I was a bit disappointed to see so many votes for La Cachette on the Ultimate list. I went there just last week, and it dosen't place anywhere near my personal list.
I was celebrating an anniversary, and I my critieria was good food (of course), romantic, and QUIET. The latter being one of the more difficult to find qualities in a restaurant in Los Angeles. La Cachette came up a lot on a search on the keyword "romantic", and by many it is a good restaurant foodwise (just like the list indicates).
I went to La Cachette with an 8:00 reservation and being only 1/4 full, probably 4 tables occupied, we were promptly seated by the hostess. Perhaps it's the Paris style of service, but we did not see a menu from the waiter for a good 5 minutes. Fortunately, with the good company, this wasn't a problem.
As I browsed through the menu, I noticed they printed split charges for both appetizer and entree. Somewhere on the order of $4.50. Understandable since there's extra effort and ingredients to split and plate a single appetizer. I like usually like to split an appetizer, but oh well. At this point our waiter tells us of the special desserts that must be ordered at this point because they take a long time to prepare. They were several tarts and their souffles which Hounds have raved about. He took my Other's food order, then asked, what dessert would you like? She chose one of the tarts. Then our waiter took my order then asked, what dessert would _you_ like? I felt like I was being hard sold by a car salesman. Hey, what if I wanted to share that tart? What if I wanted something on the regular dessert menu? And what if after dinner, I didn't even want dessert? I have to make that decision now?? Or I will never get to try that wonderful souffle that La Cachette is known for, and forever hold my peace? I caved into pressure, and wanted to sample this souffle. So I ordered their Grand Marnier souffle.
For my appetizer, I opted for the vegetable terrine. But I think when was served, I got a different appetizer, the provincial tart with tomato, and a decidedly bland garlic rouille. I didn't realize the mistake at the time. The pastry itself, I thought, was excellent. My Other had the napoleon of sauteed foie gras and foie gras terrine with a rhubarb and strawbeery chutney. The foie gras and the pastry was again, very very good. The accompaniment, however, totally missed the mark. It wasn't good enough to stand alone, and didn't seem to pair well with the rich foie gras.
Around this time, I noticed how loud it was in the restaurant. The capacity was still about 4 other tables with no more than four diners in each table. Yet I could distintly hear two different conversations. I could hear enough to know that the Chef was on his day off, but came by to pick up some food, and do a bit of schmoozing with the diner, who had gone to the Chef's thanksgiving cooking class last year. He didn't change the class curriculum this year. What a shame.
My entree was the bouillabaisse. I did read Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidental" warning never to get seafood on Monday (fish markets are closed on Mondays) and especially not to get mussels (disgusting handling practices). I normally follow these rules, but I broke it this time because printed on top of the seafood section was: "La Cachette's fish and seafood are selected daily for their freshness and quality...". I guess that is free for interpretation, because the dish came to me with a really off smell. And one of the clams had a really unfresh taste too it, which I discovered too late.
My Other had the cod served with a mango-papaya relish. Again, the cod was fine, the mango-papaya relish did not work with the fish. Don't get me wrong, I've cooked fish with a mango salsa. It's a wonderful pairing! My hats off to whomever discovered it. But La Cachette's implementation did not work.
After dishes were cleared, we waited some 10 minutes before dessert was served. Must be some good stuff if we need to wait this long (if you believe the ketchup commercial). If the restaurant really discouraged sharing so much, I hoped the desserts we a good single serving size. But when I got my souffle, it was definately big enough for the two enough to share, even more since I didn't have much of an appetite at this point. It wasn't good. It was eggy enough that I know it wasn't baked long enough. My Other got an apple tart. If there's one good thing that La Cachette has down, it's the pastry. Flakey and good. The filling was fine. I dug into what I though was ice cream. Nope, a mound of whipped cream, just like what my souffle was served with. I didn't think restaurants of this caliber used whipped cream, it's so...so... Cheesecake Factory.
La Cachette left me feeling pretty disappointed. Especially with the rave reviews. Yeah, I shouldn't go on the Chef's off night, but they usually take Mondays off (same day as fish mongers), but it was an anniversary. But I didn't think the faults would manifest this much. Next time, if I needed to go somewhere with La Cachette's ambiance, menu, and level of service, it would definately be Pasadena's Masion Akira.
10506 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025