Drago Centro is a fabulously overdone restaurant. The remodel, huge space, and well trained staff all must have cost a fortune, in a location downtown, that frankly, doesn’t warrant it. Unlike Church and State where the neighborhood is a big part of the draw, Drago Centro is in an area that those of us old enough to remember, know as downtown. I.e. surrounded by tall buildings and empty after dark. Fellow CHers this is a blessing. I have twice now been able to get a weekend reservation same day, and have been seated right away.
The place is a bit tough to find, the one way streets and tunnels at Second and Third make getting into the Flower st. underground parking a challenge. Try, Second street East to Hill South to Third West to Flower South, but look up quickly the parking entry is tough to see... you get the idea.
The restaurant is serious from the get go: liberal Carrara marble, a glass wine tower in the center of the room, and a professional hostess to escort you to the table. The restaurant oozes quality.
Last week, there was no tasting menu which (to my dismay) was replaced with a white truffle menu. I have nothing against truffles, but generally can’t justify the price. So, this week, on our return visit, I was happy to see the tasting menu back. No reason to look further, we ordered the tasting menu with pairings for the table.
First up was a yellowtail carpaccio. Served raw with whole small green peppercorns, a drizzle of olive oil and lemon. The fish was perfect although I thought the pepper citrus combination a bit more Nobu like than Italian.
This was followed by a diver scallop dish that was nothing short of spectacular. A small grilled scallop next to a finely sliced potato rolled to match the scallop in shape and color, with small balls of grilled garlic. The dish had a pesto or perhaps basil infused oil and dots of reduced balsamic. A really amazing second course.
Next up was a house made tagliolini with a creamy saffron sauce and lobster. Perfectly sauced, and well balanced. The saffron was just right and did not overpower the lobster.
Finally the red wine courses. The first was a sweetbread tortoloni in brodo. Surprisingly subtle but the dish was still meaty. The pasta held up well in the broth and retained it’s bite.
Lastly, were game hen medallions. Crispy skin on one side, medium rare throughout. These were tender and delicious. On the side of the plate was some sort of deep fried creamy savory goodness, foie gras esque in texture, maybe it was liver, but a very subtle flavor.
To top it off, a chocolate caramel pot de creme with a spun sugar topping. Definitely had to be finished no matter how full the others at the table were.
A few restaurant notes: the service is pro. I never noticed our servers unless I made an effort, to me the sign of good service. The decor is very nice. This was an expensive remodel and it shows, the room is very comfortable. The table spacing was very good, there is plenty of room and you are not subjected to other peoples’ conversations while eating. The restaurant is somewhat formal. It would not be out of place to wear a jacket and tie, and it certainly would be odd to wear jeans and a t-shirt. For those interested, the wine list is fantastic. There are plenty of good selections from $30+ with, of course, a focus on Italian wines. The sommelier knows his stuff and was a great help on our first visit. The pairings with the tasting menu were good, but one rose, two whites, and a dessert wine, was not my ideal. I would rather some creative red pairings, but that's a personal preference.
Lastly, Drago Centro gets my vote as currently the best Italian in the city. It is in a different class than Madeo, and I think beats even Angelini in it’s prime (about three to four years ago.) It’s not cheap, but at $75 for a six course tasting and $40 for pairings it is a good value considering the quality of the food and the service.
525 S. Flower St., Suite 120, Los Angeles, CA 90071