This was a highly anticipated evening for the SO and me as it is was our anniversary celebration. Also because the last time we'd eaten Walter Manzke's food was at L'Auberge Carmel and we had a truly magical evening. Our meal at Bastide tonight lived up to expectations and I would recommend the experience to someone looking for a very special occasion. Here's what we ate and the wines that accompanied (standard disclaimer applies, I didn't take notes, I drank a bunch, so details are fuzzy):
Started with 2 Cramant champagne
Chasselas (can't remember producer or year, but it was an incredible Chasselas that over 15 minutes changed its character from flowery and berries to wet rocks and mineral)
-Shot of mango gaspacho with a savory churro
-Kushi oyster with apple gelee and hibiscus granita
-Yellowtail with yuzu
-Hers: Seared scallop with pearl tapioca and thai carrot curry
Mine: Scallop ceviche with salsa verde sorbet (this was FANTASTIC)
Junmai Dai Ginjo Nama Genshu Katoukichibei- all I know is this was unpasteurized and one of the finest and most flavorful sakes I've ever had (I've has some good ones at Mori, Zo, and Urasawa, and this was up there)
Uni flan with cooked abalone with a chicken stock/white miso poured over the top. The stock was very concentrated and the flavors were very well balanced. Let me say here that the flavors and textures were extremely balanced and concentrated in every dish I had all night. I've seen some complaints about Bastide saying it's uninspired or non-threatening French. I would highly disagree. This soup was as gutsy and pronounced as some of the dishes I've had at Urasawa.
2nd course: Dorade with cauliflower, peas, asparagus
Corton-Charlemagne, Capitain-Gagnerot, 2005. Complex, tasting of herbs, and a little citrus peel.
Very very French, very delicate and subtle. I find myself craving this type of food more often these days. The dorade was just slightly overcooked to my taste, probably medium to medium well where I would have preferred medium rare. The pencil thin asparagus were beautiful and the flavors and seasoning were harmonious.
Chambolle-Musigny, Premier Cru Les Feusselottes, 2005. I first thought this to be a little young, but it proved to be very drinkable and complex.
Squab (beautiful crust on this) with sweetbreads and sweet potato puree and black truffle. This was so damned good I only wish there was more. The wine shared many characteristics of this dish of funkiness, gaminess, and sweetness. The sweetbreads were very finely diced and folded into the sauces but their texture and flavor was still discernible
Suckling pig with egg yolk, frisee, and black truffle. There was some ham in here and the whole thing was tied into the interplay of classic pairings: Frissee salad, egg yolk, ham, suckling pig, truffles. Truly delicious and I could have eaten a massive quantity of this and then happily died.
Chateau Musar, '72 (is there anything better than aged Bordeaux? This was smoky, funky, meaty)
This was a play on something we had up in Carmel, obviously one of Manzke's signature dishes. On the far right was an aged NY strip steak, next to it was a braised shortrib "rossini" (seared foie on top) to the left of that was a finglering potato filled with some sort of braised meat, I remember hearing sweetbreads but I've never seen or known sweetbreads to be braised and shredded like that, to the left of that was a carrot medallion with browned marrow on top. This was very rich and served with smoked sea salt, a perfect match for the wine. I wanted so much more of this but it was so rich that it probably wouldn't have been a good idea.
We were served a late harvest Ojai Chardonnay, only two barrels produced. These are indeed rare. I lived and grew up in Ojai and would occasional see limited production bottles sold at wine stores up there for very high prices. The Ojai Syrahs are well known but every year there are often late harvest grape varietals sold in extremely limited quantities. This was a beautiful high acidic, syrupy amber wine that paired very well.
I don't remember any of the cheeses other than we had an incredible blue, a 5-year Gouda, and two creamy cheeses, a goat and cow's milk, all paired with honey, pomegranate jam, quince, your usual assortments, only better and higher quality than the usual fare.
This was unusual, it seemed to be a caramel Fondant with Caramel foam. I couldn't understand the description through our servers' thick accent. It was served with a Tockenbeerenauslese that had a distinct aroma of dulce de leche, and while it might sound like this whole dessert was much too focused on caramel and sugar, it was surprisingly light and balanced.
Another Manzke signature dish: chocolate in several forms. There was banana/chocolate bread pudding, crunchy fried banana, candied kumquat, hot chocolate, one other component that I forget. I do remember liking the rendition I had in Carmel better, but this was very very good. The chocolates used in this dish were obviously high quality, nicely bitter and intense. This was served with a Sagrantino Montefalco '01, unusual to me as I've never heard of a dessert wine version of this. Pieter explained that this particular wine was produced under a process similar to "ripasso" used in Amarone making. It was a nearly perfect pairing to chocolate and I commend his adventurous pairing.
Service was good, though it was obvious that there is some smoothing out to do. I thought that the intervals between courses were longer than in some other fine dining restaurants in town, but at the same time I rather enjoyed the time in between courses. It allowed us time for ourselves and to also reflect on the food. I never felt overwhelmed. I feel that the food is on a very high level and that the comfort level of the restaurant doesn't match it necessarily, perhaps the "chimney room" is more comfortable than the garden room we were in. I enjoyed the decor, and it's apparent that Pytka was inspired by Warhol with his Mao paintings and hanging Campbell's soup can lamps.
Bastide is a far cry from L'Auberge Carmel, where I had a magical evening due to the small 12 table dining room and seamless, comforting, perfect service. Also, West Hollywood is not Carmel; I didn't have a king sized bed in a hotel with a courtyard near the ocean's cliff waiting for me. However, I feel Manzke's food is just as focused, and in some cases more so, than what I had in Carmel. If he and Pytka can manage to get along and refine their dynamic, I think Bastide has the potential to establish itsself as a premier fine dining restaurant in L.A. and hopefully inspire others to raise the level of the current L.A. fine dining scene.
Our final bill was $800+, but a generous champagne comp brought it down to $775. The 7 course menu is $100, and we opted for the "wine collection" pairing for $190. An 18% gratuity is included in the bill. It was a rich experience I'm not overly eager to experience again, but for a special occasion I would consider or recommend it to anyone.