Palette occupies the same 8,000 square-foot warehouse, which was once Restaurant LuLu – one of San Francisco’s most popular and visionary restaurants. It opened in 1993, quickly became a smash hit and operated for twenty-four years. LuLu was designed by a very young Cass Calder Smith and was created in collaboration with Chef Reed Hearon and owner Rowena Wu. Its hallmarks were its barrel-vaulted wood ceilings, expansive live fire kitchen, Roman piazza plan, and iconic façade. It was modern, yet warm; spacious, yet intimate; dramatic, yet casual; and always an experience at high volume. It was the recipient of numerous awards and was published extensively.
Now it’s back as Palette, owned and operated by Chef Peter J Hemsley. It’s the same building, same overall design, same architect, same fires. The finishes are new, so is the menu, and overall there is a new program. The restaurant, which occupies the central space is the focus, and is flanked on one side by Palette Gallery and Palette Shop on the other. The gallery and shop are totally white as exhibition spaces, while the restaurant is freshly sprayed in a deep moody blue with intentional overspray to keep it casual and fresh. What were once brick walls around the wood-fired ovens are now mirrored stainless steel panels to reflect the action of people and food; an instant camera as one moves around it. The main dining floor has been replaced with oriental rugs for a bohemian vibe, and the bar top is a geometric patchwork of colored stone to emphasize craft. Bleacher seating has been added with pillows and cocktail tables to diversify the experience, while art adorns the walls to blend the overall program.
Aside from the new program of art, craft, and cuisine, it’s also designed with an eye for exhibitions, events, performances, fashion shows, and more.