Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

1600 degrees of perfection

Sinking into a cozy chair at The Oak Room, I drink in the ambiance. Subtle but tantalizing aromas emanate from the kitchen. A repertoire of jazz tunes drifts lightly through the air — not at all obtrusive, the music generates an air of excitement. I sip an aromatic glass of wine — one of 250 labels in The Oak Room’s extensive wine cellar. I already feel pampered and I haven’t even ordered dinner yet.

Those who spend time at Pala Casino Spa & Resort know the culinary benefits of The Oak Room, but if the casino action doesn’t interest you, it’s a still a wonderful place to get your palate indulged.

Pala’s chefs are the “crème de la crème,” and hail from various Las Vegas resorts and other renowned hotels. The chefs enjoy their careers at Pala, and that enjoyment is reflected in the sterling quality of the fare presented to patrons.

The meat literally sizzles – first on the new 1600-degree grill and then with flavor! The high temperature grill sears the meat and seals in the juices. Robert Camerota, Pala’s executive chef, 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. Chef Thomas Feng called the cooking marvel their “secret weapon.”

The velvety filet mignon only needs a nudge with salt and pepper – it speaks for itself, without the shouts of complicated sauces. In fact, none of the beef that is offered needs anything extra. Seared to perfection, the 21-day aged prime meat cuts have no need of sauces to enhance the flavor.

The Rib Eye is very tender and has a flavor that reminds me of something cooked on a wood fire inside a smoky mountain cabin. The New York Steak boasts a different texture, but has the same smoky mountain cabin flavor.

The Oak Room’s lobster tails are flown in from Australia; however the big surprise is that they come in four sizes. Eight-ounce, twelve-ounce, one-pound and two-pound tails are all available for command performances in the dining room. The lobster tail I sampled had an exciting sea-borne flavor, but was also slightly sweet. They are fire-roasted with a secret butter that enhances the flavor and brings a bit of savory to the sweet seafood.

“No one else has this secret recipe,” noted one of the chefs.

Alaskan King Crab is shipped from the Bering Sea where the cold water fosters a rich flavor. The twelve-inch crab legs I was served barely fit on the plate! They are steamed and served split so there is no fuss or errant crab juices squirting your dinner companion.

Executive Pastry Chef is Albert Cruz. In 1998, while he was on staff at the Los Angeles Regal Biltmore Hotel, Chef Cruz was chosen “Pastry Chef of the Year” by the California Restaurant Writer’s Association.

There is no dessert menu; however, Chef Cruz creates a sample tray laden with several dramatic desserts for the servers to present to the diners. The Chocolate Tower has a fudge brownie base heaped with vanilla ice cream. This dreamy concoction is then enclosed with “walls” of thin dark and white chocolate wafers. It is a dizzying swirl of chocolate enhanced by vanilla ice cream. The Crème Brûlée is crowned with a delicate layer of caramel, like thin ice, and the silky custard below is pure eggs and crème, with no hint of added flavor.

After I had been sufficiently dazzled by the savory beef, succulent seafood and artistic desserts, I sat back and contemplated The Oak Room’s pleasantly delivered dining experience. My attempt to unravel the delectable mysteries of The Oak Room’s culinary surprises was indeed a delightful journey. Now it’s your turn!

The Oak Room

Pala Casino Spa & Resort

11154 Hwy 76


877-WIN-PALA (877-946-7252)

Reservations suggested

(760) 510-5100 before 5 p.m.

(760) 510-4540 after 5 p.m.


Monday, Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Friday, Saturday: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.


Reader Comments(0)

Rendered 06/17/2024 05:42