Archive for July, 2008

French Laundry -July 2008

I never see a menu at FL. Our normal approach to a FL meal is just have Corey cook whatever he wants to. Corey does know that we much prefer the small canapes at the beginning of the meal and don’t really care about the parade of desserts at the end.  Again, Corey is no longer doing one preparation for me and one for John; he feels that the constant passing of dishes back and forth is distracting and basically detracts rather than enhances the flow of the meal.

For the first time, I decided to take photos at FL. ( I did ask permission).

Gougeres

 Cornets

I have been trying to learn how to fold the cocktail napkins correctly for the cornets since I do make the cornets at home. I thought maybe a picture would help – I still get a D for napkin folding.

 

 

Tomato Sorbet, Heirloom Tomatoes, Sweet 100, Sundried Tomatoes, Nasturtium flowers and leaves – as lovely to look at as it was to eat – like David Kinch – seasonality with a capital S.

 

 Oysters and Pearls with Island Creek Oysters from Mass and California White Sturgeon Caviar – enough has been written about this dish to fill a small book – executed perfectly

 

 Pike Conger (Hamo), Santa Rosa Plums, Umeboshi, Tokyo Tunips, Shaved turnip, Perilla Shoots – there was definitely an Asian influence in this dish, but it was not a muddle of flavors; each ingredient added to the whole. The interesting part of this dish was the texture of the pike conger – pike conger has lots of bones, so it takes a really skilled chef with a razor sharp knife to prepare it, but still retain the texture.

From a google search:

The bones of the hamo are situated and distributed throughout the flesh in such a way that removal is just not an option. Some fish, with small, soft and thin bones are eaten bones, head, guts, meat and all. The hamo bones are thick and heavy though, so, this is not feasible.

Chefs solved the problem by drawing upon Japan’s sword culture. A special purpose knife was developed for slicing the bones in the flesh so that it could be eaten. The goal of an adept chef is to put down 26 slices per 3 cm of hamo. That leaves each slice of flesh (and bone) about 1 mm in width! The hamo is 1-2 meters in length, so this involved a whole lot of cutting! This slicing technique is called honegiri in Japanese, literally ‘bone cutting’.

The meat and bones are sliced and the skin is left intact. The bones are substantial enough that slicing through them produces a very audible sound.

 

Atlantic Fluke Carpaccio Marinated with Kanzuri gastric, Compressed English cucumber served on a bed on Akita-Komachi rice – What set this dish apart was a nod to a sushi bar experience with the rice serving as the “bed” for the fluke – absolutely wonderful.

 Big fin Squid, baby squash from the FL garden, lemon verbena, nicoise olive crumbs, squash blossoms – the squid could have been prepared by Hiro Urasawa – tender and just perfect.

 

Potato puree, Hobb’s bacon, lovage emulsion, golden corn kernels, Santa Barbara uni – OK, I will admit it; I am a sucker for uni, but to have 4 of my favorite ingredients in one dish – bacon, potato, corn and uni – just oh my.

 

Eel, Avocado, Creme Fraiche topped with Lime Zest. To the right was the crispy cylinder of brik. Again, texture was a key element in this dish with the addition of the brik. Also avocado and eel have an affinity for each other, given their fatty mouth feel ( just think of all the sushi bars that do an eel and avocado roll). Let’s just say I was a very happy camper.

 

Sautéed Rouget, Globe artichokes, 1/8 inch diced Spanish Piquillo peppers, Arugula, Italian emulsion of olive oil, garlic and butter – my take on this dish was don’t mess with a perfect piece of fish with a lot of unnecessary ingredients.

 

Butter poached Lobster, Belgian endive, watercress, Hazelnut crumble, hazelnut puree, Tahitian vanilla gastric – this was excellent, but our favorite all-time lobster dish was a dish Corey did in 2007 — Lobster Knuckle, with small carrot balls in a béarnaise custard made with lobster consommé. This is just a matter of personal preference.

 

Signature Truffle custard 

 

Salt presentation for Foie – Jurassic, Fleur de sel, sel gris, volcanic, Molokai, Crystal Rock from Western Siberia – I hope you are impressed that I got these written down given the amount of wine I had consumed.

