crisped and the sweet reduction really added to the flavor. The meat was maybe a little tougher than I would have liked but I still enjoyed quite a bit of it as well as the risotto. It had a good creamy texture and the squash blended well adding flavor but almost matching the texture of the rice grains. It was also served with a hand made pheasant sausage that I found myself enjoying even more than the breast piece. Well seasoned, the meat had a texture similar to something that had been slow cook and pulled (which I love) it was stronger in the gamey aspect than the breast but I enjoyed the full flavor.

Tori's steak was the special that evening, a large filet topped with crab meat and a subtle roquefort cheese. The flavor was incredible although she likes her steak a little more done than I prefer. The plate was dressed with the rich and bright Bearnaise sauce as well as a reduction. So much about this dish felt decadent combining so many delicious classic elements.

When it came to dessert we decided to share two selections- the special of the evening the "Salted Caramel Bombe" and the duo of creme brulees in classic vanilla and cappuccino flavors. As you can see both dishes had lovely presentation. The Bombe consisted of a thin layers of soft spongy cake with a cream Carmel filling all encased in a layer of chocolate ganache and sprinkled with sea salt. It was served with two bruleed banana slices, a banana sorbet, and decorative caramelized sugar. While not exactly what I anticipated when I heard "salted caramel" this was still delicious and beautiful. The creme brulee's were were excellent but so rich I could only manage a few bites! Then came the surprise...
The complimentary sweets at the end of our meal. Mini coconut macaroons, Chocolate Truffles, Candied Walnuts and Biscotti. By this point I was on the brink of bursting and could only taste 1 little macaroon but everything seemed delicious.

We had such an enjoyable time at Charlie Palmer Steak. It really was the capstone to a fantastic trip. Even though for the rest of the night I thought I might die because I was too full I would definitely suggest checking out any of his many locations and concepts if you want to treat yourself to a fun fine dining experience.


  1. I love the bar idea...Come on bay area get with it!

  2. I know isn't it cool! there are some bay area wine bars that use the system but behind the bar, I liked the self serve concept where you can mix and match without having to ask a server