Guided by a myriad of experienced individuals including owners Anderson Pugash (Bergerac), Bruce McDonald (Bergerac, Foreign Cinema) and Benson Wang, consultant chef Gayle Pirie (Foreign Cinema), and chef Lea Walker (Foreign Cinema), the Caribbean themed Palm House restaurant opened late May in the city’s Cow Hollow neighborhood. During the months leading up to opening day, the owners were promising a tropical inspired restaurant with a fun atmosphere and healthy affordable menu. More than two months later, we visited the new establishment to sample the offerings and understand whether the restaurant has delivered on the owners’ promises.
Exterior, Interior, And Ambiance
The interior is arranged as a series of rooms that eventually lead to the kitchen and a private dining space. The bar and main eating area is situated in the middle room and is richly appointed with rustic wood floors, bright white walls, skylights, and a multitude of windows, that is reminiscent of an old Caribbean estate. Despite occasional bursts of laughter from other tables, the atmosphere and sound levels on a Tuesday night were overall mellow.
Trinidad Cocktail (angostura 7 year rum, dry vermouth, orange bitters, Angostura bitters) – 11
Palm House Slushy (passion fruit flavored topped with Kraken Dark Rum) – 13.75
Coconut Gulf Prawns (hot mustard) – 13
Jamaican Jerk Roast Chicken (papas pelayo, Haitian ti-malice sauce, mango chutney) – 19
West Indian Jerk Grilled Mahi Mahi (okra-tomato saute, basmati rice) – 23
Ginger Cake (Caribbean Spiced Cream, Kaffir Lime Leaf) – 8
With its outside porch, naturally lit interior, bar, and tropical themed cuisine, the Palm House is well placed for its area and has all the right elements for success. But ambiance, placement, and ideas are not enough to win over San Francisco’s picky residents and encourage repeat customers. Passion, attention to detail, and an accurate representation of the targeted cuisine is also necessary. Authentic Caribbean food is all about simplicity, ingredient freshness, and a deep understanding of preparation and cooking techniques. Unfortunately, these qualities were missing from our dining experience as the chicken was improperly jerked, the sauté tasted canned, the slushy drink hinted to juice concentrated origins, and our dessert tasted dense and slightly stale. With a final bill north of $100, we felt the dining experience was not worth the expense.