Review: Ambitious Palm 78 doesn’t quite reach expectations

Credit: Palm 78

Credit: Palm 78

It’s tempting to say Palm 78 is ambitious, but that description is complicated.

The upscale restaurant, which opened in Alpharetta in August, is a self-described step up for chef-owner Leno Joseph, who previously opened four metro area locations of his first restaurant, Spice House.

The menu and atmosphere at Palm 78 say fine dining and, if you weren’t sure, the prices confirm it. But, those relatively high prices also raise expectations.

Many aspects of the restaurant satisfy those expectations, especially the cooking. However, the more expensive a restaurant, the more the small details matter.

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

For example, every cocktail on the menu is $15. Many of the boozy, tropically sweet but well-balanced drinks from Beverage Director Chantana Adams are absolutely worth it, but others felt too basic to command that price.

A striking green cocktail called the Palm, made with two different types of rum, pineapple liqueur and blue curaçao liqueur, highlighted the many ways pineapple and alcohol complement one another. On the other hand, the Out of Office, another visually beautiful cocktail that featured purple Empress gin, grapefruit juice and soda, was not a bad drink, but it didn’t seem worth $15.

The cocktail menu could be improved simply by using varying prices that reflect the creativity, labor and ingredients required to make the drinks.

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

The décor and cocktails at Palm 78 are Caribbean-themed, but the menu doesn’t really follow through on that, although the whole snapper, and the pina colada cheesecake and rum cake desserts, are somewhat Caribbean.

There clearly are some talented cooks in the kitchen. Standouts among the appetizers included an excellent kale Caesar salad and a creative vegetarian “ceviche,” made with hearts of palm.

The lamb chops, a relatively good value at $40, were large and cooked to a perfect medium rare. My dining partner’s well-done seared salmon came out with no pink showing at the center, and was juicy and tender.

One of the best dishes was the whole snapper for two, presented on yellow rice with scallops, shrimp and mussels. The gorgeous snapper was tender and mild, and the enormous portion of rice was rich and decadent. The scallops and shrimp nestled around the snapper were a touch overcooked, but they tasted excellent. The mussels that were supposed to be included with the whole snapper showed up at our table a few moments later. They also were overcooked, but we were too busy enjoying the spectacular fish to care.

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

It’s tough to fault a kitchen that cooks its most important dishes so beautifully, but, when entrees regularly approach $40-$50, you expect a bit more refinement. A 10-ounce rib-eye, also beautifully cooked, was just as tender as the lamb, but could have used a bit more aggressive seasoning.

The plating of these expensive dishes tended to be sloppy. The $49 rib-eye was slapped on top of a mound of Parmesan fries, the hot steak instantly making the fries go limp. The lamb chops, delicious as they were, had not been trimmed, and were a variety of sizes. Beef carpaccio was served under a mound of arugula and, strangely, with toast. The carpaccio was good, but the portion felt scant for $18. While not badly plated, the unexciting salmon croquettes were not worth $4 apiece.

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

Pricing is a difficult balancing act for any restaurant, but Palm 78 too often feels overpriced, despite some real flashes of talent. While it would be simple enough to drop prices a bit, the restaurant shows enough promise that it could earn those extra dollars from its customers with a bit more attention to detail.


Food: upscale steaks, chops and seafood

Service: excellent, polished, professional

Best dishes: whole snapper for two, lamb chops, seared salmon, short ribs, hearts of palm “ceviche”

Vegetarian dishes: veggie egg roll, hearts of palm ceviche, mushroom caprese, mixed green salad, roasted cauliflower, all side dishes

Alcohol: full bar

Price range: $$$$

Hours: 4-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 4-9 p.m. Sundays

Parking: free in lot

MARTA station: none

Reservations: yes

Outdoor dining: yes

Takeout: yes

Address, phone: 5325 Windward Parkway, Alpharetta. 678-395-5326


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