 

foie presented whole

Foie gras, peach relish, cornichons, small onions, frisee, Dijon mustard – I hope the photo does the foie justice – cooked perfectly, no veins, no stringiness – just smooth and as good as the cold tourchon.

 

 Jardinere – carrots, fennel, radish, turnips, tiny peas, Iberico ham, banyuls vinaigrette, Black truffle foam, Australian black truffles – this is served in a bowl within bowl. Pine needles ring the second plate – hot water is then added to the pine needles so you are enveloped in the smell of a pine needle forest.

 

Grilled Snake River Farms cote de boeuf, broccolini fleurettes, lilly bulbs, Hen of the woods mushrooms, garlic sauce – excellent

 

Oregon Rogue River Blue Panna Cotta, House-made granola, Granny Smith Relish

 

Blueberry Sorbet, Crème Fraiche panna Cotta, Crispy Quinoa

 

 Coffee and doughnuts, as good as ever.

 

I don’t have a clue

What a wonderful meal. A tasting menu should have an integral integrity, a symphony of sorts. We all love different composers so obviously there are different strokes for different folks. But Corey Lee does know our tune so well, that it is a supreme privilege to have a French laundry Corey Lee meal.

 

 

 

Manresa

Bottom line at the beginning – Chef Kinch outdid himself – what a wonderful meal.

We started the meal outside, in the beautiful garden – the air was balmy – the setting gorgeous.

 

Petit Fours “red pepper-black olive” This is a visual pun – the madeleine style amuse is actually black olive and the red “gum drop” red pepper

 

 

Lavender lemonade, mint – very refreshing and a wonderful start.

 

Parmesan Churros –  one of our first meals at Manresa included the churros and it was super to revisit an old favorite.

 

Aji and seaweed ice, lemony herbs – I love aji, but the combination with the ice was masterful – all I needed was a seashell to hold to my ear and listen to the ocean.

 

Sweet corn croquettes (cromesquis) – insert croquette in your mouth and in one bite the liquid summer corn explodes in your mouth.

 

Courgette (zucchini) sorbet, pistachio vinaigrette, garnished with Orache, a member of the spinach family – another refreshing, light, summery palate pleaser

 

Farm fresh peaches in argan oil, prime filet of beef  (Bresaola) cured in house, thinly sliced – another wonderful combination whispering summer

 

Golden beggar’s purses filled with wild char roe and a quail egg – I really messed up on eating this dish. I forgot that I had to pop the entire purse in my mouth.  Unfortunately, I lost some of my roe on the table – no problem, just picked them up with my fingers and ate every single one.

 

Hand-churned salted butter with house-made bread that took several months to perfect 

 

Marinated shellfish and golden raspberries, fragrant green curry oil and just for me Iranian caviar – Again, what is striking to me about Chef Kinch’s cuisine is the juxtaposition of ingredients – shellfish (didn’t have time to write everything down), raspberries and green curry – we were on a world-wide tour in one meal.

 

Pumpkin veloute “petit rouge’, ripe figs. First the bowl was served with the figs and the fig leaf ice cream. The roasted petit rouge pumpkin veloute was poured on top. I wasn’t aware there was a summer pumpkin and there is just no way to describe how delicious this was.

The veloute poured on top

 

Vegetables with exotic spice spice, flowering coriander – Dana, our wonderful server,  is extremely patient with me – I ask numerous questions and no matter how backed up she is, she always slows down so I can quickly write her descriptions. Basically the vegetables were garden roots – beets, Thumbelina carrots, baby carrots, green garlic, baby leeks in an Indian spice

 

Into the vegetable garden – Chef Kinch called this menu the summer garden and essentially this is what this dish was – the freshest and just picked vegetables from the garden – the major seasoning being the jus from the vegetables. 

 

Monterey Bay Abalone with garden basils and courgettes, slow egg – every time Chef Kinch pairs a dish with this miraculous slow cooked egg, I am in heaven.

 

Kokotxas in a young garlic bouillon witth New Zealand spinach. Dana explained these were salt cod cheeks or Cod Jowls.

