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Sun11172019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Owner of 533 Viet Fusion to Open Roly China Fusion in Former Alebrije Space

One of downtown Palm Springs’ best restaurants is no more—but a veteran restaurateur is going to take over that restaurant’s space and hopefully fill a culinary need.

Here’s how it all went down: Alebrije Bistro Mexico, at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, closed in early July. The Mexico City-style upscale restaurant announced on Facebook: “Dear amigos, Alebrije will be closed for the rest of the summer. See you again in September!”

Within a couple of weeks, however, it became apparent that Alebrije would not be seeing us again in September—because Chad Gardner, the owner of both 533 Viet Fusion and Dash and a Handful Catering, announced on Facebook that he’d be opening Roly China Fusion in the space that had been Alebrije’s home.

A July 28 announcement on Facebook said Roly will be “serving authentic Cantonese and Sichuan Chinese Cuisine with (Gardner’s) own modern twists. Roly China Fusion will offer an exceptional social and traditional dining experiences in our indoor-outdoor lounge and restaurant.”

What does all of this mean? First: The closure of Alebrije is truly a loss. For my money, it served some of the most sophisticated food and drink in the Coachella Valley. The roasted suckling pig was on my unofficial Top 10 list of the valley’s best entrées. It will be missed.

Second: The opening of Roly, which could come as soon as October, will be most welcome. Gardner has been looking for his next restaurant project for a while now; he announced back in 2016 that he’d be opening a Mediterranean restaurant in the much-and-still-delayed Andaz Palm Springs hotel, but those plans fell through. Given his success with 533 Viet Fusion, I am excited to see what he’ll do with Chinese cuisine—and it’s a well-known fact that the western Coachella Valley badly needs some good Chinese fare.

Watch www.rolychinafusion.com and Roly’s Facebook page for updates and more information.


Ace Hotel Launches a Monthly Wine-Tasting Series

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club is holding a monthly poolside wine-tasting series in the months leading up to the second annual Palm Springs Wine Festival.

The Golden Grapes tastings each cost $20, will occur on a weekend day between noon and 5 p.m., and will feature a “curated selection of wineries represent(ing) just a few of the new California vintners who are transforming the landscape of wine in the Golden State and beyond,” according to a press release.

On Sunday, Sept. 29, Nomadica wines will be available; on Sunday, Oct. 13, the featured winemaker will be Amy Atwood Selections. On Saturday, Nov. 9, it’ll be Scribe Wine (Nouveau).

As for the second annual Palm Springs Wine Festival … mark your calendars for Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7 and 8.

The Ace Hotel and Swim club is located at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. For more information, visit www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.


In Brief

New to 72301 Country Club Drive, Suite 110, in Rancho Mirage: The Sandbox Kitchen, a deli/taco joint that opened in early August. For now, the place is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day but Sunday (and Saturday, when it’s open until 9). We’re already hearing raves about the street tacos and the impressive number of vegan/vegetarian options. Call 760-565-6044, or visit facebook.com/TheSandboxKitchen for more information. … New to 360 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs: InKa Peruvian Cuisine. The restaurant wins our Weirdest Facebook “About” Description Award with this: “The InKa came to Palm Springs, brought with him his best dishes with which he will conquer the entire city.” OK then! The expansive menu features a lot of yummy-sounding dishes with meat and seafood, as well as some intriguing vegetarian options. InKa opens at 11 a.m. Monday and Tuesday, and 9 a.m. the other five days of the week; it’s open daily until at least 10 p.m. For more information, call 760-992-5311, or visit www.facebook.com/inkaperuviancuisine. … Acqua California Bistro, at The River (71800 Highway 111) in Rancho Mirage, is now offering a “Buffet Bar” every Sunday through Friday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.: $7.99 will get you a selection of pizzas, pastas, salads, sliced meats and other goodies—and the house chardonnay and cabernet wines are just $4.99. Call 760-862-9800, or visit acquaranchomirage.com for more information. … Coming soon to 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite 130, in downtown Palm Springs: Stout Burgers and Beers. It’ll be the sixth Stout location, joining three other Southern California locations, plus restaurants in Brentwood, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky.; visit www.stoutburgersandbeers.com for more information. … Coming soon to 73040 El Paseo, in Palm Desert: Eddie V’s Prime Seafood. It’s a sister restaurant to The Capital Grille chain; visit www.eddiev.com for the scoop.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Writer/director Petra Haffter first visited Palm Springs in 1981, on a publicity tour for one of her films. She moved to Los Angeles from her native Germany not long after, and she often enjoyed getaways to the desert—even though the area, she says, had lost most of its former Hollywood sheen.

