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Since I live in Pasadena, I'm always looking for new restaurants within a 5-7 mile radius. I spend time some time each week on the west side for work, so when it comes to the weekends, the closer the better.
So when Steve and Tawny and I decided to go out for dinner on Saturday, we chose Blue Velvet. Though we decided before last week's LA Times review came out, the positive comments of Irene only made us more excited to go.
The first thing that strikes you about Blue Velvet is how absolutely gorgeous it is. The interior is split into two rooms: a large lounge area complete with a sunken seat communal table and lots of sleek couches to sit on; and a dining area with frosted glass tables and comfortable dark wood chairs. The outside is even more stunning with a open patio and pool area with a fire pit, all overlooking the city lights of LA.
But on to the food: Our amuse was some glass noodles with a golden beet puree and some red pepper flakes. Not the most attractive amuse I've ever seen, but the combination of flavors was surprisingly good.
For the wine, we chose a Cotes du Rhone, but the sommelier informed us they were out of the one we chose and offered another pricier selection but at the same price of the bottle we wanted. Music to our ears! He chose the Domaine de Ferrand Cotes du Rhone which was, at first, spicy but opened up nicely after 20 minutes to reveal a slight touch of fruit - we loved it.
We decided to split three appetizers, since they were all relatively small in size. I chose the seared foie gras with sweet & spicy tapioca. This fresh foie gras was excellent and melted in my mouth, and the tapioca cake was a pleasant accompaniment to the dish. Everyone gave it a thumbs-up.
Steve chose the spring vegetable (I believe that's what was inside) tortellini in some sort of broth. It was very good, though not spectacular.
Tawny chose the real winner: Lobster cassoulet with flageolet beans, boudin noir bread pudding and herbs. The lobster meat was succulent and rich, and nicely balanced by the beans (which had more lobster in it!) and bread pudding.
For my entree, I chose the squab with some sort of puree (sorry, this one's not on the website). The squab was incredibly juicy and rich and perfectly cooked, and the slightly sweet puree and crispy onions that came with it made each bite perfection indeed.
Steve opted for the free range chicken breast with duck fat potatoes. I know...duck fat potatoes! The chicken was moist and succulent, and those potatoes...I'm sure you can just imagine how nicely crisp they were on the outside and hot and tender they were on the inside.
Tawny went for the filet mignon with a beet hash, oxtail and some sort of beet puree. Not only did the beets offer a flash of beautiful color, it also added great flavor to this dish. The hash was an eye-opener...I would have never thought of making hash out of beets, but I will most definitely try this at home now.
If you're asking me if we had room for dessert after all this, the answer is a resounding "YES!" The great thing about restaurants like Blue Velvet is that you get a decent taste of great food without the huge portions. If I wanted monster-sized platters, I'd go to the Cheesecake Factory. OK, who am I kidding? I would never go the Cheesecake Factory, a prime example of everything wrong with American food today, but you catch my drift.
For dessert we shared two things: The fried banana with some sort of chocolate ice cream and I think some amaretto shake type dealio. Sorry, this isn't on the online menu either, and I think Steve chose it so I can't remember exactly what it was. It was very good, though none of the flavors popped for me. The ice cream was slightly bland, and the banana didn't taste sweet enough for my flava.
Our second pick was the creme caramel with caramel corn. This was excellent. Who would have thunk to put a flan and caramel corn together? The flavors and textures really worked well with this.
All in all, we loved Blue Velvet. It's great to see these types of places springing up in downtown LA. You can get fabulous food, service and atmosphere somewhere other than the west side, so check this place out if you get a chance. I imagine it'd be a great place to go for drinks and appetizers after work as well.