A google search produced this:

“Out of each cod only two of these precious kokotxas are obtained.  So yes, they are precious.  Giraldo carefully hand selects the Kokotxas according to size and texture.  This is a very gelatinous product that allows the interested chef to become creative in the kitchen.  Do not peel the skin off of the product which is a mistake often made.  You should only remove the partial skin that is left in the middle joining the two long sections.”

 

pigeon presented

Wood pigeon roasted in salt, morels, braised chard and morellos cherries with the pits (Dana warned us in advance) – absolutely perfect

 The pigeon plated

 

Roast Sonoma lamb from Dave Watkins with garden vegetable roots, exotic spice, natural jus

Thank goodness Chef Kinch handed us a menu at the end of the evening– as is my usual penchant for note-taking, after quite a bit of wine, I am useless at this point in the meal for detailed notes.

 

Blackberries and bitter chocolate, caramel popcorn croustillant

 

Sheep’s milk yogurt mousse with nectarine, coriander

 

Olive Oil ice cream with sea salt, carnaroli rice with plum

 

Petit fours “strawberry-chocolate”

 

Wines for the evening:

1990  Billecart Salmon Cuvee Elisabeth, lovely, clean and festive as always

1989  Batard Montrachet, Jobard, disappointing, not “over” but not at peak
1996  Echezeaux, Arlaud, superb, great well aged burgundy
1993  Sauternes, Chateau d’Yquem, disappointing, not a great Yquem, a bit metallic on the finish, not exciting at all.

As always this was a wonderful meal. What I found most interesting is the evolution of Chef Kinch’s cuisine – it had many global influences, but always with a firm restraint, an insistence on the quality of the ingredients and a true commitment to seasonality.  

Now, I normally do not add in lodging comments, but Toll House needs a special mention. I have been recommending this hotel to all those who go to Manresa as affordable and decent. This hotel is now off the list. We have a room we like with a huge balcony and my husband had booked it months before. Mark, the front desk person, said, sorry room unavailable, but he insisted that he had a very, very nice room that we would love.

The balcony was tiny and my view was of the parking lot.

Tub was missing a stopper so that took 45 minutes for “engineering” to find one.

 

 

Around 2 am, my husband went to use the toilet and found that he couldn’t stop it running. Jingling the handle, it fell off. When I went to use the toilet at 3 am, no way to flush the thing. Remember the above meal necessitated using a toilet and we had an unflushable one.

When my husband woke up around 6, he was able to figure out a way to manually work the thing. When we went to check out and my husband complained to this Mark person, Mark pointed to a sign that said that Toll house would be renovated in September and what were we complaining about. We said but this is July and what does that have to do with anything. Then, we asked to speak to a GM or AGM, but she was not on duty yet.

 Finally the AGM reached us by cell phone and when we asked for a credit, she said we got a special rate so what were we complaining about – this rate was published on the internet and it was not special. Bottom line – they did credit us for the night, but it took a lot of persuasion.

 

Robuchon at The Mansion

Joel Robuchon at the Mansion (MGM Grand, Las Vegas)

I honestly do not know how to write this review. I can’t get a handle on this experience. I know that I would eat at Alex at the Wynn at a moment’s notice and that one time at Robuchon was enough. This would seem that I am implying that the food wasn’t good – not true. But somehow, the over-all experience was less than. Somehow, it felt like work – not intellectual in the sense of dining at El Bulli, just not enough sensual pleasure. This is studied dining – perfect presentations, perfect execution, but lacking in soul. The closest dining experience that I can equate it to is Ducasse in Paris. I don’t want to give the impression that the food wasn’t executed perfectly because for the most part it was. The service was equally impressive done in the grand French style with courses delivered on silver trays. So I keep asking myself why I want to go to The French Laundry for as many meals as they will allow me to eat there and I am satisfied that I experienced Robuchon once and have no desire to return.