But that turned around—Haffter credits the arrival of gay couples with dual incomes and “great taste”—and a few years ago, she bought a house and moved to the Coachella Valley full-time. She’d planned to move here after retirement—she and her partner continue to commute to Los Angeles for work—but she decided to make the leap in part because of the area’s enthusiasm for high-culture elements like film and architecture, and its commitment to abundant and diverse cuisine.

“First of all, I’m a filmmaker. Second, I’m a foodie,” Haffter said in an interview.

When she moved to the desert full-time, she knew she wanted “to do something for the community, giving back with the experience I have—and the experience I have is filmmaking.”

She set out to develop an event “that includes dinner and a movie, but not as it usually is—connected to a festival or short event.” She found a partner in the Palm Springs Cultural Center, which produces the Certified Farmers’ Markets that operate at three locations across the valley, and happens to occupy the classic Camelot Theatre building, with its three screens and full restaurant and bar.

Thus, Culinary Cinema was born. The monthly series, each pairing dinner by a local chef with a food-related film on the third Wednesday of the month, launches Aug. 21 with the 2014 movie The Hundred-Foot Journey, directed by Lasse Hallström and produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. Helen Mirren stars as proprietor of a Michelin-starred restaurant in a small French village who goes to battle when an Indian family opens a competing establishment across the street.

“It’s one of my favorites of all time,” Haffter said. “It deals with two of the major cuisines of the world, French cuisine and Indian. So I thought it would be a very good entrée, to show that we are embracing diversity, and that we are accepting everyone at our table.”

Following each screening, guests will enjoy a dinner inspired by the accompanying film. The venue for the post-screening dinner will vary; for the inaugural event, the dinner will take place on the Camelot Theatre stage, prepared by Chef Daniel Villanueva of Daniel’s Table.

“I thought for the very first one, it would be great when the film is over, as the curtain is closing, that we have this long table there, and we just can come have a glass of champagne and then walk to the table like we’re a family,” she said.

Family is a recurring theme in the films that have been announced thus far. September’s selection will be the German film Mostly Martha, about a bullheaded chef whose orderly life begins to unravel when her young niece is suddenly placed in her care. Chef Teresa Attardi is known for her authentic family-style Italian food, which guests will enjoy after the screening at her Palm Springs restaurant, Il Giardino.

In October, private chef and recently repatriated Coachella Valley native Amanda Escamilla will bring her farm-to-table approach to Mexican cuisine to accompany the 2001 comedy-drama Tortilla Soup, about three sisters and their aging father, a veteran chef slowly losing his sense of taste.

In November, the Vietnamese film The Scent of the Green Papaya (described in a press release by the Cultural Center as “so placid and filled with sweetness that watching it is like listening to soothing music”) accompanies a dinner by chef Chad Gardner at his restaurant, 533 Viet Fusion.

The international scale of the first four selections speaks to another theme Haffter hopes to infuse into the Culinary Cinema program: travel. After starting out in feature films, Haffter spent the better part of the past decade directing documentaries around the globe—an experience she values while acknowledging that for many people, extensive travel is not possible. But Haffter thinks some elements of foreign cultures can be imported through food.

“What is really original to a country is the taste of it,” she said. “Food means embracing the entire world.”

Tickets to the initial screening are free, and will cost $10 in the following months, while screening-and-dinner packages will cost between $85 and $120. Haffter is grateful for the early support of local businesses—Savory Spice, Hot Purple Energy and Ferguson Bath, Kitchen and Lighting Gallery are sponsors—and hopes that others will follow.

“When local sponsors believe in us and help us, then the price (can) go down, and that would serve the people,” she said.

Haffter said she’s happy the series is beginning in August, generally considered the quietest month of the year in the Coachella Valley.

“It may be a little risky, but we want to proclaim we’re not doing this just for snowbirds,” she said. “We are doing it for the Coachella Valley. We are doing it for moviegoers; we are doing it for foodies; we are doing it for people who want to travel without traveling.”

