Home » Restaurant Review » Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s Lounge Menu – From Curiosity to Obsession
Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s Lounge Menu – From Curiosity to Obsession
Charlie Palmer's bone marrow

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s Lounge Menu – From Curiosity to Obsession

Charlie Palmer Entrance

Charlie Palmer Entrance

When I was a young college student, I was always looking for happy hours with cheap drinks and a chicken wing buffet. Since then, I have gained a few white hairs and developed an appreciation for quality food and craft cocktails. Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s is known for being one of the best white tablecloth restaurants in Orange County. Although, did you know that their bar and lounge  has  has developed a cult following among the foodie crowd?  Last week I had the opportunity to try their lounge menu and  I quickly understood the obsession. After my first bite of the food, I already planing my next visit.The Charlie Palmer lounge offers high-end dishes and cocktails at very reasonable prices considering the ingredients and preparation.   Here is what I tasted:

Small Plates

Seaweed Salad

This is refreshing appetizer that provides a sweet and tangy flavor from the apple-miso vinaigrette. Seaweed has a soft and slightly crunchy texture that is very pleasant with the toasted nori chips. I am a big seaweed salad fan and the Charlie Palmer version impressed.

Charlie Palmer's Seaweed Salad

Charlie Palmer Seaweed Salad

Roasted Beet Salad

This dish had a nice blend of flavors and would satisfy the pickiest eaters. Diced roasted beats were served with goat cheese, orange, and hazelnuts. I liked the crunchy contrast that the hazelnuts provided against the tender beets and goat cheese. The fresh flavors of this dish were balanced between sweet, nutty, tangy.

Charlie Palmer's roasted beet salad

Charlie Palmer roasted beet salad

Steamed Clams

Very fresh Manila clams were steamed in what tasted like a white wine broth. They were topped with small nibs of chorizo and drizzled with a roasted garlic aioli. The clams had a perfect bite and paired nicely with the saltiness / spice from the chorizo. The aioli added an additional creamy flavor layer and tied the clams and chorizo together.

Charlie Palmer's Steamed Clams

Charlie Palmer Steamed Clams

Steamed Escargot Dumplings

I loved the fusion of classic Mandarin and French techniques in this dish by Executive Chef Seakyeong Kim. A Chinese dumpling is filled with escargot, butter and topped with parmesan cheese. I was absolutely thrilled by the presentation, texture and complexity of flavors on my tongue. This is a must try dish if you love escargot and a perfect gateway for someone who is too afraid to try Escargot.

Charlie Palmer's Escargo Dumblings

Charlie Palmer Escargo Dumblings

  Chicken Liver Pate Tea Sandwich

This dish is a naughty addition to your Grandma’s tea party. This tea sandwiches balanced the extremely rich chicken liver pate with sweetness from the red onion fig marmalade and bitterness from the arugula. If you don’t like pate, consider trying these tea sandwiches; you might change your mind. Learning to love food means taking some risks, these tea sandwiches are a great place to start. 

Charlie Palmer's chicken liver pate tea sandwich

Charlie Palmer chicken liver pate tea sandwich

Red Wine Braised Oxtail Risotto Cakes

Charlie Palmers oxtail risotto balls_openCharlie Palmer uses red wine in their braising processes which imparts a rich layer to the meat. They mixed the braised oxtail meat into a cheesy risotto and rolled it into a ball. The oxtail risotto ball is then dusted with bread crumb and flash fried to a golden brown. The result is a risotto cakes that have a gooey interior and crispy crunch. The oxtail risotto cakes are served with a Catalonian style nut and red pepper sauce, called a romesco.

Charlie Palmer oxtail risotto balls

Charlie Palmer oxtail risotto balls

Head Cheese Croquettes Charlie Palmers head cheese croquettes_open

Sometimes the best food comes from off-cuts of meat; such is the case with head cheese. Chef  Kim prepares the head meat into croquettes,  made in the Dutch tradition. Fried to a golden brown, they are crisp on the tongue and ooze out the savory meat when you bite down. They were served with kimchi remoulade, providing creamy zing to the dish.

Charlie Palmer's Head Cheese Croquettes

Charlie Palmer Head Cheese Croquettes

Roasted Bone Marrow

The bone of a cow is literally sawed in half, exposing the rich bone marrow. It is prepared with a topping of black garlic prune pesto, coated with a bread crumb crust and roasted to a golden brown. If you have never eaten bone marrow before, you use the small spoon to scoop out some of the marrow and apply it to the grilled bread. Together the crisp bread and lush  marrow provide a nice texture and flavor contrast. This was some of the better marrow I experienced, even better than many restaurants I visited in Paris.

Charlie Palmer's bone marrow

Charlie Palmer bone marrow

Seasonal Cocktails

Charlie Palmers cocktails

Vino Fresco

This is a deceptively strong cocktail that is light and refreshing. The Vino Fresco  is made with 42 below vodka, basil, grapes, and lime. This is a perfect cocktail for a warm spring evening. Since this cocktail is served in a martini glass, it is fair warning that this drink will have a kick :)

Charlie Palmers Vino Fresco

Charlie Palmers Vino Fresco

Blood Orange Mojito

Although the traditional mojito is a wonderful cocktail, Charlie Palmer adds a refreshing twist by adding fresh blood orange. The addition of blood orange takes this drink to another level by adding flavor notes of citrus and raspberry to the cocktail.

Charlie Palmers Blood Orange Mojito

Charlie Palmer Blood Orange Mojito

Scratch and Sniff

This gin based cocktail has a fresh flavor and a wonderful tropical characteristic provided by lychee puree, guava and lime juice. When I sipped on this cocktail, I could imagine myself on a beach resort in Thailand. The herbal notes from the gin and aperol paired nicely with fruit flavors. The Scratch and Sniff is topped with dehydrated lemons and has a wonderful bouquet for fruit aromas.

Charlie Palmer's Scratch and Sniff

Charlie Palmer Scratch and Sniff

My Final Thoughts

My preference for fine food and drink has definitely evolved over time and so has my taste for happy hours. Charlie Palmer delivers on my desires for exciting foods made with classic techniques. The small plates are generous in portion size and the cocktails are strong. The price range for the small plates are approximately between $8-14 and the cocktails are all $14. For the quality of the food and drink you receive, it is a great deal.  I highly recommend you try it at least one and you will be rewarded with some memorable flavors.  

Charlie Palmer at South Coast Plaza on Urbanspoon

If you liked this blog post, you will probably like this one as well: http://tomsfoodieblog.com/2012/10/29/the-playground-leave-your-food-inhibitions-at-the-door/

About Tom Holmberg

Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.


  1. Sorry to have missed the tasting event but that’s quite the menu spread. A bit high class for a Happy Hour no? I’ll have to drop by them sometime…

  2. I think I lost my minds seeing the roasted beets salad. And that was after I thought their seaweed salad is something I heed to add on my bucket list… And the bone marrow… wow! It looks like something to die for!
    And now I’m hungry (again)…

  3. Well, it is now lunch time here in the UK and you have just sent my taste buds on a spiral party. Might just have to be an early dinner here. Those Oxtail Risotto Cakes look far to tasty. :-) Thanks Tom.

  4. I have to admit, I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food, but these dishes look amazing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *