Friday, May 28, 2010

Melvyn's Palm Springs

If you have ever wondered what old Palm Springs was like back in the days when Sinatra and Bing were running around, Then you have to experience the very old school restaurant called Melvyn's at the Ingleside Inn. this place is virtually the last hold out of a dying dining art form. Here is a place where waiters wear white tuxedo jackets in the day and black ones at night. The land of crumb combs and exquisitely attentive service. I can't stand going to pseudo trendy eating establishments where the wait staff is more concerned with their "hipster" appearance and the chef is the star. At Melvyn's it's done the right way. The customer is the star and you are truly treated like one. From the time you are greeted at the door to the time you are bade a kind thank you and have a good day. Most trendy eateries today forget that we, the people are the stars and not your wait staff or your tre chic establishment it is we the customer who come to give you money, so we should be treated like stars and not second class citizens. I find it really crass that there are so many eateries around town where you don't even get a "good evening", just a hostess who looks at you and says "how many?" and rarely a "thank you" on your way out. Customer service in the restaurant business today is at its all time low.
The decor of Melvyn's I don't think has changed since the 1970's, it's a time warp of plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling to plaster Roman pillars. But it's just so cool in it's own little dimension a little corner of the culinary universe that time has just forgotten.
The history of Melvyn's or more specifically the Ingleside Inn where Melvyn's resides is that it was once a very exclusive boutique hotel where the owner, Ruth Hardy ran it with a who's who only, iron fist, you didn't call for reservations the hotel virtually would call you. You had to be invited and if you did call and you didn't measure up to Ruth Hardy's standards you were just told that there was "no room at the Inn".
The small restaurant was for guests only and not open to the public. Everyone from Salvador Dali to Howard Hughes stayed at this place. Can you imagine being at the bar having a drink with Dali and Hughes? Hello Dali!

This woman virtually started to change this desert town on her own from a drive through little town to a destination of the stars and power brokers.
Ruth Hardy passed on in 1965 and unfortunately the Inn fell into disrepair. It's glory days behind her now and she would soon be gone if not for the next owner, a Mr. Melvyn Habar, who bought the place in April 1975.
I know I'm drolling on about the history of this place, but I find it fascinating, especially the history of a town like Palm Springs. Where the ghosts of the past still linger on in establishments such as this.
Melvyn Habar was from New York on a vacation out to the area. He made his money and tons of it selling "automobile novelties". From dashboard hula dancers to car fresheners. He was a perfect candidate to rehab the Inn and a true working mans rags to riches story.

He opened it up to the public, both the Inn and the restaurant, naming it of course after himself. The place has impeccable service from the valet, whom, by the way is not a pimply faced 17 year with that "whatever" look on his face. these guys older and were pro's.There is something to be said for those who choose to be professional service people. I mean I find it a refreshing thing of beauty for a man to have an entire career out of being a waiter. In today's world we are inundated with images and opinions of what we should do and be in our lives. The professional waiter is definitely a dying art form. There is true beauty in the movements and customs of a true professional waiter. Like watching a Japanese tea master at work where every move has taken years to perfect. such is the level of discipline the waiters here have achieved. They are never more than 6 feet away from you at any time. waiting for the chance to fill your glass with more wine or water.
This is an art that is truly dead in most cities as the trendy snot nosed 20 somethings with piercings in their ears the size of bus exhaust pipes yawn and look at their Chinese made "nixon" watches waiting for their guaranteed 18% gratuity, while doing nothing. sad state indeed. It's just never a complete restaurant if the foods good and the wait staff sucks.

The menu is pure shagadelic sophisticato. It is old school rich and hasn't changed for years. and that's OK, I mean a place like this should never change. It's a legend and it should remain legendary.
 Celebrity sightings are kitschy yes, But it shows the level of service this place has. and everyone is treated like Ol Blue eyes here. It was Sunday and it was brunch time. I'm not a brunch person at all. I don't care for food in chaffing trays, piled up  under heat lamps. None of that here. all off the menu and of course the champagne flows free-ly as well. The champagne might say Melvyn's on the bottle but at one point I believe it belonged to Andre. Ok, My only complaint.

