A new executive chef (formerly of the Parker Palm Springs), a new menu, new craft cocktails and a new owner (Palm Springs local John Fritch) make Peaks Restaurant (https://www.pstramway.com/dining/), at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, a fine-dining experience par excellence.
“I’m recommending the restaurant to all my friends.” This is what people say after their first meal at the new improved Peaks, Gary Givens, assistant general manager, told me recently. I joined him for dinner at Peaks – and like everyone – after enjoying an amazingly fresh Salmon Carpaccio, a crisp California chardonnay and unbelievable views of the Coachella Valley lights twinkling far below – I too, highly recommend Peaks.
Fritch and his team took over on June 30, 2016 and locals and visitors alike have been quick to appreciate the change. “Attendance is up 20 percent. And we haven’t been open a year,” Givens said.
Blessed with arguably the best view of any restaurant in the Western Hemisphere -- endless floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto the valley floor more than two miles (8,516 feet) below framed by row upon row of purple mountains undulating to the horizon and triple-tier seating insures everyone the best table – the addition of Executive Chef Frank Decker’s culinary expertise is, well, like icing on the cake.
“I’ve brought in a contemporary touch, with modern ingredients, locally sourced produce and protein, and fresher, lighter fare,” Decker explained. “The Coachella Valley’s produce is amazing – local fennel, arugula, and blood oranges. The citrus here is fantastic.”
Decker goes further than simply sourcing local. He takes it to the next level, buying from smaller, family owned farms, “who have personal control over growing their products,” he explained.
New seasonal menus and the improved quality of traditional favorites like the Aged Ribeye, which now features a 12 oz. Harris Ranch ribeye steak, with Red Bliss potato puree, asparagus and Cabernet Demi, add to the good taste.
Another plus: “We prepare everything to order,” Decker said. Be it menu favorites like the Salmon Carpaccio, with capers, olive oil, garlic and crostini --“a very, very fresh clean flavor, simple and good,” he explained -- and the Citrus salad, with arugula, shaved fennel, blood orange and citrus vinaigrette, or the Bacon Avocado Blue Burger, with a half-pound house-blended beef, blue cheese, avocado, Applewood smoked bacon, leaf lettuce, tomato and red onion. “The messiest, best hamburger that you can imagine,” replied the woman dining next to me, to my question “what are you having?” Other recommendations include the Miso Salmon with Atlantic salmon, Tomato Saffron Broth, Shitake Mushrooms and sautéed spinach – yu-um.
Sunset is a must at Peaks – watching the world turn pink and the mountains glow red from this two-mile high perch is unlike anywhere else. The new cocktail menu provides the perfect toast for these magical moments. “It’s like having cocktails on a cloud -- with the best views in the Western Hemisphere,” Fritch enthused. “People love to come for the sunset and see the city lights as they’re going back down the mountain.” No surprise, Peaks is also a prime spot for marriage proposals.
New hand-crafted favorites include the Tramway Bellini, a bubbly concoction of St. Germain, peach schnapps, champagne and orange juice; the Mountain Gust, featuring citrus-infused vodka in a refreshing blend of lemon lime, pomegranate juice and fresh berries, and the Tram Car, a tasty mix of Korbel brandy, Cointreau and fresh lemon with a sugared rim. Not to forget the local-favorite Peaks Sling, made with cucumber vodka, St. Germain, cucumber-infused water, lemon juice, ginger beer and a splash of grapefruit.
Local sourcing extends to the bar, where beer fans find a good selection of locally crafted beers from the Coachella Valley Brewing Company (CVB) and wine aficionados choose from fine California vintages.
Apre dinner, the Peaks Perfect Coffee is truly perfect. Blended with Kahlua, Baileys, Frangelico and whipped cream! Dessert is on the way. Decker promises exciting new desserts in the coming months.
Look for the new Peaks to become a staple of Palm Springs’ favorite restaurants. “I love it up here – the atmosphere, the people I work with, there’s something new every day,” Decker told me.