Forget New Year’s Eve. The best way to see out 2007 was to have a back to back dinner and lunch at "15" in Echo Park the night before last and at "Comme Ca" yesterday afternoon, each with a different close friend. Both restaurants engage their respective neighborhoods whether it be the ‘in the hood’ gentrification of Sunset and Echo Park Boulevards; or, in the case of Comme Ca, the fashionable frontage of Melrose and La Cienega. My friend the educator pointed out that "Santa Maria Nouvelle" up the street was the official offspring of the apothecary to Catherine di Medici. (Don’t ask if they carry Tylenol.) Both do beautifully what they set out to do.
My friend, the realtor, and I planned a 7pm meeting in Echo Park and I left the West Side at 5:30pm and arrived at 6:30pm. He left Sherman Oaks at 6pm and arrived at 7pm. That gave me enough time to catch up on J. Gold’s delightful year end round up of his favorite dishes in the Weekly and order a couple of appetizers: the Bosc pear and blue crab cake and the mushroom empanada both for $7. Both were satisfying. Prices are more than reasonable here with a tantalizing three course dinner menu for $15 offered between 5 and 7pm. For entrees we tried the pork loin with flageolet beans for $16 and the duck confit for $18 with whole grain mustard potatoes and green beans. The pork was a large filet nicely cooked and a great pairing with the beans while the duck confit had the requisite salty tenderness. We would have opted for dessert but the only selection was a chocolate croissant bread pudding and my friend doesn’t eat chocolate. But being on that side of the world we ventured over to "Scoops" on Heliotrope and in very cold weather enjoyed some very refreshing mango and passion fruit, coconut and pandam, vegan lemon jasmine and vegan sesame ginger ice creams. The total on the ice cream came to $5 while our total at "15" came to $73 which included an iced tea and two glasses of a Box Car Syrah. Hospitality is high here and begins on the phone and continues through the departure. I would gladly make this a dinner stop on the way to downtown or for an impromptu East side rendezvous.
We arrived at "Comme Ca" at 11:30am yesterday morning for an early lunch and in time to secure the corner booth that allows you to take in the whole unfolding scene. We were greeted so warmly that any table would have been fine but it was fun to be the first guests to arrive and to depart a packed restaurant. We started with a $13 glass of Roederer Estate (recently seen at another restaurant for $24) and the freshest of homemade lemonade for $3.50. My friend ordered the enormous mussels for $22 in a superb creamy broth of fennel, garlic and thyme with enough fries to fill us both while I had once again the duck confit, this time with spaetzle, for $24. "Comme Ca’s" version is earthy, most tender and spectacularly good. This is some of the best cooking anywhere and certainly the best brasserie experience to be found locally. We finished with the "Boule" cake for $8 that found dark chocolate molded around milk chocolate mousse with hazelnut nougat at the center and with homemade pistachio ice cream on the side. Add an Intelligentsia espresso and coffee for $5 and $4 respectively and you get to our $86 total. With Trina at the door and Todd at the cheese station, this is some of the best service in town. As we exited onto Melrose an SUV and a Lexus sedan were doing a screeching u-turn, hot on the tail of another blacked out windowed vehicle. “Police pursuit?” We queried. “Oh no, Posh and the paparazzi.” I see.
Happy New Year!