I have a dilemma. I want to write about all my food experiences as honestly as possible, but what do you do when a good friend treats you to a dinner out and it’s awful?

I guess you write about it. Maybe I’ll just leave out names and details to protect the innocent. That, and hope he doesn’t read my blog for the next few weeks…

My friend and I did some work for RUI a while back and they gave him a gift card as a thank you. He wanted to use it, so he asked me to join him for dinner at Palomino. I was really excited to see him, but I wasn’t as excited about the restaurant.

Palomino has always seemed schizophrenic to me. The decor is trying to be upscale, but it’s located in a shopping mall (granted Barney’s of New York is in same building, but it’s still a shopping mall) and the menu is all over the map in price range and style. So you can get deep fried poppers for $6 or a filet mignon for $32.

I think that our problem may have been in what we ordered. It seems like the best thing to order in places like this are the plain, non-fancy things, like the pizza or cheese fries. We decided to order more ‘upscale’ and ‘healthy’ things; the mushroom salad, crab & artichoke dip, rotisserie chicken and Dungeness crab stuffed prawns.

The mushroom salad was good, but certainly not healthy; it was the richest salad I’ve ever eaten. It was a warm salad with hedgehog mushrooms in a rich, gravy-like sauce over a smattering of leaves with cheese piled on top. The crap appetizer was probably my favorite—but then again I’ve never met a crab dip that I didn’t like. Which is weird because I have VERY strong feelings against cream cheese in dips, but I guess that’s what actually makes them good. The dip was appropriately cheesy and gooey and served with pizza chips that desperately needed salt.

My chicken was rotisseried to death and stuffed with a strange filling that was not what I pictured when I ordered it. The menu said something about ‘pancetta’, so I figured “How could I go wrong?”. I guess you can’t go wrong if it actually is pancetta, but I think the kitchen is using that term loosely.

The best thing I can say about my friends stuffed prawns is that they tasted like something you’d get at Skipper’s. When he offered me a bite I had a flash back of visiting my aunt when I was a kid and her taking us out for a ‘special treat’ at Skipper’s. I guess even back then I was a food snob.

So, when the bill came to over $100, I was a little surprised. If I was going to spend that much on a dinner for two, I know of about a hundred other places I’d go first. What I couldn’t figure out was why the restaurant was absolutely packed—just like the Cheesecake Factory.

Are the Cheesecake Factories of the world putting the Cassis’s of the world out of business? Or maybe this only happens in the states…

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