74-155 El Paseo (Highway 111)
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 776-8242

We know when you go to Palm Springs you have fun in the sun on your mind and only want to wear shorts and flip-flops, but just pull out some nice threads for this romantic, enchanting, and superb dining venue that sets itself as a jewel atop the crown of restaurants in the Coachella Valley area; you won’t be sorry.

Walking through the striking, old wrought-iron gates, you enter another world that bespeaks of somewhere colonial in Latin America, and definitely Old World Palm Springs. A family affair, Jay Trubee and his lovely wife, June, have transformed Palm Desert’s first edifice circa 1948 into a hacienda filled with beautiful art and antiques, exuding the warmth of its era.

Named after the Trubee’s first daughter, Jillian’s accomplishments are constantly touted in magazines such as Gourmet Magazine and The Wine Spectator, winning the latter’s award of excellence since 1994. Each and every opportunity we have to enjoy an evening at Jillian’s never disappoints, and a great deal of this is attributed by the Trubee’s to their exceedingly loyal staff, most of whom have been with them since they opened in 1986.

There are four beautiful rooms surrounding a charming patio, and each and every location creates its own atmosphere worthy of a several-hour feasting experience. A perfect place for outdoor dining amidst the magical lighting, or an evening by the piano bar will immediately put you in an enchanted mood. The Mackenzie Room, named after the Trubee’s other daughter, is filled with old beams, low ceilings, and charisma galore.

The food here matches the warmth and attention to detail of the edifice. Chef Jay has been trained at the Culinary Institute of America and travels Europe and the United States in order to create a broad and wonderful cuisine. He insists that all bread (you’re immediately served piping hot potato bread imbued with molasses and honey), pastas, and desserts be made in house and daily. If this isn’t enough, he is also responsible for the impressive and extensive wine list.

Enjoying superlative service from the amiable captain from Portugal, Mindo, to the handsome busboy, Edward, our dining experience was flawless. Although the crowd is a bit “Vintage” and a little staid, there were certainly a variety of folks from all corners of the desert, including—of course—The Dining Duo.

We suggest starting with the Tower of Fresh Crab, which was comprised of fresh Dungeness crab meat layered between diced avocado, sweet tomato, and served on a toasted brioche ($16). The crab was sweet and delicate, and the mélange of flavors absolutely superb. The spicy corn chowder topped with fiery salsa and crackle bacon and chives also proved to be a nice selection ($9.75) and excelled when compared to corn chowders elsewhere. Don’t miss one of Chef Jay’s pasta creations. We suggest the cannelloni di casa, which was a dish of homemade tubes of pasta filled with a rich mixture of imported cheeses, spinach, and sausage, all served up in an ethereal tomato-tinted cream sauce ($24).

The entrées are equally as enticing, and we have enjoyed the rack of lamb on several occasions, all with the same degree of excellence. The lamb is from Colorado, and it’s rolled in a Dijon herb crust, roasted and presented on a fresh rosemary-scented demi-glace ($42). It was ordered medium-rare, and it arrived with perfection. The lamb was juicy and tender, and the meal rewarding. The salmon in parchment is also a beautiful creation and consists of a filet of organic Scottish salmon wrapped in parchment paper with julienne vegetables, crème fraîche, and aromatic fresh herbs ($29). Although we did not have the prime boneless short ribs on this occasion, Michael has had this in the past and found it equally outstanding. Braised succulent short ribs in a California cabernet smothered with tomatoes, vegetables and fresh herbs are placed on mashed potatoes with horseradish crème fraîche and melted leeks ($30). Quite frankly, you can’t go wrong with any of their entrée selections.

Completely stuffed by the time dessert comes around, we nevertheless managed to devour a sampling of the enormous selection offered here. Our particular favorites were the raspberry crème brulée, which was a nice turn on the normal crème brulée, with fresh raspberries studded in rich custard with a caramelized sugar crust. Of course, dessert is not dessert without something chocolate, and their double chocolate layer cake was divine. It’s a moist dark chocolate cake layered with Belgian semi-sweet chocolate mousse and raspberries (Scott could have done without the fruit in his chocolate; nonetheless, it was outstanding) glazed with a bittersweet chocolate and placed in a pool of fresh raspberry coulis. If you feel like something chocolate and not fruity, try the chocolate brioche pudding for an amazing taste treat of warmed and glazed brioche with a bittersweet chocolate sauce drizzled with grand marnier. All desserts are $10 and so worth it.

And speaking of worth it…it’s worth getting out of the Jacuzzi and dressing up for a night out on the town at Jillian’s. As a bonus, the proprietor June is delightfully Scottish, so what could be better than that…other than a Scottish terrier?!

Posted by The Dining Duo | 7:17 PM | , , , | 0 comments »

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