Sunday, August 24, 2008

Providence (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

5955 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Sun 08/24/2008, 06:40p-10:45p

This was my third visit to Providence. For my previous two meals, one of which was a 5x5 chef's collaborative dinner, see here and here.

The menu is split into three tasting menus, market specials, and a selection of à la carte dishes. Unlike at previous visits, we decided to abstain from a set menu. Executive Chef Michael Cimarusti wasn't in, so the signature is of Yu Min Lin, his Chef de Cuisine. Click for larger versions.

For drinks, we wanted to try something new and went with a bottle of Comtesse Michèle Elyzabeth Brut Grand Cru Champagne [$130.00], which I had never heard of before. Made from 100% Chardonnay, the wine had a light, creamy body with intense toasty notes. It's flavor reminded me of an old vintage Champagne such as the 1990 Krug Brut.

We had a choice of three types of bread: focaccia, bacon brioche, and chive brioche. My favorite was the bacon brioche, further bolstering my theory that bacon makes everything better. In addition to butter, salt was also provided for the bread.

Amuse Bouche
Here, we had Tasmanian sea trout with puffed brown rice and a mini mug of fennel soup. The trout was a good imitation of a tuna tartare, and the rice added an excellent texture contrast to the fish. The soup, meanwhile, wasn't nearly as successful; I found its flavor rather strange.

Big Eye Tuna Tartare à la Iron Chef [$46.00]
Red wine and beet marinated heart of palm, quail egg, wasabi crème fraîche, American caviar ($20 supplement). This was a tartare similar to the dish Cimarusti prepared on the television program Iron Chef (Cimarusti, aided by Yu Min Lin and Pastry Chef Adrian Vasquez, prevailed against Morimoto), except that tuna was substituted for blackfish. The tartare was as good as any I'd had before, with the tuna, mild and fresh, heightened by the salty tang of the caviar and richness of the egg yolk. The addition of heart of palm was unnecessary for me.

Lobster Ravioli [$25.00]
Morels, ginger, spring onion. The sweetness of the lobster was really brought to the fore here, while the combination of scallion and ginger resulted in a taste not dissimilar to a Chinese-style jiaozi dumpling. In the context of these lighter flavors, the morels were a bit heavy handed; perhaps shiitakes or shimejis would've been more to my liking.

Japanese Freshwater Eel Risotto [$26.00]
Porcini, tomato, lemon, eel glaze. The eel here was basically akin to Japanese-style preparation of unagi kabayaki, so in a sense this was like a Western interpretation of the classic unadon (eel-topped rice bowl). The eel had its characteristic creamy texture and sweetness thanks to its soy glaze, but was actually overshadowed a bit by the risotto I thought.

Wild Black Sea Bass (Rhode Island) [$40.00]
P.E.I. mussels, Japanese sword squid, red curry, baby bok choy. The sea bass had its distinctive "spongy" texture, which I'm generally not a huge fan of. I did enjoy the taste though, which, due to the red curry, took on an almost Thai-style flavor. The dish was elevated by the addition of mussels, squid, and bok choy, all of which were quite delicious on their own.

Japanese Kobe Rib-Eye [$50.00]
Bacon-parmesan risotto, chanterelle, pomme fondante, spring onions. After having CUT not too long before this meal, it was interesting to compare the steaks. Though the meat wasn't quite as heavily marbled, it was nevertheless very good on its own. The various accoutrements, the pommes fondante (potato cake, which was superb), mushrooms, and onions, managed to pair well with the beef while at the same time not distracting from it. The bacon risotto was excellent (again, bacon makes everything better), though it didn't really fit in with the rest of the course.

Adrian Vasquez's desserts almost always sound interesting. I could see myself coming in just for dessert; I guess that's why a tasting menu is offered (a rarity, TRU is the only other place where I've seen it). Click for larger versions.

Mango [$12.00]
Litchi-pandan sorbet, coconut soup with Thai flavors. Another Thai-style dish, this was reminiscent of the Thai dessert lod chong nam ka ti, or pandan (a plant widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine) flavored rice flour noodles in coconut milk. The mango and litchi added a bit more sweetness, and overall the dish was light and refreshing.

McGrath Family Farms Strawberries [$12.00]
Mochi, red bean purée, shiso, black sesame-soy milk ice cream. I had this same dessert at the 5x5 dinner. Here, Vasquez turns to China and Japan for inspiration. The strawberries, which were quite sweet, would've been overwhelming by themselves. The various accompaniments are ordinary alone, but the interaction of strawberry, mochi, red bean, and sesame is what makes this dish unique.

Caramel, olive oil gelées, and chocolate truffles closed out the meal. The olive oil gelée was especially interesting, as its sweetness was punctuated by the savory flavor of olive oil.

I wasn't terribly impressed on my first visit to Providence, but I was quite satisfied here. For the most part, the dishes were unique and creative in their own right, and showed the pedigree of chef Cimarusti. One thing was I noticed was his heavy incorporation of Asian ingredients and techniques, while not venturing into "fusion" territory. Nicely done. Hopefully on my next visit, I'll finally be able to try the vaunted 16-course Chef's Menu!


Blogger notoldschool said...

Hey Kevin! I've been following your blog the last few months its great. I'm in school getting my MPA at the University of Texas and can't wait to start eating like you, first though I have a few questions. :)

1)Do you ask the waiter before dinner to take pictures or just do it freely? do they ever say no?

2) How do you get the signed menus? ask the waiters? do they ever say no?

Thanks for the info and cant wait to here your answers!

Sunday, September 07, 2008 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Thanks notoldschool!

1) For my photos, I don't ask permission, though I do try to be discrete about it; I don't use flash for example. I've only been told to stop once, at Mori Sushi in LA. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission right? ;)

2) Regarding the menus, I ask my server for a signed copy, and sometimes I even ask to meet the chef to have him/her sign in person. I don't think I've been turned down except in cases where the chef wasn't in.

Sunday, September 07, 2008 3:50:00 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Geez third trip to Providence? I'm still awaiting my first next weekend. It seems that every blogger in town has been to Providence and it helps to get some perspective before my own trip. See you in November for Secret Beef!

Friday, October 10, 2008 3:06:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Who are you going with? HC? ;)

Friday, October 10, 2008 3:40:00 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

My girlfriend actually. She is so lucky to be involved with me ;]

Saturday, October 11, 2008 1:51:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I hope she enjoys food as much as you do. I've found that it really helps in the relationship. ;)

Saturday, October 11, 2008 6:48:00 PM  

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