As much as Angelenos love heading out to the desert for the weekend, LA visitors tend to bring certain expectations with them about food and drink. Simply because the dining scene in Los Angeles has never been better, it’s easy to forget that not every California suburb is full of chef-driven menus and farm-to-table dishes.
Luckily, the desert just got its own new dining hotspot, one that’s on par with any restaurant in the city of angels itself. Thanks to Chef Ysaac Ramirez’s reimagined new menu, 4 Saints at the Kimpton Rowan in downtown Palm Springs is officially a must-try restaurant. This elevated rooftop hub was open to the public as 4 Saints prior to COVID-19, but after a necessary closure due to the pandemic, it’s been revamped and recently relaunched under Ramirez’s jurisdiction — and the new oversight shows. Ramirez was most recently the executive chef for King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, but after Kimpton hired him this fall he’s begun rejuvenating the property’s F&B concepts one by one, starting with 4 Saints.
Located at the top of Kimpton’s seven-storied tower in the heart of Palm Springs, the rooftop dining room nods to the rest of the property’s mid-century modern feel, mixing rustic wood and dark leather to create a calm, cool environment that offers respite from the daily heat. Still, those desert sunset views aren’t to be missed, and huge swathes of floor-to-ceiling windows ensure guests dine with a stunning vantage of the San Jacinto Mountains. Stately wicker chairs, a centerpiece bar with ample seating, and a collection of textured hanging globe lamps round out the dining room’s warm elegance.
After flashing a confirmation of vaccination, as all guests are required to do upon arrival, make a beeline for that bar or request a Grapefruit Spritz right off the bat. It’s the first drink on their expertly balanced cocktail menu for a reason, with a refreshingly tart, citrusy base that’s reinforced with strawberry aperol and a touch of Fever Tree soda. It’s an inventive alternative to the ever-present Aperol Spritz, which, despite its daytime popularity, isn’t necessarily a great drink for dinner time. Other standouts on their craft cocktail menu include the gin-based War Of Roses, with Pimm’s and St. Germain, and mint for balance, and the retro Espresso Martini, a perfect after dinner and dessert drink. And if you do opt for some of the heartier meat dishes on the menu — and you absolutely should — a California-focused wine list will pair nicely with anything from pork chops to branzino and chicken, to ribeye and tomahawk.
Kicking off with a menu full of inventive and unexpected starters, Ramirez mixes southern style and flavors with California staples to construct dishes that are reminiscent of comfort food but still feel decidedly modern. The Marsh Hen Mill Cornbread is a sorghum cake that’s topped with pecans, pulverized chives, and a crown jewel pat of butter. On top of all that, the plate is flecked with pieces of crispy chicken skin that add a hint of texture, salt, and fat to balance out the sweetness during an appetizer course. A bevy of classic salads are also great to begin, like a tomato salad — served with Ramirez’s aged cheddar mousse — or an elevated take on beets, both golden and red, topped with radish and pink watercress and resting on a bed of pistachio butter.
Other options include a couple of classic east coast seafood dishes, with mini lobster rolls on offer, or a creative take on lobster bisque, with generous portions of lobster and a corn mousse puree elegantly arranged in the bowl before the slightly spicy soup is poured table side. This performance aspect always adds a playful bit of drama to the evening, and even though the soup was exquisitely flavored and the shellfish was perfectly poached, it’s the fun of this dish that really makes it stand out. Moving on to main courses, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed with Ramirez’s abundance of options, all prepared with such care that nothing feels like an afterthought. Still, dry aged steaks are the stars of this with a Petit Filet, Ribeye, and even a Tomahawk for two all available with assorted sides and garnishes.
Our pick was the Ribeye, which was also massive enough for two, and came perfectly medium rare, sliced, and paired with smoked onion and rosemary salsa verde. The Chitarra Pasta pasta also went in a surprising and totally unexpected direction, with a salsa verde that brings it out of traditional Italian flavors and into a Southwestern palate. But the noodles were somehow al dente and unbelievably tender, bringing it back to the handmade decadence of fresh noodles in Rome or Venice. This dish was a springy, medusa mess of pasta that’s also a portion big enough for two if you indulged in earlier courses, but the ribeye, which is served sliced and off the bone, is truly a thing of beauty here with the aging adding a slight hint of smoky to the meat. I recommend ordering it paired with the Pommes Aligot (more on those in a second) and garlic mushrooms for a rounded bite — just don’t go too heavy on apps if you plan to make a dent in the main course.
It’s impossible not to dedicate a few seconds to the pureed, creamy, salty, tangy, cheesy Pommes Aligot that are offered as a side dish for $9. I’d probably pay twice that much just to have these around with any meal at 4 Saints, they’re that heavenly. Even if you go with a lean fish or the burger with fries, this French delicacy is done so well that it would pair with anything, or even be a great treat on its own. Other dishes I didn’t get this time around but can’t wait to return to try are the Bitter Greens with radicchio and endive, or the Duck with charred eggplant, beets, and plum. I’ll be back out in Palm Springs next weekend and it’s likely that’s exactly what I’ll be having.
But first a word on the service at 4 Saints: Even after one of the most tumultuous periods the hospitality industry has seen, the grace and enthusiasm that drives the floor staff at this is wonderfully unexpected. My water glass was never empty, the server repeatedly made recommendations that improved our meal, and the GM even appeared throughout the evening to offer his two cents and make sure everything was going according to plan. Whereas other restaurants seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel with exhausted, burnt out servers, there was a sense of reassurance and calm among the staff at 4 Saints, usually a testament to a strong team who is well taken care of, and a welcome reminder of what is most important in a great dining experience — the people behind it.
Which is to say, yes, despite ordering perhaps a few too many appetizers, we were coaxed to stay for dessert and espresso martinis after the steak and pasta had been cleared. A small but mighty slice of toasty bread pudding was served with enough pomp and circumstance to round out the night, and to catapult 4 Saints to the upper echelon of dining experiences I’ve had so far this year. As Ramirez settles into his new role at the Kimpton, he’ll be turning his Midas touch to the menus at the poolside High Bar and the ground floor’s Juniper Table offerings as well, so desert travelers should keep tabs on those rollouts coming later this year as well. And even as those updates come, a quiet bite and drink at the bar upstairs will still be the best choice to end or begin a stay at the Kimpton Rowan.