This Chicago family spent our spring break in Ojai and SB this year (see report on Calif board), but while in transit we had two very nice meals in LA that I am happy to report on.
Campanile for lunch, after arrival. We were a bit tired after leaving home at 430a, and needed fortification. So one our way to see the tar pits, and Ojai, we made a Campanile and La Brea bakery stop.
Very nice lunch, with lots of strong flavors for the most part, and not much subtlety, but it worked. Celery Soup with basil oil with rich and creamy without being too heavy. Panninis - pastrami (really a variation on a reuben) was excellent with crunchy, little nuggets of intense pastrami flavor complemented by red cabbage, cheese and a restrained amount of creamy dressing. Chicken Salad pannini was also quite good, the daughter reported. Son was a bit put off by his pasta - fried trenne with rabe and desconstructed bolognese sauce. Not at all waht he expected, though he ate it all, and it looked pretty fun. Their "specialty" the waiter said, the sauteed flattened chicken, by contrast, was mostly texture and mild in flavor. A lightly lemoned, creamy sauce adding some interest, but it is not what I would order when I go back.
Our last night, we decided to wander Beverly Hills (we got lost on the way back to our hotel and wandered more than planned) and do it right on the patio at Spago.
Quite good (really surprisingly good, given the somewhat chain aspect of the operation, I suppose) with some real highlights. Liked the bread selection. We shared an order of the Sweet Spring Pea and Mascarpone Agnolotti with Parmesan Cheese and Black Truffle Butter. Intense and buttery with a nice touch of sweetness and texture from the peas. Sizzling Bouchot Mussels Mariniere were steamed then presented on a little skillet with wine and garlic evaporating to envelop us in the aroma. Nice touch, though the dish itself was really just the flavor of Moules Mariniere, the interest being in the presentation. Pan Roasted Chicken was done perfectly, with blissful Oregon Morels, potato puree and rosemary jus. Fish lovers enjoyed Pan Roasted Grouper with the same wonderful Morels (should have just ordered a Morel Sampler...) in a mushroom emulsion and a puree of sweet peas. Some similar notes to the Agnolotti, but quite different with the crispy fish and absent the truffle butter. Well done. And the King Salmon, in parsley nage, olive oil and basil - also very good. I had the "Tasting of California Rabbit" - a bacon wrapped loin with trumpet mushrooms (quite good), ragout of shoulder with potato parmesan gnocchi - terribly rich and indulgent, would have made a great dinner and was too much, rack persillade - a tiny set of ribs, a bit dry, but fun, and brochette of liver and kidneys - on a toothpick, a nice flavor variation. Like the Mussels, probably more fun in concept than taste, but interesting, even if I would not order it again.
For some reason I seem to have run out of gas before I took notes on dessert. Excellent meal, over all.