After I had to move to South Carolina and the culinary wasteland that is called Greenville last year, I spent my first weekend in LA in a couple of months. Decided to make dinner reservations at La Buca for Friday and at Jiraffe for Saturday.
This was my first visit. I really wanted to try that place after reading so much about it on this board. Got there at 8:00pm for our reservation and we were seated promptly. Great little place I like the atmosphere, as it reminds me a lot of little trattorias in Italy. Service was a bit rushed since the place was pretty much packed, but our waiter was very nice and helpful throughout the evening.
As an appetizer we ordered the special of the day starcciatella cheese on crostini and greens outstanding. The cheese was very delicate and fresh. It was like biting into litlle clouds of taste. As the main dish we had one special of the day tagliatelle with a porcini tomato sauce. As I wanted to see how their Pizza is, I ordered the Pizza with prosciutto. The passta was outstanding clearly one of the best homemade pasta I have had in the US. The pizza was a bit of a disappointment for me. While it was very good and authentic in style, the dough was not where it should be. Personally I still prefer Anticas pizza. Yet this one was still one of the better ones in LA. As a dessert we had the Panna Cotta, which was good, but I had definitely better before. Total bill was about $60.
Overall a great little Italian place, which in my opinion is better than many significantly more pricey other Italian restaurants in LA (except maybe Angelini Osteria, which is still my favorite). I also prefer this more laid back atmosphere for Italian Osterias/Trattorias, as it is more authentic.
Had reservations at 8:30 the place was packed except from 2 small tables, both of which were not very nicely located. I chose the better one of the 2, which was the one downstairs. While initially agreeing, the hostess became a little reluctant after talking with a colleague of hers, but I insisted and we were seated shortly afterwards and were given the dinner and drink menus.
Immediately after being seated the waitress came to ask what we would like to drink. As my girlfriend wanted to review their drink list first, I asked the waitress to please give us a couple of minutes to decide. Well, that was pretty much the last we saw of her for about an hour or more. About 10 minutes later another waiter approached us and asked us if somebody was helping us. I told him that there was a waitress, but that we have not seen her again in about 10-15 minutes. By his reaction it seemed that he was not surprised about this. So he took our drink orders and returned promptly with the drinks. He served us for the rest of the evening and did a tremendous job. Very nice guy, who is very knowledgeable about the menu. I dont remember his name but he had a French accent. Once he returned with the drinks he told us about the special of the days in great detail. I overheard our initial waitress later that evening presenting the specials of the day to another table and there was no comparison. She pretty much only threw some bullet points at them while our waiter went into integrate detail as to how the dishes are prepared. As for her, she returned a couple of times to our table later on, but each time annoyed the heck out of me with the indifferent attitude and underlying arrogance. I am just glad that she was not our main waitress for the rest of the evening.
As for the food: For appetizers I ordered the fois gras and my girlfriend had the mushroom filled ravioli. As mentioned on this board before, the fois gras was unbelievably good. Definitely and by far the best dish of the evening - very well prepared in a crust of, I hope I remember correctly, pistachios with a port/chocolate sauce just heavenly. The mushroom ravioli were very good and all ingredients tasted extremely fresh, but it didnt come close to the fois gras. The fois gras is a must at this place.
Main Dishes were the striped bass in a mushroom sauce over spaghettini for me and the caramelized pork chop with wild rice and chutney for my girl-friend. The bass and mushroom sauce were outstanding and, again, all ingredients very fresh. I didnt care much for the spaghettini, as I thought that they were the wrong side for this dish. After taking the first bite of the pork chops I didnt think it was that special. But when combining the pork with chutney and sauce it developed into something much more delicate. Even though I heard so much positive about that dish on this board, I probably wouldnt chose again on a return visit.
For dessert we shared the Banana cream Pie with a glass of dessert wine. Very nice ending to a wonderful dinner, but in retrospect would have a chosen the lemon soufflé instead.
Overall a very good dinner, but maybe not the most memorable that I ever had. The fois gras was outstanding and unbeatable. The remaining dishes were exceptional, but maybe I expected a little bit more, in particular form the main dishes. One thing that stood out was that all ingredients were obviously very fresh and well selected, which turns good dishes into extraordinary dishes.