Interested in expanding your palate? Well Palette 22 in Arlington, VA is the perfect place for doing just that.
Palette 22 does a fantastic job of tying together both the "palate" and "palette" in that they combine art + food to make for one incredible experience. The venue (pictured below) serves as a friendly, inviting atmosphere where guests can order several different dishes to share otherwise known as the "Palette Passport." This creative dining tour allows friends + family to explore new and unique dishes that they normally would be afraid to try. Guests are able to enjoy floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the charming Village at Shirlington.
What makes this dining experience different is that Palette 22 runs an "Artist- In- Residence" program. The program helps to showcase and promote original work of VA-based and regional artists inside and outside of the restaurant. In addition, artists who participate in this program are required to work in the restaurant two to three times per week. This allows for guests to interact directly with artists and provide a cultural experience for everyone involved. It also gives artists the chance to showcase their work and discuss their inspiration or motivation for whatever art they are working on at that time. Palette 22 is a front runner in terms of fostering a completely different dining experience for their guests by bringing together two highly favored activities -- art and cuisine.
We were invited to expand our palate on the "Palette Passport" tour. Chef Kelvin Flores, who is originally from Honduras, shared with us a taste of the most popular dishes at the restaurant as well as his favorite menu item. Something that guests may not realize is that Palette 22's menu is constantly changing and improving. They truly value customer feedback and Chef Kelvin is always experimenting with new dishes on a bi-weekly basis. Those experiments serve as a trial and error on the Specials menu. Whatever is a major hit by guests for that two week period is then incorporated as a permanent item on the menu.
We kicked off the evening with their signature Red Sangria, a combination of fresh juices, gin, Spanish brandy, apples, oranges and citrus. Not only was it strong, but it was also a fantastic combination. To pair with the sangria, the chef brought us Sesame Steak Skewers (pictured below) served on spicy udon noodles over bibb lettuce. The spicy dish reminded us of a traditional Asian lettuce wrap. After eating the steak skewers, we transitioned to a more refreshing dish of avocado hummus served with warm pita bread and raw vegetables and a bit of smoked pepper oil on top. Hummus is normally one of our "go to" snacks and we were delighted to indulge in this smooth, refreshing appetizer.
Next up, we tried Palette 22's crowd favorite - Pan Fried Watermelon + Halloumi Cheese (pictured below). We've never personally had fried watermelon but given that it's Blake's favorite food, we were up for the challenge. The dish was comprised of watermelon, cheese, harissa spice, pomegranate molasses and mint. This isn't just any cheese however. It's Halloumi cheese which is flown in special from Turkey and takes a few weeks to arrive. The chef told us that guests so crazy for this dish because the combination is so unique.
We then opened a bottle of an Australian Red blend wine (Carnival Love). Chef Kelvin brought us his favorite plate on the menu- the Argentinian Empanadas (pictured). After one bite, Palette 22 had us sold. Never have we ever tried such a delicate yet hearty empanada. The unique combination of roasted lamb, beef, pork, plantains, raisins, capers and a hard boiled egg, literally melted in our mouths upon first bite. The homemade flakey crust also helped to make this flavorful dish come alive. This is a "must try" item on their menu!
I know what you're thinking at this point- how did we eat all of this and how am I still talking? Well, when it's that good, you make room for more. From the Special Item Menu, we indulged in the Sausage and Peppers Flatbread which included sweet Italian sausage, roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella. For a minute we thought we were back in Italy. This menu item has since become permanent due to the popularity on the specials menu. For our last entree, we tried the Baja Fish Tacos (pictured below) full of crispy mahi mahi and cabbage- jalapeno- cilantro slaw. They had just the right amount of spice and flavor without being overpowering.
Lastly, we were delighted to indulge in a small array of the dessert menu (pictured below). This included Tres Leches Cake (candied pineapple, kahlua, whipped cream) and Flan. Our favorites? The Apple Empanadas (of course) and the mouthwatering Churros. The Apple Empanadas, filled with apple compote, raisins and dulce de leche, were just as tasty as the Argentinian Empanadas except on the sweeter side. The Churros were just as mouthwatering as the empanadas and these were served with a delicate warm dulce de leche and Mexican chocolate sauce.
If you are looking for the perfect date spot, or a place to host a get together with your closest friends, Palette 22 is the perfect venue for this. Located at 4053 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA, Palette 22 will be sure to not disappoint. This is by far one of our favorite restaurants in all of Arlington. To find out more or see their menu, visit their website.
*First Picture taken from Palette 22's Website