The Oak Room at Pala Casino Spa & Resort established itself as a fine restaurant the first year it opened and along with that distinction came a burgeoning wine cellar.
The Oak Room wine list is brimming with 400 labels and 40 different varietals. Steven Whisler, manager of The Oak Room commented, “We pride ourselves on offering wines that are unavailable to the average market. We offer a range from thousands of dollars a bottle to thirty dollars a bottle. The wine menu would rival most any wine menu throughout the United States. There is something for everyone, from the layman to the wine savvy.”
To keep up with new wines and new trends, the restaurant’s wine menu is in a state of constant flux. As wines gain and fall in popularity, The Oak Room keeps up with the trends.
“Wine menus are generally a living, breathing thing,” Whisler noted, “we are trying to be diverse enough to please every palate.”
The Oak Room has enough wine available to accommodate any size of group. These wines hail from various wine regions – mainly California, but also Italy, Australia, New Zealand and South America.
Whisler commented, “We have spent time and done research to bring the top producers onto the property.”
Wine and steak – an unbeatable combination. The steaks at The Oak Room sizzle on a 1600-degree grill that sears the meat and seals in juices. Pala Casino Executive Chef Robert Camerota explains that a regular grill would only cook the meat at around 500 degrees – the 1600-degree grill sets the flavor at an entirely new level. Five minutes after the steaks are cooked, the meat is presented to diners. Sizzling in a hot pan, with only butter and salt and pepper, the steak aroma is captivating.
“If a steak is served immediately, the juices are retained,” Camerota noted, “if you let it sit, then the juices drain.”
Sauces are available to add at the diner’s discretion, but the steak flavors are so exquisite that I don’t think the sauces are necessary – in fact, they mask the flavor.
The restaurant uses only prime steaks from Midwestern corn-fed beef. They even serve a few cuts that are not available on a broad scale. Their 32 oz. “Tomahawk” steak is a showpiece that looks like a hatchet. It’s two inches thick and fills up much of a 13-inch diameter plate with the long bone protruding a bit. The Tomahawk is basically a rib-eye with the rib bone attached.
Since bones add flavor to a steak, the restaurant serves a “bone-in” filet mignon which is a steak not commonly found on restaurant menus. The bone gives the meat more flavor, but is not widely served in restaurants, perhaps because diners may not want to juggle a bone when they are dressed for dinner. But, the Oak Room guests are given a choice – with or without bone.
The Oak Room’s thick, but velvety, filet mignon (sans bone) is also ambrosia. This steak, when it is served medium-rare and au juice, has a delightful flame-seared flavor. It only needs a nudge with salt and pepper – the filet mignon speaks for itself, without the shouts of complicated sauces.
The moment you step over The Oak Room’s threshold, this aromatic restaurant tells a delicious tale of the taste adventure to come. Wine or steak – these aromas will certainly lure you!
The Oak Room is located at Pala Casino Spa & Resort, 11154 Hwy. 76 in Pala. Reservations are suggested, and can be made by calling (760) 510-5100 before 5:00 p.m., or (760) 510-4540 after 5:00 p.m. The Oak Room hours are: Monday/Tuesday-closed; Wednesday/Thursday/Sunday- 5 – 10 p.m. and Friday/Saturday- 5 – 11 p.m.