Now the bloody Mary's on the other hand were perfect.

It had a pickled green bean in it that was just amazing! I have never had a bloody Mary with this garnish. Nice and spicy. The bread basket came next and it was filled with very light and flaky croissant's and and what seemed like a blueberry scone of some sort. but I have to tell you that it was so light and airy more like a biscuit than scone.

I'm not a sweet guy in the morning, in more ways than one, but this blueberry thingy was perfect. I could have eaten ten of them like a blueberry scone chipper shredder.
I spied on the menu Pate Masion $9.50. I love Pate  and this was house made. So we had to order it. It was probably one of the finest Pate's I have ever had. My compliments to the chef. It was so satiny and smooth. With a perfect texture and slight gameness with what seemed like a splash of sherry in it as well. The perfect breakfast next time will be just this dish and the free champagne and you are set for the day and will be very happy.

On the plate were various fruits, cornichons and capers. Some house made mayonnaise and a dollop of house made Jalapeno jelly. OMG. I could have heated a spoonful of this jelly up, tied a napkin around my arm tapped a vein and mainlined it right there in the dining room. It was perfect and went exquisitely with the sublime Pate.

Served with toast points. Heaven. I can assure you that the picture below was unintentional. But it turned out to be very funny. Goofy sculpture in Pate.
I could have just eaten this and been very happy. Next we ordered the Steak Venetian $21.00. It's a take off of the classic Eggs Benedict. This one comes with medallions of filet Mignon poached eggs and Bearnaise sauce on toasted English muffins.

Sometimes it's tough for a restaurant to get poached eggs right. these were perfect 3 minute eggs. The steak was grilled and cut like butter. when you poked the egg the dish came together as the creamy egg yolks mixed with the Bearnaise and was soaked up by the various nooks and crannies of the English muffin.

I ordered the Melvyn's Famous Cobb Salad $19.50. Now the Cobb salad was introduced at the legendary Brown Derby in Los Angeles in 1937, And made by the owner Robert Cobb, Cousin of Ty Cobb. And has a similar story on how it came to be, like the Buffalo Wing. on a whim as a late night snack for a customer. Only this one was made for Sid Grauman, who owned Grauman's Chinese Theater. It was a hit. And after that night it became a staple at the Brown Derby and caught on at every sophisticated hot spot. It was made and served table side. Virtually no one serves it table side anymore. Like the Caesar Salad and Fettuccine Alfredo. the table side service of these classics has gone the way of the dodo long ago. All were made at your table. But in the land of Chili's and Applebee's. They have become as dull and sad as Maury saying Moisha he is not the father.
But wait! Can it be that Melvyn's being that old school tuxedo wearing eatery of the glitterati would uphold the pomp and pageantry of this dish? Why yes of course. I was so pleasantly surprised when the waiter strolled up with his Cobb salad making cart and started to make it for us.

It was like watching an artist in his prime. it was pure theater. it was so elegant and perfect.

Every step choreographed and honed the way only a professional doing it for years of dedicated service can  attain.

There are many variations for the dressings used to bind this salad together. The original used a concoction of red wine vinegar and dried mustard. The one at Melvyn's seemed to have a very light and tangy Blue cheese dressing. it was very good. I think I would have said it was very good even if it was bad. Just because of the way it was made. It's the way dining used to be when the stars were everywhere in Palm Springs. this is a place that makes you feel like you are truly the guest of honor, even if your a nobody, like me. just a schmo looking for a snack on a Sunday morning to begin the day.

The dress is always casual in Palm Springs so no worries on what to wear, even here. At night if your under dressed for the festivities, no one will whisper a word and you will be treated like a star all night. This is the twilight zone of eateries in the area. And it's a must if you go to Palm Springs. Even just for the Pate Maison and a bloody marry, you'll be fine.

I love the Palm Springs area and this place is pure palm Springs. From the fountain out front to the OG pool and ammenities. it's a treasure in the desert.

Melvyn's at the Ingleside Inn
200 West Ramon Road
Palm Springs, CA 92264-7333
(760) 325-2323


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