This has been one of my (and apparently a lot of others', as well) favourite restaurants in LA since it first opened. Every time I'm home for vacation, I make it a point to eat there.
Reservations were for the Thursday before Christmas. When I called the previous week to make reservations, I was given two options: 6PM or 8:15PM. We chose the latter, as 6 is way too early to eat.
We were seated promptly upstairs in that small indoor mezzanine section. I prefer downstairs in the front room, even though it's really noisy, because I like to watch people. But I'm not that picky.
Unfortunately, my friend is pickier. A pickier eater, that is, as she does not eat seafood or any meats beside chicken and lamb, has an enormous (and annoying) aversion to dressed dishes (ie, salad) and while she is usually game, she *is somewhat wary of overly exotic ingredients. However, she was the only one free that night for dinner, so I couldn't be too choosy in terms of dining partners. And she wanted to try the place out since I'd raved about it forever. Me, I eat everything (except beets).
*Chicken liver crostini. No, my friend didn't have any of this, which is fine because I love this dish and got Both Pieces all to myself. However, every time I order it, I always wonder why they bother with the pancetta. It's not easy to bite into, and doesn't add anything but another salty layer (and some colour, I suppose) to what is otherwise perfection (in my eyes). Served atop a bed of lightly-dressed frisee.
*lamb skewers. (Online it says it was served with couscous, date chutney and mint, but I think ours was actually served with large white beans, some white yogurty sauce and perhaps mint). Two skewers, done just the way I like them, with the meat still pink inside. This was one of our favourite dishes of the night (although my friend did scrape off all the yogurt sauce).
*Cauliflower, curry, and red vinegar. We ordered this because I'd heard so many raves about it on this board. Yuck. Neither of us liked it at all. While the flavour was okay, the cauliflower seemed to be overcooked and there was this weird gritty aftertaste in our mouths. This was the only dish we didn't finish.
*farro and black rice with currants and pine nuts. I'd never ordered this before, and liked it tons. Very nice nutty flavours, with just a hint of sweetness to add another dimension. My friend thought it was too oily, however, and I did not agree with her.
*Long-cooked cavolo nero. I haven't ordered this since the first time I came to the restaurant when it first opened. It was just as good as I remembered it being, although it was a touch salty. This was my friend's favourite dish (probably because it was served plain and simple, and was not "drenched" in olive oil. Sometimes, I want to hit her because she of all her food hangups. I have threatened her with never eating out with her again, which usually gets her to shut up. However, I've known her since 6th grade, and we're really good friends in spite of my hating her newly-developed eating aversions)
While I really wanted the dates - remember, my friend doesn't eat bacon (wah!) and I couldn't order too many dishes that were to be consumed by just me, because that just defeats the point.
We did not order dessert, because we were both too full, and nothing really appealed. I really wish they would bring back the croquembouche they had when they first opened. That remains one of my most favourite desserts ever.
Question: When did they replace the thin toasts served with the olives and whatever yummy spread that is with regular ol' plain sliced bread? I liked the toasts! Bring the toasts back!
I caught glances of Suzanne Goin while there (perhaps the only chef I recognise), and really wanted to compliment her, but I am chicken when it comes to matters like that. Perhaps another time.
It was crowded when we came and crowded when we left. Tab came to .. I don't really remember, but over $40/person for 6 dishes and 3 glasses of wine. I continue to adore this place - just, I am not ordering that cauliflower the next time.