Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Craving Bastide

Scary wierd food--loved it. Lots of little plates. How does this sound: Deconstructed Bloody Mary--celery gelato, spicy tomato puree, and a vodka jello shot. All on one spoon.

How about Fois Gras Pina Colada? Good, but not as good as the Scallops in Cinnamon Butter over Fried Vermicelli. AMAZING!! Made this at home this week.

Lamb--don't love lamb. But Chef Ludovic Lefebvre's Saddle of Lamb with Squid Ink Gnocchi and Basil Ice Cube was fabulous. Great Cheeses. Desserts: Ginger Soup with Litchi Sorbet and Carrot Jam and New Catalan Creme Brule and Espresso Nitro.

And the wines: classics like 1989 Chateau Gruaud Larose and 1996 Nuits St. Georges 1cru Les Forets. Crazies like Engelgarten "Vin de Terroir" Marcel Deiss 1999.

I haven't had a dinner this creative since my first visit to the French Laundry--but while Keller serves classic tastes with a sense of humor, Lefebvre borders on bizarre. You wouldn't want to leave this earth without experiencing both of them. (I have to make to el Bulli sometime to compare). Check out this restaurant. I give it a 4/5 with the possibility of moving higher after subsequent visits. It is a reason to go to L.A. not simply a place to eat while there. LL also has a book, CRAVE, coming out this month.

Susan and I are headed back to the French Laundry this month, and to Las Vegas in May. Any Vegas eats suggestions?

Finally, Something to Like about LA

Company offsite last week in Los Angeles and a chance to visit three outstanding restaurants. Of Bastide, Valentino and Grace, the former was the clear winner, though all were exceptional and a wonderful time.

The highlight of Grace--my highlight (much of the rest of the group thought the outstanding female clientele in the main room was the apex of the experience)--was the Fred Flinstone size braised pork shank. In fact, it was sooooo good and sooooo big, I remember little else about the experience. Not even apparently the most beautiful bodies money can buy. Couldn't even eat the dessert--a specially concocted cheese plate (3.5/5).

No rating--don't bother, better choices around every corner for the same or less money.
1/5 I will eat here, but something is always left wanting, food or service or something.
2/5 Good food. Not always consistent. Decent value eating.
3/5 Solid. Consistent. You look for reasons to eat here.
4/5 Excellent. You will not be disappointed even if it cost more.
5/5 Beyond a meal. An experience, like going to the opera at la Scala or watching your team win the World Series.

Valentino was--well--Valentino (4/5). Terrific high-end Italian fare with flair and spectacular wine. Me? I had Osso Buco--very traditional and high quality. I was on a shank binge that week. Superb homemade pasta. Wonderful Cheese. But the highlight? Locally made burrata--seems they found an artesian cheese maker from Puglia, living North of LA and willing to make the cheese for them--what are the odds. The buttery, melty premium mozzarella made from Water Buffalo milk (significantly higher fat content than cows) must be eaten the day it is made (or at least within 3 days). A little fresh olive oil and salt. Done! Finished with a spectacular grappa (and I don't even like Grappa)--Berta "Roccanivo" Grappa de Barbera.

Bastide deserves its own post, which I will add soon.