If you’re looking for a cool, new dining spot in the heart of downtown Palm Springs checkout the new restaurant at Hard Rock Hotel.

Simon Kitchen + Bar opened on Wednesday, Sept. 24 for the breakfast crowd promptly at 7 a.m., but on Tuesday (Sept. 23) night a hand-picked crowd got the chance to finally taste a sampling of some of the more popular dishes on the menu.

Along with HRH owner Andy Carpiac, Cory Harwell of Simon Hospitality Group and Chef Kerry Simon (who was not expected to be there) were all at the pre-opening party, talking to guests and listening to what they had to say about the food.

While the restaurant space looks much like the old Sessions, with the rough-hewn walls and colorful tiled bar area, the atmosphere has changed completely. Orange banquettes have had a bright white face lift and dining areas on both sides of the bar are have been defined with open-framework dividers, giving both spaces a comfortable separation but not setting them off from the bar fun.

The accent was definitely on the food at this party as trays of Simon’s signature “Devil’s” eggs topped with crispy pancetta and caviar; house-cured salmon with Meyer lemon and caviar; bacon jam (yes! bacon JAM) and baked brie on thin slices of toasted baguettes; and crunchy endive leaves filled with apple, candied pecans and a light champagne vinaigrette made their way around the room. The hit of the night were the slider-sized versions of Simon’s famous Iron Chef burgers, topped with red onion jam and sharp cheddar cheese. It wasn’t unusual to see guests hunkered near the kitchen doors or waiting impatiently for the next tray of goodies to emerge from the kitchen.

Said Harwell, “This was a quick turn-around (from Sessions to Simon Kitchen+Bar), but we had a good start to work with.”

Look for a full restaurant review in Pampered Palate in the next few weeks.