Restaurant Review: For casual fine dining, 3 Palms Grille is hidden gem at Sawgrass

Restaurant Review: For casual fine dining, 3 Palms Grille is hidden gem at Sawgrass

Unless you golf or live within the gates of the Oak Bridge Club at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach’s 3 Palms Grille might not be on your dining radar. And that’s a shame.

Since fall 2016, the lakeside bistro and bar has been very much open to the public. Just ask for it at either Sawgrass community guard gate, then be prepared to wind your way through the curves of rooftops and cart crossings that make up the circulatory system of Ponte Vedra golf country.

Open six days per week for lunch and dinner, along with Sunday brunch, 3 Palms offers the feel of a private club with a modern-yet-comfortable vibe and a daring, contemporary family of menus to match. The restaurant interior is bisected into bar and dining area, with an expansive patio and fire pit extending toward the lake and 18th green.

The culinary team at the foundation of 3 Palms is a collaboration between the partners at 11 South in Jacksonville Beach and Cap’s on the Water in Vilano Beach. They’ve created an inventive casual fine-dining scene with menus for lunch, dinner, brunch, bar bites and happy hour, all of which rotate seasonally. Dinner is, as you might expect, heavy on fully involved entrees, while lunch ushers in sandwiches, sliders and flatbreads alongside standard entrée fare. The brunch menu brings in five brunch standards and nice deals on mimosas and bloody marys.

My family came calling last Saturday with an early-evening reservation in the main dining room. While Mom and I appreciated the tony décor and social clamor of the chatty dining room, our 3-year-old transformed into an insatiable wiggle worm. At least for dinner, consider 3 Palms date night territory and get a sitter.

For starters, we called up the Artisan Cheese Plate ($15). This plentiful platter featured slices of aged English cheddar, manchego and truffled Gouda alongside a mound of blue cheese crumbles, along with candied pecans, honey and crostinis (on the side in a nod to my wife’s gluten-free palate). The offerings were mild, easy-to-love crowd-pleasers.

The Caesar Salad ($10) was a standard arrangement of baby romaine, grape tomatoes and shaved Parmesan, pleasantly punctuated with tasty herbed garlic loaf croutons that gave this salad a nice and memorable edge.

For our main plates, my wife’s Atlantic Salmon ($25) was a moist, melty and healthy portion finished in a tangy, great honey mustard-rosemary-orange glaze. The medley of baby spinach, blistered tomatoes and baby carrots over whipped potatoes gave a varied texture in every bite.

My selection, the Lamb Rack ($25), was a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth half rack of celery spice-crusted and grilled lamb, paired with a colorful foundation of Israeli couscous chock-full of grape tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olive, lemon zest and feta. It was a winner.

The dinner menu features six dessert offerings; we sampled two. My wife’s Vanilla Crème Brulee ($7) was a smooth, perfectly creamy custard assembled from Madagascar vanilla beans, accentuated with fresh berries. My Warm Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake ($7) resembled a lava cake, served in a ramekin dish, with a wilting scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. My wiggle-worm daughter suddenly straightened up with her spoon, all business.

The 3 Palms happy hour, available Tuesday through Sunday from 3:30-7 p.m., is an extensive one with $5 wine pours (red, white and sparkling included), $5 single-pour premium cocktails and $2.75 Bud Light, Miller Lite and Michelob Ultra. Eight Bar Bites, including such selections as Prime Rib Spring Rolls and Truffled Parmesan Frites, run $6 to $7 during the same hours. Live entertainment acts perform Thursday and Saturday evenings as well as during Sunday brunch, with expanded performances coming the week of The Players golf tournament, Thursday through Sunday nights.

While tucked away from the rest of the Beaches dining scene, 3 Palms Grille is right at home in the heart of Sawgrass. It’s a very pleasant dine we’ll enjoy again soon.

Jay Magee is a regular guy who needs a little balance in his life. That means spending as much time in the gym as he does in new restaurants. Find out how that’sworking out for him at jaymagee.yelp.com or read one of his intermittent blog posts at jaymagee.com.

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