Review for Palette 22: Lovely Dog-Friendly Patio, Brunch is a Work In Progress
Artsy space with an enticing cocktail menu and a dog-friendly patio. Brunch is a work in progress.
At newly opened Palette 22, the concept is "Food. Art. Fun." and a new take on street food. Without a doubt, the artistic and colorful gallery-like space here brought warmth to this massive expanse of a restaurant. I read stellar reviews about the brunch from Yelp and the Washingtonian so I was disappointed that our breakfast experience was less impressive. If you're looking for a fun dog-friendly happy hour though, Palette 22 is worth checking out.
As a former resident of Fairlington (with limited brunch options), I am no stranger to the Shirlington Village. In the past five years, the neighborhood choices here have even improved tremendously with the additions of Copperwood Tavern (2013), Samuel Beckett's (2011) and Cheesetique (2011). The opening of Palette 22 fills the vacant space of Extra Virgin, an Italian restaurant that closed in 2013. (Also opening soon in the Village will be a 12,000 square foot rooftop sports bar named Dudley's Sport and Ale where The Bungalow was forever.)
We arrived about five minutes early for our 10:30am (way too early, I know) reservation on Saturday. They had opened at 10:00am, however, it seemed like everyone was still getting organized for the day, which is understandable for someone like me who's not usually out and about this early.
It took us a few minutes to get anyone to help us at the bar where we wanted to try their "Design your own Bloody Mary." Guests are invited to "grab a crayon" and select a juice, spirit, garnish, spice, and rim. I made kind of a big to do asking the bartender for a crayon because we were only offered a pen and I wanted to embrace the "art" part of the experience. The less-than-amused bartender returned a few moments later with a pen . Feeling only a bit sheepish, I made my selections sans crayon. Their "red" juice had horseradish but not Worcestershire so I was in a pickle as I consider both these ingredients essential to a good Bloody Mary. We ended up taking our drink orders to our table server as the bartender never reemerged post pen drop-off.
For $12, I expected to be blown away but I can't in good conscience endorse the combination I ordered. They get an "A" for effort with a nicely done presentation but their mix missed the mark. Without the Worcestershire, something was missing and it tasted under-seasoned. Along with the fine presentation, the juice was clearly freshly made and that alone raises its profile because there are plenty of bars that aren't up to the surprisingly tricky challenge of making a house mix. My co-conspirators at brunch agreed their Bloody Mary's were underwhelming as well. Okay, enough already about the damn Bloody Mary. It's just a $12 cocktail.
Our group of seven was seated in a large room decked out like an art gallery where we could watch a graphic designer working away at a nearby art space. With 6,000 square feet, we had plenty of space to stretch out without feeling like everyone was on top of each other, which is all too common at most brunches in the area. Their service is not their strong suit yet. With food runners auctioning off our dishes when they arrived, it was a game of figuring out what food went where. The dinner menu probably has the shareable options down but the brunch seems more haphazardly put together. The appetizer-like options called the "By 2's" including the pork buns and fish tacos were easy to share. Most in our party ordered at least one "Signature" dishes (e.g. Congee and Arepas Benedict), but although they were tapas style (read: small), they were not easily shared making everything a bit more complicated. Most of us ordered about two to three things which ended up putting everyone back about $30-40 with a Bloody Mary.
It makes me sad to see new restaurants struggle so I'll give it a second chance for happy hour (offered Monday to Friday) where I can try their signature craft cocktails and bring Georgie along after a romp at Shirlington Dog Park.
Bottomless Mimosa Situation: No Dice
You can order a mimosa for $8 with refills at $3.22.
Pooch Scoop: Dog-Friendly
The dog-friendly patio at Palette 22 was delightful. Unlike many Shirlington restaurants, dogs were not relegated to the other side of the patio fence. Instead, canines were happily seated at their owners' feet -- one of the dogs outside was a large Newfoundland on a picnic blanket.
Photo via Palette 22 Instagram
Arepas Benedict (pork belly, poached egg, avocado, chipotle hollandaise) - the crunchy potato and tasty hollandaise made this dish
Patatas Bravas (harrissa spice fried potatoes, garlic aioli *vegetarian) - delicious crispy fried potatoes with aioli
Pork Belly Bao Buns (pork belly, char siu sauce, steamed bun, cucumber pickles) - As one Yelper said, stick to Momofuku. Bread was dry and pork was hard.
Baja Fish Tacos - Overly fried fish with under-seasoned slaw.