The Doctor Is In

What the Palm lacks on its appetizer roster it makes up for in salads. A list of nine includes a classic caesar or green salad, mozzarella Capri, and string bean and onion. We went with the house recommendation, the tasty if not exactly pretty Monday Night salad. Chopped pimientos, anchovies, tomatoes, and white onions were dressed simply in a touch of vinegar and oil, with a lemon squeeze adding a citric note. The real flavor enhancer was the anchovies, pungent and salty and hard to ignore. Anchovy fans (among whom I include myself) will surely enjoy this bold dish.

Shrimp such as those that were served as a cocktail fared better when breaded and deep-fried as an entree. Though the coating looked and tasted like store-bought bread crumbs, the shrimp themselves were delicious, butterflied and curled like rams' horns. The order comprised only seven shrimp but the number was misleading: One of these gigantic specimens alone was as rich as a lobster tail.

Swordfish is available grilled or blackened. We chose the latter, which was a high-quality success. Blackened on one side only (enabling it to be cooked all the way through without burning the seasonings), the steak was inches-thick, juice crackling through the aromatic, peppery exterior.

Filet mignon had also been blackened, though not intentionally. It was a nice medium pink in the middle, but the boneless beef had been charred on one side, ruining its mild taste. (A call for ketchup is always a bad sign with a $27 piece of meat. Sadly, the condiment could do nothing to soften the flesh, a little too tough and chewy.)

"Steak a la Stone," a charbroiled sirloin, was a more flavorful find. The strip steak was sliced into a dozen-plus pieces and arranged around a center of sauteed onions and pimiento. Our only quibble was the deep-red center of the meat: We'd asked for it to be cooked medium.

Too little fire also threatened to be the downfall of a cut of prime rib. A request for medium-rare was mistranslated into rare, allowing the middle of the beef to remain cold and fibrous. That point was practically moot, however, given the size of the hunk A our appetites didn't survive a breach of the perimeter. And that first frontier was delicious. Boneless and larded with juice-sealing fat, the browned edges of meat practically melted into a just-salty jus.

Veal piccata was a tender treat: four tremendous pieces of pounded veal resembling mutant butterfly wings. Dredged in flour and briefly sauteed, the meat cut like the butter with which it was dressed. The piccata sauce, tangy and lemony, was a light, unobtrusive pleasure.

In keeping with grand steak-house tradition, vegetable side dishes are a la carte and not cheap. But one order of vegetables -- hash browns, lyonnaise potatoes, or string beans, for instance -- can adequately serve a party of four. We tried creamed spinach, which was fabulous, a rich, fattening version Dr. Atkins would have loved. He wouldn't have recommended a half-and-half order of cottage fries and French-fried onion rings, however, and neither do I. The cottage fries, cut like very thin potato chips, were overdone and bitter on the tongue. Ditto for the shoestring onion rings, dipped in an oddly flavorless batter, then immersed in hot oil until they'd turned a greasy dark brown.

Dessert sounded unmanageable after the enormous meal, so we split a key lime pie that the server, efficient to the point of brusqueness, said had been made on the premises. We found the custard grainy with sugar, overwhelming the tart intentions of the key lime. One taste not only puckered us, it practically gave us cavities.

I disapprove of Dr. Atkins's method, but the insistence of my friends as to its merits has made me think about my own diet, which is far from exemplary. Prone to anemia, I could afford to add more red meat to my largely fish-and-pasta repertoire. The Palm, where starches and sweets are neglected serfs and protein is a beefy tyrant, was ideal for such an experiment. And a visit here, if you can stand the indifferent service (which can be as cool as a blood-rare steak if you aren't a regular), might further convince Atkins groupies in the process of cleaning their systems that there is indeed a "safe" space in a world of carbohydrates. But I'd still rather eat cake.

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