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Mother in Law Report #5: Bastide

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Mother in Law Report #5: Bastide

JudiAU | Jun 10, 2004 03:21 PM

First let me assure all readers: no feather boas were insulted in the writing of this report.

We had dinner at Bastide Saturday night with a party of five. We sat on the serene outdoor patio. Several people have commented that they found the restaurant plain but I think the décor is subtle, restrained, and very chic. Beautiful china, crystal, silver and linens. Even the silver butter cloche is Cristofle.

The meal is paced slowly and deliberately to create a sense of anticipation. Service was flawless. I also received a proper fish fork and knife, which when absent at our first dinner here, created much resentment in my heart.

The wine list is huge with an excellent selection of champagnes and burgundies. We drank Bruno Paillard Burt Premiere Cuvee and a 1997 Pommard, small producer escapes us. The wine list has a traditional (high) markup but it has it less expensive than some local places (L'Orangerie) and there are many less expensive options.

Tasting menus only priced at $80 (Traditional Menu- 4 courses, Amuse, choice of first, choice of second, cheese tray, and dessert.), $90 (Seasonal Asparagus Menu- 5 courses), or Bastide Menu $110 (8 courses- for the table only). There is also a "Vegetable Menu" available.

Amuse Buche - Shot glass with spicy tomato, cucumber, and cantaloupe gelatins with peeled tomatoes. Very refreshing with a hint of vinegar. Good palate opener although I wish it had been ever so slightly less firm.

I started with a proper fish soup accented with shrimp and rouille. Lovely. I can never, ever resist a great fish soup by a classically trained French chef.

Unfortunately it also provokes in me a bit of discontent and I start to dwell on how long it has been since we were in St. Tropez, why we don't ever play boule anymore, why we don't drink more pink wine on the beach, why A doesn't let you drink wine on the beach and wander around topless in a big hat.

Luckily, I now know better and keep my mouth shut when I eat fish soup. This was very, very fine fish soup: briny, rich, with deep musky flavor and all of the secrets of the sea.

This soup, along with a similar maybe even slightly better soup eaten last month at Le Bernardin in New York should be a warning to all chefs everywhere who persist in serving substandard fish soup. It can, and should be this good, so stop whining about not being able to find rouget and make me some good soup.

I also had the filet of Dover Sole with fresh peas, pea puree, pea foam and earthy morel mushrooms. Dover sole has such a spectacular texture that it always a treat. What struck me about this dish was the clean, concentrated flavor of each element and how utterly light it was. Yes, light.

In fact many of the dishes had a sauve, light quality and it is quality of the meal that seems to linger the most.

A dish I would happily eat again was the roasted chicken with morels. This folks, is what chicken is meant to taste like. This was the most chickeny-chicken I have ever eaten in LA. This was similar to a Bress chicken eaten at Les Ambassadors in Paris. If I had access to chicken like this, I would cook chicken. Terrific flavor.

(Mr. JudiAU would like to note that when I am not going into raptures about the perfect chicken of Bastide I will say nice things about the chicken available from Kendor Farms at the Hollywood Farmer's Market.)

The menu listed this as "poularde" which is a term I am not familiar with. The chicken was bigger than a poussin and was raised in Pennsylvania. It sounds like a bastardization of moularde and poulet. Does anyone have experience with a "poularde."

Foie Gras and "fancy restaurant" always seem to go together. I imagine they can't take it off the menu. Bastide's version is excellent and god bless 'em, edgy. They cook it au torchon, which in a modern kitchen seems to mean that it is vacuum packed and then poached. It produced a texture halfway between seared foie gras with its gelatinous, rich liver goodness and a terrine, with smooth and concentrated flavor. Rare, with a slight quiver, this was excellent and a highlight of the evening. I wish I had ordered it and eaten it all myself. Maximum delicousness.

Also sampled: robust Maine lobster with green asparagus, and a delicate crab salad.

Mr. JudiAU had poached white asparagus to start which was cooked more than we prefer. White asparagus is always cooked through but this was a bit much. We prefer the version at Spago.

The cheese trolley arrived. Don't the words "cheese trolley" make you all happy and smiley inside? I ask to be served only raw milk cheeses.

None. Nadda. Nothing. All pasteurized! Sacre bleu! Dear lord! Have the heavens opened and the gods decided to insult me? Nothing? I can't imagine why. At least some raw milk cheese is made in the US and/or gets imported. But he insisted. So I asked for whatever was in perfect condition.

The cheese was all very good, deeply flavored, and with none of the overaging and ammonia notes that seem to crop up so frequently in French imports and certain unnamed Beverly Hills cheese stores. The standouts were a Brin d'Amour and an aged goat cheese. I also had a suspiciously good brie which demonstrated some truffly characteristics. Maybe he was lying.

Melisse still wins for ultimate cheese trolly with an enthusiastic response to a request for raw milk cheese.

I finished with a glass of Lemorton 1976 Calvados which had a heady, alcoholic aroma and was quite spicy, even vigorous in the mouth before a smooth finish. I have a bottle of the same vintage which I opened almost one year ago. I have been slowly drinking my way through it. The Bastide bottle had a much bigger kick than my bottle which is much mellower but with a similar smell and taste. I purchased my bottle at Caves Taillevent in Paris a few years ago. Are the differences solely attributable to the fact that my bottle has been open for a while?

I am a little shaky on dessert. I doubt it has anything to do with the calvados or the barsac consumed by the rest of the table. I remember some "good chocolate thing" and that the signature Lavender vacherin with spiky meriunge was as perfect I remember. There was also "the exotic" which seemed to be a excellent version of the classic, boozy baba rum with tropical fruits.

Bill: Horrendous

All-time best celebrity sighting: Salman Rushdie with new wife

I read yesterday in LAT that Alain Giraud is being forced out of Bastide and may be creating a more casual restaurant, which is what he has long preffered. I look forward to it. The ideas for the menu by the new chef, Ludovic Lefebvre from L'Orangerie, sound obnoxious.

8475 Melrose Place, L.A.
323-651-0426

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