Robuchon is a surreal dining experience. Just the walk through the sprawling casino with the bells and whistles of the slot machines doesn’t seem to fit a fine dining restaurant. Robuchon is about over-the-top opulence — a huge Swaroski chandelier dominates the room. Flower arrangements are done like the George V in Paris – 2 huge oversized glass vases hold sheaves of calla lilies. The tables are black lacquer with dark linen runners instead of tablecloths. A color scheme of black, “kingly” purple and lavender shrieks sumptuousness. Everything is the finest in French luxury products from the silver by Christophe, Lalique crystal and Croquet cups. The tables are well-spaced and only 40 people can be seated in the main dining room with room for a dozen more on a side terrace and 10 in a small private dining room.

The restaurant does one turn a night and does occasionally have to cater to the high roller (or what I would term high loser) crowd. A few nights before our meal, a gentleman had been comped his meal. He had lost $7.2 million — a pretty expensive meal even by Robuchon’s standards.

We ordered 2 glasses of champagne, untied our lavender velvet ribbon around our linen napkin and studied the menu. I did ask for the a la carte menu as well. It is extremely difficult to do the 6 course tasting menu and then add on from the a la carte as the least expensive dishes are $75. We eventually decided on the 16 course tasting menu and added one dish from the a la carte menu. (We opted for langoustines instead of the “crispy” egg. We had had the egg at Atelier in Paris. It cost $125 in Las Vegas and $40 in Paris – a big transportation cost, I guess).

Our waiter then wheeled over a huge bread cart that was stocked with enough bread to supply a small bakery – foccacio with saffron or basil, brioche plain or with cheese, epi with bacon, milk buns and baguettes. The butter is from Brittany.

I decided not to take pictures and didn’t until we were the last people in the dining room.

 

La Pomme: Apple pearl, vodka granite – A long spoon perched on a rock is artfully placed on black slate. The apple pearls resemble small peas and are covered with foamy vodka granite. The sensation is closer to eating caviar in that the apple pops in your mouth. A nice refreshing beginning.

Le Caviar Oscietre: Oscetra caviar with haricots vert salad, slices of Parmesan, mimosa (egg yolk and egg white) garnish and lemon grass laced crème fraiche. This dish was so much more than the sum of their parts – it was exquisite – an ode to ingredients.

Le Foie Gras: Foie gras, mille-feuille of smoked eel with oriental flavors.
The first outer layer was poached cold foie, then lacquered Japanese eel, then another layer of foie and finally eel. To the left was black truffle cream with spices and to the right a julienne of apple and daikon radish “salad.” I was expecting the mille feuille to fall apart when eaten but it held together perfectly so that each bite was an exquisite meld of foie and eel. The mouth feel was an ode to fattiness – extraordinary.

Le Thon: Tuna tartar, cold red bell pepper confit with bergamot and dry cured ham. Small diced tuna sat on the red bell pepper confit. It was topped by more red bell pepper and a runny yolk quail egg. Surrounding the mound of tuna were slivers of dry cured ham and chives. Saucing was a yellow bell pepper sauce. I thought the red bell pepper was way too dominant and I ended up deconstructing the dish. This was a beautiful dish, but it was more about show than taste.

Our a la carte dish came next.

Ravioli of Langoustines with Black Truffle Cream and Savoy Cabbage. This is one of Robuchon’s signature dishes and it was wonderful. The langoustine was enveloped in a ravioli case and cooked briefly. The black truffle cream was unctous and the savoy cabbage meltingly tender.

La Truffle: Black truffle in a hot pastry, onions and smoked ham
On top of a thin pastry is sautéed onions, smoked ham and then overlapping slices of black truffle. The black truffles were tasteless. I could have been eating black cardboard.

Le Parmigiano Reggiano: Parmesan and vegetable veloute with black truffle.
On the bottom of the bowl was Parmesan flan, then onion consommé, onion foam and finally flecks of black truffles. It was essential that you mixed this dish and got chunks off solid silky flan with the consommé.

L’Epinard: Mille feuille of spinach, truffle and tofu, parsley coulis. This was served with Parmesan foam and a Parmesan crisp. What surprised me most was the duplication of ingredients i.e. the Parmesan. This just didn’t work for me – tofu is tofu.

