Restaurant Week in Palm Springs, June 3-12, offers choices from across the culinary spectrum. Trio’s prix fixe menu is just $24 for three courses of their modern American food in a contemporary atmosphere.
Just open a year and a half, last year’s Restaurant Week went so well partners Tony Marchese and Executive Chef Mark Van Laanen knew they would join the other 75 restaurants and 10 hotels for the upcoming Palm Springs Desert Resort Restaurant Week. “I was amazed last year. It was like Saturday every night for 10 days. They saw value,” Van Laanen said about their $24 menu (see below) at Trio Restaurant in Palm Springs. Five first course choices, six second courses and three desserts offer enough variety to attract diners for more than one evening.
Welcomed into the Uptown Design District of Palm Springs even before opening, the restaurant was a hit from the start. “Local restaurants are very supportive. We put up the sign and people stopped by to welcome us,” Van Laanen said. Number one on TripAdvisor and Twitter, according to Laanen, the restaurant has faithful regulars who come for dinner or a generous happy hour starting at 4:00.
Originally from Wisconsin, Chef Van Laanen has been a restaurant owner for 25 years. He came to Palm Springs to visit a friend and fell in love with the mountains and energy. He sold everything and moved to the desert community, noting that no restaurant duplicated the cuisine and style of his last Wisconsin location. “My restaurants were seasonal, open May to October. Upper Lake Michigan is a beautiful area. But I would put up with heat any day compared to long winters,” he said.
Co-owner Tony Marchese is another Midwesterner, from Chicago, who worked in sales and owned two nightclubs.
Most of the servers are also escapees of Midwest winters. “Locals were too lazy and laid-back,” Van Laanen said.
The kitchen staff is Hispanic and carefully trained. “They were afraid to season and weren’t tasting. It took a year,” he said.
He’s adjusted his menu for California tastes. “There are more vegetarians here. People in Wisconsin are big carnivores,” Van Laanen commented. A soy ceviche, wild mushroom ravioli and stacked veggie burger are offered.
Even in summer some heavier standards remain on the menu. His Yankee pot roast, St. Louis-style spare ribs and roasted half chicken are perennial favorites.
A lighter option would be scallops with a cantaloupe habanero sauce. The sweetness of the seafood and melon is balanced with the heat of the habanero chile.
The chef finds ideas in cookbooks, TV and magazines. “I like Mario Batali, Ina Gartner and Giada. I have all of Alice Waters’ cookbooks. You steal from everywhere. I like something but do it differently, change the herb maybe.”
The partners plan outdoor seating to expand and then add lunch. A second property in Palm Desert, about 25 minutes away, is a future possibility. But they are not in a rush. “We want to get one area down first,” Van Laanen said.
Restaurant Week menu highlights, $24
Asparagus salad – chopped tomato, blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette
White fish ceviche – white fish, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, orange juice, tomato juice
Calamari – hand breaded to order and lightly fried, house made Thai dipping sauce
Scallops – pan seared rare, white wine pear sauce, spaghetti squash
Roasted half chicken – marinated in garlic, lemon, olive oil; mashed potatoes
Porterhouse pork chop – brined and grilled with tangerine horseradish marmalade, sweet potato mash
Trio nut torte – chocolate and caramel drizzle (see recipe)
Key lime – raspberry sauce, whipped cream
Trio bread pudding – seasonal choice sauce
707 N Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA