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L'Orangerie Review

Tusc | May 14, 2005 03:53 PM

It was my wife’s birthday the other night, and after our fiasco with Cheesecake Factory Brentwood, I especially wanted to make it up to her with a really nice dinner.

When you walk into L’Orangerie you’re immediately struck with how beautiful it is. The palatial ceilings, the soaring floral display, the opulence of the surroundings. I actually thought the room would be a little bigger than it was, but expectations have a way of doing that.

We started with glasses of wine, and because she likes white and I like red we usually don’t indulge in a bottle. Hers was fine, but my pinot noir had a distinctly sour taste to it. Now having been drinking pinot noir for a good 20 years (the Sideways movie forces me to justify to people that I’m not a johnny-came-lately to this marvelous vintage), I know when this wine is off, and it was is if they had poured it from a bottle opened last week; it had clearly turned.

While I rarely send things back, I decided if I’m going to spend $250 on dinner, everything should be, at the very least, good. Doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should not disappoint. The waiter was gracious, replaced the wine with a glass from a freshly opened bottle and it was fine.

They started us with a complimentary appetizer, a sort of parfait of tastes, and unlike some places that give you one or two tiny bites, this was quite filling. Served in a martini glass, it contained layers of red, green and white delicacies. A roasted pepper was topped with an avacado sauce, topped by pureed cod, and finally topped with a zesty gazpacho. This was a real treat, and the best part was it was free!

We ordered the fois gras crème brulee and it was very rich, the fois gras had been roasted and mixed to a fine custard. But it was finished with the same sugary crust that a typical crème brulee has which created an odd flavor combination. There was also an apple crème topping on the shell, and while the apple and the fois gras can sometimes complement each other, in this case I did everything I could to avoid co-mingling them in my mouth. All were okay individually, taken together was something else entirely.

My wife had the saddle of lamb entrée which was excellent and came with interesting sides, a artichoke ravioli which was rich and tasty, a nice vegetable moussaka and a fantastic scoop of decadent mashed potatoes. My carmelized scallops were fresh and sweet and delicious, but the bed of mixed veggies was a little tasteless and the coconut emolsion added little except a curious vision on my palate.

We had taken the waiter’s suggestion and ordered dessert early, and then waited for it to come.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After 30 minutes I began searching for our WAITer. At 40 minutes I asked how long it would be, and he said “one more minute!” which of course turned into 15 more minutes. I was literally about to signal for a check at this point when here comes the desserts.

They were not worth staying for. The apple tart slid all over the plate, and when I finally corralled a piece it wa , well, so-so. The chocolate souffle was bland, and disappointing. As someone who loves chocolate anything, it is rare for me to leave part of dessert behind, but there’s a first time for everything. Strange that it would happen here.

Overall, I was very mixed on L’Orangerie. At one time I guess L’Orangerie was the best LA had to offer, but nowadays it’s not even the best French restaurant in town (Melisse is way ahead, trust me).

I am glad we tried it, even though it’s on the downside from its prime. I think we had a pretty nice dinner, the food was generally good, the service pleasant when we could find our WAITer, but overall I doubt I’ll be back. Happy to have gone, but see no great need to try it again. Plenty of other special occasion restaurants are around.

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