Les Aromates: Medley of aromates in a mild spicy broth.
This was chicken bouillon laced with black peppercorns, bay leaf and nutmeg with tomatoes and lettuce slivers on top. John didn’t like this dish at all. I found it somewhat comforting at this point in the meal. Think chicken soup and a stomach-settling course.

La Grenouille: Frog leg fritter with baby chanterelles.
The frog leg fritter was delicious and I could have eaten 4 of them. The saucing of parsley cream was very reminiscent of Oiseau. The sautéed chanterelles with garlic and garlic chips added the garlic component to a classical way of serving frogs legs.

L’Amadai: Amadai in a lily bulb broth.
Pan-seared Japanese snapper with yuzu nage, stewed baby leeks and lily bulb. This was perfect – crispy skin, delicate fish – a winner.

Unfortunately they served this within seconds of our finishing the frogs leg course. This was a problem at Robuchon that ocurred three times. Sometimes long waits between courses and then one course served right after another. Pacing of the meal was not fine-tuned.

Le Turbot: Roasted turbot “on the bone” with celeriac and truffle stew.

Roasted Brittany Turbot was topped with julienne black truffles. It was surrounded by chestnuts and celeriac and sat in some type of briny broth. This was good, but not exactly memorable.

At this point, we were the only people in the restaurant. We had 6 courses to go plus their mignardises cart.

The room:

 

 

Le Homard de Bretagne: Brittany lobster under a disappearing saffron hostie in a seafood bouillon

On the bottom of the bowl, poached lobster meat, then a layer of solid saffron and foie gras beurre topped with lobster bouillon. You are instructed to use your rosemary broom to swirl the mixture. When the hot bouillon is added the solid layer dissolves and adds richness to the over-all dish. This was excellent and definitely tasted like a French classical preparation. But one of the problems with Robuchon’s food is that many of the preparations mimic soup and your palate becomes weary with this one-sidedness.

 

Le Canard: Duck confit with potatoes, truffled cappuccino – the duck confit was the bottom layer, then it is topped by pomme puree and finally on top the truffled cappuccino. This was another winner — the richness of the duck, the luxurious signature Rubuchon potatoes and the cappuccino added up to an opulent dish.

 

L’Epeautre: Sault wild oatmeal, black truffles, gold leaf.
Spelt with Black Truffles, veal stock and topped with gold leaf. This reminded me of Eric Frechon’s signature dish of spelt treated like risotto.

We were getting very full and I was uncomfortable that we were the only people in the restaurant with the full staff still in attendance. Most of them were cleaning and resetting the tables. (John’s comment – eating with the janitorial crew is not 3 star dining.) We asked for one dessert and no mignardises, but they wouldn’t hear of it. We did replace the chocolate dessert for something lighter.

Dessert # 1
In the Croquet cup an apple sorbet with a slice of dried apple, to the left a layered affair with fruit – the menu listed it as quince compote Amaretto but that doesn’t seem correct and I had stopped taking notes. In the small cup, I am guessing
yogurt and Champagne mousse.

 

Dessert #2
I don’t have a clue.

 

How would I rate this meal? I honestly don’t know.  They do have a tendency to rush courses. However, service on the whole was excellent – most of the staff are French and have worked in Michelin 2 and 3 star places or are from Robuchon’s “stable.” Not every course was a winner, but you see his insistence on perfection and his attention to detail that influences every item on your plate Some dishes were transcendent – the caviar and haricot vert, the foie gras and eel, the frogs leg, the langoustine, the lobster and the duck. Some were poor – the truffle, the tuna and the tofu and spinach. 

 I am glad I went, but would I make a special trip to Las Vegas just to experience this meal again? – no. But if you are in Vegas, win big at the tables or some one else is paying do it once.

Valentino

Thank goodness Giuseppe is kind enough not only to orchestrate our meal, but also send me a copy of the menu. I didn’t take extensive notes as we were with friends and note-taking just didn’t fit the situation.

Culatello over Frico (Parmesan chips) and red bell pepper “Panna cotta”

Culatello is one of the most prestigious of salumi made in Italy. It is made from the back leg of the pig and then only the rear part of the leg, freed from the bone and skin.

