To poorly paraphrase a famous line from Star Trek: LA Mill takes the traditional coffee house "boldly… where no man has gone before." We stopped by today to try the coffee we so loved at Hatfield’s and taste their take on a scone or canele. After all, whether you love Peet’s, Starbuck’s or Intelligentsia, baked goods usually don’t fare well in these places with Café Luxe in Santa Monica, at least providing Bread Bar offerings. What we ended up with was one of the most enjoyable meals in recent memory in a very stylish setting with an equally stylish crowd. Yes, that was J. Gold scribing at a corner table while Susan Feniger was delighting others at another.
With more staff on hand than Nordstrom’s during their annual Men’s sale, we were warmly and quickly ushered to the one remaining table inside when it was clear that more than coffee was about to be consumed. We started with a perfectly traditional French frisee and lardon salad for $14 with the egg nestled in the greens like a bird’s nest. Seeing some arrive at the table next to us we also ordered a side of clam fritters for $9, nicely paired with a spicy Asian influenced mayonnaise. We followed with two Panini: an amazing pork belly version with arugula and tomato for $16 and a jambon for $12 on a buttered baguette. Both were served dramatically with small bowls of marinated cipollini onions, olives and two kinds of mustard. We finished with the sweet potato “pie” which had the requisite artfulness expected from the pastry chef of Providence and studded with freshly roasted pecans and served with a richly spiced homemade ice cream for $9. An organic plum berry iced tea for $3.50 and two lattes for $4.50 each rounded out the $81.73 total. Oh, and that $3 scone with dried cherries.
In all fairness the price tag has to be taken in the context of the food and the setting. Certainly, you’d pay more for a latte at the Four Seasons and the excellent and elaborate service have the final effect of being more like high tea at some smart boutique hotel. (This unassuming stretch of Silverlake Blvd. may never be the same.) But the best part is just watching the coffee assembly line putting forth unique coffee drinks resembling a Faberge egg in one instance; or a concoction from the Mos Eisley Cantina in another. It’s all very serious and lots of fun.
Speaking of Star Trek, we were in Long Beach the previous night for the opening of the touring museum version of the famous series with Romulans and trekkies galore. Catering was provided by Wolfgang Puck with those famous ahi filled sesame cones passing nicely for a Vulcan delicacy. Ten years ago we would have made our way to Shenandoah Café for some good home cooking. Having closed it seemed the perfect occasion to try Jar’s new sibling, Tracht’s. Good home cooking has come home again. The dramatic high ceilinged room is set in the Renaissance Hotel about as well as could be expected with large looming lamp shades casting an orange glow over the proceedings. The more reasonably priced entrees tend to be the more interesting unless you just want a classic steak of which there are a few. We opted for the Coq au Vin for $22, very good if not the intense sensual version available at Comme Ca; and the ground beef steak for $18 with poached egg in a green peppercorn sauce perilously perched on an over sized crouton, also very good. We started with a flavorful and heartily dressed beet salad with bleu cheese for $10 and fried oysters with both an excellent remoulade and cocktail sauce for $11. Salty crusted bread is served warm out of the oven and my friend enjoyed the $14 pinot noir by the glass. (Later, after a second glass, he spied a bottle of Kaz pinot on the list for $35 and, well, you do the math.) We finished with an exceptionally creamy banana cream tart for a relatively reasonable $7, all things considered. Service was enthusiastic and inevitably erratic given that one server was left to finish the evening by herself. Somehow the ESPN crowd at the neighboring bar never managed to intrude. $114 for two before tip.
Now if we only lived in Long Beach… or Silverlake.