It's not very often that I travel to Cow Hollow. The main street is too rowdy and busy for my cup of tea. However, I do visit the area for one reason - to explore the plethora of cafes and restaurants in the area.
Housed in the original 1854 dairy farm where Cow Hollow derives its name and situated behind the second oldest palm tree in San Francisco is Palm House, a restaurant focused on the flavors of Cuba, Hawaii, Brazil and the Caribbean.
Palm House is led by an impressive team of restaurateurs: Bruce McDonald (Bergerac, Foreign Cinema), Benson Wang and Gayle Pirie (Foreign Cinema). They recently made an exciting announcement that Chris Ricketts, formerly of The Tipsy Pig, has joined the team as Palm House's executive chef.
I was invited as a guest for dinner and invited my food loving friend, Maile, along with me. The overall experience was wonderful and we couldn't be more satisfied with the food and cocktails. It has changed the way I view food from the tropics and I left wondering why I never heard about this place before.
While there are many themed restaurants in San Francisco, you won't come close to finding any place like Palm House. A walk inside and I was instantly transported to a quirky tropical world filled with Caribbean plants and LED-lit vintage birdcages hanging from the 35-foot ceiling.
Maile and I began with two lovely cocktails. I had the Chipotle Mango Margarita ($11) that's made with chipotle infused tequila, mango, lime, and agave.
Maile ordered the Pina Colada ($11) made with white rum, coconut puree, pineapple gomme, and lime. I am hooked - it's one of the best pina coladas that I've ever had. I'd go back to Palm House for the pina coladas alone.
Salmon Lomi Lomi with Taro Chips ($14)
The lomi-lomi is a Hawaiian side dish that's essentially a beautiful mix of marbled raw salmon, pineapples, tomatoes, sweet onions, and serranos.
Coconut Crusted Prawns ($13)
I don't usually order coconut shrimp at a restaurant because, often times, the shrimps are lifeless and the taste of coconut is non-existent. The coconut prawns served at Palm House are perfectly fried, jumbo-sized and chock full of shredded coconut that you can taste in each bite.
Red Striped Steamed Mussels ($10)
It takes effort to eat mussels and frites, but it's worth it here for a bite of these prized tender and briny red striped mussels. The fun part is mopping up the delectable sauce that's swimming with chorizo. If you haven't had red striped mussels before, this is the place to go - it's life changing.
Macadamia Crusted Mac & Cheese ($6)
The way to my heart is this wonderful macadamia nut crusted mac & cheese. It's cheesy, a lil nutty, and rich.
Free Range Jerk Chicken ($19)
The jerk chicken is served with black eyed pea ragout, braised collard greens over a jerk jus. The wonderfully fragrant allspice gets my taste buds excited. This is a jerk chicken lover's dream come true. The chicken is packed with bold flavors and a good amount of heat. It's juicy, nicely balanced in flavor with enough acidity to tone the heat down a notch. If you're not a fan of spicy foods, I suggest steering away.
Grilled Hawaiian Walu ($25)
Walu, also known as butterfish, is a buttery fish that's hard to resist. The grill on this is beautiful, turning the fish into a paper white color. It sits on top of a harmonious mix of sugar snap peas, wild rice, mint, and a curried sesame salsita. The flavors are subtle and the fish is delicate and sweet with a buttery flavor.
Sweet Plantains with Queso Fresco ($5.50)
The plantains are so sweet and caramelized that it will put you into a delightful coma.
Key Lime Pie w/Graham Cracker Crumble and Prickly Pear Compote ($9)
I had some amazing key lime pie when I went to visit Florida last year. Palm House's elegantly presented pie is wickedly good and transports me to the (very few) good memories I have of Florida. The pie is served with crumbles of graham cracker crust, instead of the traditional crust. The filling is sweet, tart, creamy and smooth, almost like a cheesecake.
From the relaxed atmosphere to the delicious food and cocktails, Palm House gets two thumbs up from me. It's quite a popular place that fills up around 6:30 pm on a standard weekday, so I would highly suggest getting there early to take advantage of happy hour and to snag a table (or make reservations online). The happy hour menu is pretty sweet and worth checking out.
Thank you so much for a lovely dinner, Palm House!
Visiting Palm House
2032 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123
- Monday - Thursday: 11:00 am to 9:00 pm
- Friday - Saturday: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
- Sunday: 10:30 am to 9:00 pm
The restaurant has 130 seats including at the bar and on the patio. Its private dining space, called the Captain's Quarters, can accommodate 12 guests.