 

Octopus with Chino Farm bean salad, parsley pesto and lobster oil – The preparation reminded me of Il Grano’s crudo – excellent.

 

 Salad of golden beets, Ahi tuna, burrata and Osetra caviar – this was an unusual pairing of ingredients. The caviar was somewhat lost in this preparation.

 

 “Uovo al Tartufo”: Raviolo filled with spinach, ricotta and duck egg, and served with a little brown butter and lots of fresh Alba white truffles – this was the dish of the night, just delicious with good quality truffles. I couldn’t wait for the photographer so I had already started eating.

 

 Oven baked lasagnette (small lasagne) with capon ragu and cabbage sauce – Another winner.

 

 Pan Roasted Napa quail with celery sauce, wilted greens, Umbria black truffle and porcini gnocchi

 

Colorado lamb loin with sauteed pear, toasted pumpkin seeds and “Mosto cotto” (cooked must) reduction – this was a tame dish relative to the other components of the meal.

 

Sorbet of Barolo Chinato (China being the tree bark)

 

Trio of apples: Golden apple ravioli, Granny Smith semifreddo, fresh quince cannoli

 

 Sicilian ricotta cannoli with Bronte pistachio sauce (Bronte is famous in Sicily for the world’s best pistachio)

 

An excellent meal with great service,

 

WINES:

1- Duval-Leroy, brut N.V.

2- Ravello bianco 2005 by Marisa Cuomo

3- Barbera d’Alba 2004 ” Carolina” by Cascina Val Del Prete

4- Barolo 2001 “Margheria” by Massolino

5- Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria 2004 by Donnafugata

Ariadne – Boston

My notes are sparse on this meal at Ariadne, but I think the photos speak volumes. Ariadne bills itself as “Delicious food with Mediterranean & Asian influences.”

There were exactly 8 people in the restaurant from 7 pm to 9:30 pm. My dad and his friend just had a main course and I chose one appetizer and one slighter larger plate. 

Tuna Sashimi with avocado, passion fruit, peanuts, miso & pea sprouts 

This was an $18 slightly larger course of 5 small slices of tuna that you needed a magnifying glass to find. It was topped with a huge “salad” of grated daikon, carrots and other assorted “stuff.” I kept thinking there must be more tuna under all the stuff on top. No such luck. Why the peanuts is a mystery to me. I would say that the food cost for this dish was approximately 10% if that. Absolutely dreadful.

Uneaten stuff.

 

Grilled Squid with arugula, olives, creamy hummus and a lemon vinaigrette 

There was lots of hummus, lots of arugula, many, many olives, but squid – it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. 

I didn’t taste any of the mains, but suffice it to say, much went uneaten.

 

Grilled Lamb Rack with broccoli rabe, tzatziki, bulghur wheat & lamb ossobucco-

 

Pan Seared Duck Breast with roasted garlic bread pudding, Swiss chard, ciopollini onions & kumquats – 

I think I know why there were only 8 people in this restaurant at prime time.

   

il Pastaio

Canon Drive in Beverly Hills has become quite a dining scene, particularly at lunch. Since I am there every Saturday for a hair appointment, I have been watching the crowds at Il Pastaio for months. Literally, by 1:30 there are crowds milling on the sidewalk waiting for a table. They only take reservations for 11:30 or 12:00, which is what we did. There were 4 of us for lunch and we had a lovely table outside by the corner of Canon and Brighton Way.

 We started with Arancini – breaded rice cones, filled with mozzarella cheese and peas. They were good, but not quite as good as Drago’s in Santa Monica. Also, Drago serves each diner an arancini as an amuse for free while Il Pastaio has it on the menu at a cost of $8.95. Although to be fair, there are 6 in an order.

I don’t have photos of the next 2 dishes. 

Carpaccio di Bue – Beef carpaccio served with capers, shaved Parmesan cheese and mustard dressing – excellent

Cesare – Roamine lettuces, tossed with Caesar dressing, shaved Parmesan cheese and garlic croutons – I didn’t taste this dish, but everything was definitely eaten.

