Desert Wellspring: Bellatrix Restaurant at Classic Club
Bellatrix Restaurant at Classic Club in Palm Desert provides menus as bold as the Arnold Palmer-designed course outside the stately clubhouse.
Standing sentry on the north side of the I-10, Classic Club was literally built for the pros, having served as host of the Bob Hope Classic (today’s CareerBuilder Challenge) from 2006-08.
With private dining, a bustling barroom, dinner seating and an expansive patio overlooking the par-5 ninth, Bellatrix is unique in the area.
“We’ve created an oasis for the Coachella Valley,” said Julian Gastelum, food and beverage director at the Troon-managed facility. “You get a sense that you’re not really even in the valley, but pleasantly on your own.”
Owned and operated as a nonprofit by the H.N. and Francis C. Berger Foundation, Classic Club’s 63,000-square-foot, Tuscan-inspired clubhouse and Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary golf course work together to serve as a desert playground for philanthropy, wildlife, daily-fee golf and some seriously diverse dining.
Annually, the facility hosts more than 40 charity golf events, and their charitable founding allows for drink and dine pricing that isn’t forced to play continual caddie to the bottom line.
With lunch served daily, along with happy hour (3 – 6 pm) and dinner service (5:30 – 8 pm) on Tuesday – Saturday, the servings at Bellatrix are a happy balance of value, golfer appease and white linen tablecloth in the evening hours.
Matched with a bustling event schedule and a wine list (over 400 selections) considered among the best in the region, the broad vision of Bellatrix proves far from simply grabbing a pre-wrapped sandwich on the fly.
“We try and give the feel of a country club to the public,” Gastelum added. “And our wine list is limited to a one-time markup, which is unheard of for most restaurants, especially here in the valley.”
Gerard Brunett, executive chef at Bellatrix Restaurant, knows his core clientele.
“First and foremost, it’s a golf property, and that’s something I always need to keep in mind when I write menus,” he said. “I need to know what the golfer, what the community will gravitate toward. But if you come in here and you want something special, and we can prepare it or have it in-house, we will make it. Period. No questions asked.”
Post-round lunch guests — armed with a $15 food voucher included in green fees — will likely present Brunett with few queries after eyeing the $3 – $10 happy hour slate or unique midday menu. An excellent seafood Louie salad is perfect for lunch on warmer desert days, while a Reuben, rock shrimp tacos or awesome meatloaf sandwich prove stellar options on all occasions.
“Chef uses the same Kobe beef that we use for our burgers, and we also use filet trimmings and a mushroom demi-sauce,” Gastelum detailed of the meatloaf. “It’s great comfort food.”
Between menu standards and modernized classics, Gastelum takes daily pride in the diversity of options.
“It’s funny,” he said, “because I’ll walk past a table and see a meatloaf sandwich next to a seafood Louie salad next to chicken tenders next to a Margharita pizza.”
Come dinner hour, Bellatrix authors a scorecard that will amaze first-time guests. While Brunett acknowledges a delicate dance between appealing to a barside happy-hour guest waxing about a fine round, and an intimate party of four enjoying a high-end meal, the veteran chef is able to score on both fronts.
“It’s how you smooth that over that counts,” said Burnett with a smile. “It’s how you make it all work. Once happy hour shuts down, our dining room takes on a whole different atmosphere with candles and intimacy. At night is when we like to experiment a little bit, get a little more upscale.”
Foremost across the evening menu is a superb (and succulent) Chilean sea bass served with pickled red cabbage, vegetable confit, jasmine rice and Thai peanut sauce. For the carnivorous: Enjoy a glass of the Croix Narrow Reserve pinot noir paired perfectly with the seared rack of lamb, served alongside pesto orzo, sweet onion and mint compote. Looking for a stellar staple? The grilled barrel cut filet served with potato gratin deserves its title as a Bellatrix best-seller.
And on a cool winter or early spring eve, don’t miss out on the short rib stew in red wine demi-sauce, joined by pearl onions, carrots, celery, garlic and fingerling potatoes.
For many golf facilities, an effort to appeal to all appetites and price points will generally result in all the promise of heeling a 3-iron near the hosel. But Classic Club isn’t most golf facilities. The private-club vibe at a public golf venue extends beyond the 18th green right into the grand clubhouse. From the golf course to your first dining course, the full-service philosophy aims to please palates of all comers.
“If we have the ingredients here, we’re always happy to make it,” Gastelum concluded. “The menu is more of a road map. Sure, we have the hot dogs and everything … but we don’t want to make everybody’s experience what we think it should be, but rather be able to create what a guest wants their experience to be.”