Palm Springs has a new restaurant to know about named Bar Cecil, opening April 20 with local star chef Gabe Woo at the helm. Woo, a Coachella Valley native, had gained a following in recent years for his oft-waitlisted weekly communal dinners at boutique hotels Sparrows Lodge and Holiday House. After the series came to a pandemic-induced halt last spring, the hotels’ owners Jeff Brock and Richard Crisman began looking for a standalone restaurant where Woo could share his culinary prowess with a larger crowd.
Now comes the new Bar Cecil, which takes over a South Palm Canyon space that was formerly the home of decades-old sushi bar Kiyosaku. Renovations began last fall, and in the months since the team — which also includes John Janulis, owner of Portland-based hospitality group Lighting Bar Collective and Palm Springs hotel Villa Royale, and GM Nate VanDeventer, formerly of LBC — has flipped the venue into a glam 75-seat restaurant. The dining room is wrapped in bold wallpaper prints and signed original artworks (including Warhol’s 1979 After the Party) and anchored by a wood and marble bar, tufted blueberry-hued stools, and a massive custom light fixture. The adjacent patio is heavy on greenery and incorporates wall murals by local street artist Tysen Knight.
Bar Cecil’s menu centers around contemporary bistro fare, with Woo simultaneously putting his own spin on classics and incorporating seasonal ingredients from local farms. Opening menu starters include a caramelized onion and Comté tart garnished with chive blossoms, Bibb salad laced with pine nuts and radish, and grilled California artichokes with house aioli, while entrees range from traditional ratatouille and steak frites to a pan-seared halibut alongside sprouting cauliflower and celeriac puree. A roasted chicken from Riverside’s GoneStraw Farms serves as a nod to the fabled poultry dish that Woo served at his Wednesday night chicken dinners, and is plated with Weiser Family Farms potatoes.
Bar Cecil’s bar, named for British artist, photographer, and all-around connoisseur of the good life Cecil Beaton, proudly touts some over-the-top options too. There’s the vodka shot-accompanied caviar service of Regiis Ova by Thomas Keller, and the Beluga vodka Fifty Dollar Martini served with a caviar-and-sunchoke-topped deviled egg. Apparently, those indulgent enough to order 10 over time will actually have their names engraved on a brass plaque inside the space. The rest of the cocktail menu remains more classic (and more affordable), ranging from the sidecars and old fashioneds to a simple French 75, served in vintage glassware.
For true luxury, Palm Springs diners can even reserve the Beaton Experience, a six-course prix-fixe dinner for four to eight people, with wine pairings, offered as a single seating per night. That meal runs a cool $350 a person. Bar Cecil is currently open 5 p.m., to 10 p.m. Closed on Mondays. Reservations are available on OpenTable.