Tortelloni di Mascarpone – Homemade Tortelloni filled with Mascarpone cheese, sun dried tomato and a pink vodka sauce – our friend absolutely adored this dish.

 

Lasagna Bolognese

Extra sauce

My friend and husband ordered the lasagna. John finsihed all of his and then asked for some of my friends. They both defintely loved it.

 

Scoglio – Spaghetti with calamari, scallops, shrimps, mussels and clams in a light spicy tomato sauce – too often in this type of dish, the seafood is overcooked. Not the case at il Pastaio.

I can see why there are crowds at this restaurant. It is not cheap, but it is hearty food well-prepared and just fun. 

 

 

Vincenti

Vincenti was voted one of the top restaurants by LA Magazine. Irene, the LA Times critic just awarded it 3 stars today.  To put this into some context, we don’t exactly have a lot of 3 stars in Los Angeles, only one 3 1/2 star (Spago) and no 4 stars. Irene awarded Providence and Urasawa 3 stars. On this blog, you will see write-ups of meals at those restaurants and I ask you to compare them to our meal at Vincenti below.

In any case, I might lose all credibility with those of you who are kind enough to read this little blog, but I completely disagree with both LA Magazine and the Times. I was very fortunate to have eaten at Rex il Ristorante when Mauro Vincenti was alive. It was an incredible restaurant – beautiful with unbelievably great food. Rex was originally a haberdashery that was transpired into a high-end, two-level restaurant, inspired by the Italian luxury ocean liner, Rex.  Just imagine gorgeous Lalique light fixtures, a descending staircase from the lounge to the dining room that was fit for an entrance from Scarlett O’Hara and the most exquisite, perfectly executed cuisine – Mauro’s plates were a culinary pleasure.

Obviously, I didn’t expect that type of luxury from Vincenti. It is located in a non-descript setting in Brentwood surrounded by boutique type stores, but also my favorite market, up the street, Vicente Foods. However, with all the raves, I did expect really good food, executed perfectly as Maureen, Vincenti’s widow, is the owner.

At Vincenti, we had an early reservation (6 pm) and I was with my son. We certainly didn’t qualify as one of the movers and shakers or anyone important.

Amuse – on grilled zucchini, burrata cheese topped with dried tomato slices – OK – but just sloppy.

 

Mozza’s Burrata with bacon, marinated escarole and carmelized shallots – very good, simple but executed well.

 

Me – Warm tuna carpaccio with roasted peaches, crispy guanciale and basil oil – what a mess. Thick slices of tuna on a bed of mushy something – could have been peaches, but sure didn’t taste like it. There was zero crunch so I am guessing the Guanciale was missing in action. That green glop on top was a paste of basil and oil – too much, way overpowering.

 


My son – Warm salad of octopus and roasted sepia with artichokes, asparagus and fava beans. Actually, this was quite good, but they should have added to the description lots of unnecessary greens. 

 

Middle Course – Roasted scallops with white asparagus, puree from Bassano del Grapa and Black truffles – what an abomination – overcooked rubber scallops swimming in a thick soupy mixture – we literally had one bite. Later, the waiter explained that the customers in Brentwood like their scallops well-cooked.

 

Later the chef remade the scallop dish – the scallops were cooked well and served without the soup. Unfortunately, this was served as we were half-way through our main courses and onto the red wine. Nice thought, but….

 

Me – Slow-cooked Rotisserie duck with spinach and roasted potatoes – Irene loved this dish. Hers was served with ribbons of braised cabbage – I got soggy potatoes. Her verdict – “roasted to a deep mahogany, the flesh still moist but decidedly not pink.” My thought– the last time, I had duck served medium was in the 80’s. Since then, I have only had medium rare duck. This probably was an ordering mishap on my part as duck on the rotisserie probably can only be done medium. Unfortunately though, my meat was not moist.

 


My son – New York Steak with shaved parmesan and arugula 

 

A 3 star steak from Cut

I will let the photos speak the message.

We brought wine from home and they charged us $35 corkage for each bottle, even though we gave the chef and our waitress a full glass of red and left a good ¼ bottle of Montrachet for them to enjoy later.

What a disappointment and expensive.


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