[Palo Alto] Protégé

Protégé is the most hyped restaurant that has opened in the Peninsula and Silicon Valley this year because of its French Laundry connection. Run by alums Anthony Secviar and Master Sommelier Dennis Kelly, Protégé got many press mentions months before the restaurant even started construction. I had a meal at their lounge. I had:

The ricotta dumpling: Three ricotta dumplings with some beech mushrooom and English peas. Thought the ricotta balls were ok though the buttery sauce helped liven things up.


The short rib pithivier- essentially a good looking pastry/ pie with short ribs in it. It reminded me of the chicken pie from the streets of Hong Kong but with more generous quantity of better quality meat. The short rib was a tad oversalted, though tender and delicious. I am of the opinion that once a restaurant reaches a certain caliber, salt should be used in a restrained manner- i.e. just enough. Because of that, it somewhat overwhelmed the relatively bland blanched? asparagus and tokyo turnips. The pickled onion brightened the palate. The sauce, not sure what that was, was flavorful.

I am not a big fan of ‘fig on a plate’ style of cooking, unless the cooking truly highlights the superiority of top, top produce. In this case, the asparagus was fine, juicy, tender, but, bland. The asparagus I get every Sunday from a vendor at the farmers market a block away on Cal Ave, tastes much more complex and sweet, and was (and maybe still is) used by Baume across the street. The tokyo turnips were very tender, juicy, and sweet. But I didn’t see the point of the asparagus and turnips being on the plate since there were no obvious synergies between them and the pithivier, other than an obligation to put some sides on the plate with this being a $33 dish, and to add some color to the dish.

The captain then brought the dessert cart. Canale at the top, apple pie, chocolate pie and two cookies were the other choices. I opted for the chocolate pie.

The chocolate pie came with strawberry flavored pieces on top of some cream and the pie. The chocolate used was 68% Tcho. It was one heavy dessert. That was the dish that finally filled me up. The chocolate was okay.

Had a glass of 2015 Arietta Quartet from Napa with the pithivier. Wine lovers should have a good time with Kelly in the house.

The restaurant was run like a high end place with lots of servers buzzing around and lots of cooks in the kitchen. The food was priced farily high, though not any higher than other Palo Alto restaurants with similar level of decor. It paid for the rent and service. The PR material suggested a ‘casual fine dining’ concept. The lounge was decorated with a modern and sleek decor, and a few people dressed pretty casually including myself, though I had a jacket on. Most people though, dressed at least in smart casual in the lounge. I thought the dishes I ordered was a tad simple to be considered fine dining. When the chef announced an order, every one replied with an enthusiastic oui in perfect unison. I sat amused.

My first two dishes felt more typical ‘Palo Alto’- space is more attractive than the food. I am interested in hearing about others’ impression about Protege and preferred dishes on the menu.

Hmmph. Protege gained a star. It seems like I am the only one who wasn’t enthusiastic.

Any other experiences?