Culinary Cinema kicks off at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 21, with a free screening of The Hundred-Foot Journey. After the film, a dinner prepared by Chef Daniel Villanueva will take place, and costs $120, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. For tickets or more information, visit palmspringsculturalcenter.org.

Published in Previews and Features

Mark Your Calendars: Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week Happens June 2-11

It’s the favorite time of year for many Coachella Valley foodies: Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week is almost here! This year, it will take place from Friday, June 2, through Sunday, June 11.

Why is the week so fantastic? Well, when else can one have a full, three-course dinner at Wally’s Desert Turtle for just $39?

For the uninitiated: During these 10 days, restaurants valley-wide offer special, discounted prix-fixe menus. In the past, the event has been dinner-focused—but this year, restaurants can offer special lunch menus, too. Three-course dinner prices are $29, $39 or $49, while two-course lunch prices are $15, $20 or $25. Participating restaurants should offer their regular menus during these 10 days, but emphasize the special Restaurant Week offerings.

As of our press deadline, the new Restaurant Week website had an ever-growing list of participating restaurants, along with the prices of their menus—but only a few of the actual menus had been posted. However, that handful of posted menus looked inviting. For example, Vicky’s of Santa Fe, in Indian Wells, is offering entrées including a 10-ounce flat iron steak, boneless beef short ribs or New Zealand lamb chops, among other offerings, plus an appetizer and dessert, for just $29. That’s one hell of a deal.

Check out visitgreaterpalmsprings.com/restaurantweek for more information.


Pho 533 Is Now 533 Viet-Fusion

Chad Gardner, the man behind the successful Dash and a Handful catering business, purchased Pho 533—then a longtime family-owned pho joint in Palm Springs’ Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center—back in 2015.

Ever since, Gardner has been guiding the restaurant through a series of changes. First, he revamped the menu. Next, he expanded the restaurant into an adjoining space, and completely revamped the décor—including the addition of a spring roll bar. Now he’s making even more changes to the menu—and to the name as well.

In fact, the only significant thing remaining from the old Pho 533 are those numerals: The restaurant is now called 533 Viet-Fusion.

“I had a vision of what it would be even before I first heard Pho 533 was for sale,” said Gardner in a press-release quote. “I have always wanted to blend classics with contemporary Vietnamese.”

New menu items include a Maine lobster-claw spring roll; ahi Viet-nachos (wonton chips and topped with avocado, spicy ahi tuna, cilantro, Fresno chili and various sauces); tamari-glazed Atlantic salmon; red curry “ramen”; and chile-braised osso bucco.

By the way, there’s a good reason Gardner is keeping “533” as part of the name: That was the number on the side of the USS Cheboygan County, an old Navy tanker that transported nearly 300 Vietnamese refugees who were fleeing the fall of Saigon in 1975. One of those passengers was 10-year-old Anh Ho Rock—the founder of the original Pho 533.

533 Viet-Fusion is located at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 625. For more information, call 760-778-6595, or visit 533VietFusion.com.


In Brief

Coming soon to the under-construction downtown Palm Springs redevelopment project: a Tommy Bahama restaurant. … Also coming soon to downtown Palm Springs: Urban Crates, an indoor farmers’ market sort of thing at 358 S. Indian Canyon Drive, just a door or two down from Rooster and the Pig. There’s a sign up in one of the windows that says vendor stations are available by calling 760-808-3756. We’ll watch and see what develops. … Oops! We missed the opening of the Wine Emporium in Old Town La Quinta last September. Well, better late than never! The restaurant and live-music venue features a big retail wine room, and seems to have lots of cool stuff going on. Stop by 78100 Main St.; call 760-565-5512; or track down the place on Facebook for more information. … Add UberEATS to the growing list of services offering restaurant deliveries in the Coachella Valley. While I am morally opposed to the company’s management, I tested out the delivery service recently; I got some breakfast delivered from one of my favorites, the Broken Yolk Café. Pros: The delivery was fast, and the food came hot and fresh; it only cost 99 cents for the delivery itself. Cons: There’s no way to tip the driver via the app. Yeah, the app emphasizes that driver tips are neither necessary nor expected, but I still felt like a major ass when I realized I had only $1 in cash on me to give for a tip. Lesson learned.

Published in Restaurant & Food News