It was fate when a neighbor asked me to pick him up at Il Grano after lunch today. I had just read yesterday's L.A. Times review of West at the Angeleno Hotel, where SIV attributes the current crudo craze to Mario Batali and Esca in New York. I wondered, of course, having sampled, albeit sparingly, various versions over the years from Frank Falcinelli at the short lived Moomba L.A., David Meyers at SONA, and, as it would turn out, a sublime version at Il Grano hours ago when I was talked into staying for lunch. One wants to take nothing away from Batali and company, especially as they ready their local launch, but a nod to a resident talent like Sal Marino, who is investing heart and soul into the quality of his operation seems appropriate.
In any case, scallop and toro sat together in a pool of mandarin orange with a daikon and celery root slaw to stunning effect. This was followed with spaghetti with morels, peas and pancetta that was a carbonara lover's dream. A white bass over escarole with roasted organic tomatoes was equally impressive. Three small scoops of house made gelato: pistachio, strawberry and verbena finished the meal perfectly. Even the warm salt crusted rolls could give La Brea bakery a run for their money. Freshness and flavor at its best.