by Raymond Bill
For many months, I have heard rumors of a new restaurant opening in the J.W. Marriott’s Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert. After the closing of Ristorante Tuscany, one of the desert’s most luxurious restaurants, there has been much speculation as to what could possibly fill the void left from such a reputable restaurant. The wait is over and I have discovered what could very well be the best this desert has to offer!
Rockwood Grill not only provides a world class cuisine that would rival some of the finest menus in California, they also have the best server in the Coachella Valley in Elena Sembenini! We were seated in a large, comfortable booth at a fine crafted table imported from Spain. The restaurant is impeccably decorated. We were greeted with a genuine, heart-felt welcome from our Italian server and began our evening with a Margarita alla Sembenini, named after her. We felt so much at ease that we decided to let her and the amazing Chef Bryson, take control (which I rarely allow) by removing the menus and ordering for us.
We began with fresh baked focaccia and a sample of appetizers was placed in front of us, presented with great description (as was each course throughout the evening). Local dates wrapped in thick cut bacon, were served with a smoked eggplant dip and pita bread. Included, was a tasting of Point Reyes Toma cheese and Italian meats. It was a delicious combination of flavors, leaving our mouths watering for more. We also tasted their wild caught, sweet jumbo shrimp cocktail and it was perfection!
Elena took the pleasure in pairing wine with each course and her knowledge of new and old world wines is phenomenal. Between courses, we shared a salad of organic beets and bibb lettuce with a rich, creamy Laura Chenel goat cheese and learned a little history about the cheese and how it has become recognized as one of the finest in the world.
Our main course was one I will be talking about for quite some time, or at least until my next dinner at Rockwood Grill! While my guest had a most tender Filet Mignon with a chimichurri sauce, I had their amazing Lamb Shank, served on a bed of fresh kale with a small crock of cheesy polenta on the side. The meat fell effortlessly, off the bone. Accompanying our entrees, were sides of asparagus and homemade Mac & Cheese with a rich sharp cheddar. I cannot state enough how impressed I was with our meal and this incredible service!
We had little room for dessert, but with selections like, Warm Valrhona Chocolate Lava Cake and Coachella Valley Date and Apple Tart, we had to pick something. Our favorite was the Cinnamon Beignets with a date shake. Our evening was completed with French press coffee and a welcome back from our server and Chef. This was one of my most memorable dining experiences to date! I recommend this restaurant for anyone and everyone, for any occasion. Open for breakfast, lunch, and one of the best dinners you will have, Rockwood Grill is sure to stand out as a new favorite in town, located inside the J.W. Marriott’s Desert Springs Resort and Spa at the corner of Cook and Country Club in Palm Desert.

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