Monday, February 11, 2013

chi SPACCA (Los Angeles, CA)

chi SPACCA Restaurant
6610 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Mon 02/11/2013, 09:00p-11:35p

chi SPACCA The Mozza empire continues to expand. Yes, the holy trinity--Batali, Bastianich, Silverton--have just opened the butchery-focused chi SPACCA ("cleaver" in Italian) in the space once occupied by their Scuola di Pizza. The long-awaited restaurant debuted on February 4th, and features Chef Chad Colby's well-regarded housemade salumi and other meat-centric plates.

For those unfamiliar with what's been going on, it all started with a private dining room, one situated inside Mozza2Go and featuring an exhibition kitchen and plenty of seating. Nancy Silverton and Matt Molina started out teaching cooking classes there (hence the name Scuola di Pizza), but in late 2010, Silverton tapped Manhattan Beach native Chad Colby to hold weekly family-style, prix fixe dinners in the space. These became quite the sensation, and during this period, Colby had also been experimenting with preserving his own meat. He even built a special walk-in dry-curing room in the back, and established LA's first fully legit, fully legal salumi program.

As such, Colby began serving his resulting product at the Scuola dinners, and then, in May 2012, started a special Salumi Bar night on Thursday evenings. He even won 2011's Cochon 555 tasting along the way. At the beginning of 2013, the Salumi Bar expanded its days of operation, all seemingly in preparation for the launch of chi SPACCA. Apparently, due to alcohol licensing restrictions, the restaurant will only offer two seatings of 30 diners a night, starting at 6:00 and 8:00, Monday through Friday, though there'll be room for walk-ins at the bar. Saturday nights, meanwhile, will be reserved for "nose-to-tail" dinners. As for the pizza and pasta classes formerly held at the Scuola di Pizza, they'll be moved to daylight hours during the weekends.

chi SPACCA Interior
The Scuola di Pizza hasn't changed much from its days hosting the family dinners, with the open kitchen clearly taking center stage.

chi SPACCA Menu
The chi SPACCA menu, unsurprisingly, focuses on meat of multiple forms, though there are a few requisite salads as well. Desserts are handled by Mozza Pastry Chef Dahlia Narvaez, and to drink, you'll find a small, reasonably-priced chalkboard wine list featuring selections by the quartino. Click for a larger version.

affettati misti
affettati misti [$24.00]
You'd be remiss if you didn't start with a big platter of Colby's salumi, and perhaps the best way to experience it is to order the assortment of cold cuts. Going from top to bottom, we had:
  • Whole Muscles: Colby specializes in whole muscle curing, and his expertise was evident here. The 24 month prosciutto was a superb example of the style, slick and soft, showing off a slightly sweet, nutty character balanced by fatty, savory notes in the ham. The capocollo (made from pork neck) was even more intense, with a deeper, meatier relish and a more substantial body.
  • Salami: Moving on now, joe's tocai was a version of salami ostensibly cured with Tocai wine, which seemed to impart a slight floral character to the sausage. The garden chili variety, as the name would imply, showed off a delightfully kick of heat that I quite enjoyed.
  • Pate & Terrine: The first forcemeat was Colby's bacon tenderloin, a spot-on terrine that beautifully highlighted the meat while contrasting it with the nuttiness and crunch of the included pistachios. Finally, we had the butcher's pâté, a finer, more aromatic preparation with a heady, liver-y flair to it. Yum.
pickles [$5.00]
A plate of pickles was useful in cutting some of the weight of the meat. I especially enjoyed the crisp carrot and cabbage varieties.

lardo mantecato
lardo mantecato [$8.00]
The accompanying bread was superb, displaying a certain sweetness that recalled the essence of Chinese youtiao. It was delicious alone, but the whipped lardo added even further luxuriousness to the dish.

warm squash blossoms ripiene
warm squash blossoms ripiene [$12.00] | ricotta & tomato vinaigrette
Squash blossoms arrived brimming with ricotta, its lush, creamy, subtly sweet taste working well with the tart tomato. However, I really wanted more textural variation in the dish, as everything seemed to have a sort of uniform mouthfeel.

mizuna, baby kale & rucola
mizuna, baby kale & rucola [$14.00] | apples, red walnuts & piave
The kitchen then sent out a complementary salad course. The bitterness of the mizuna-kale-arugula combo was nicely played here, with a bright, bracing astringency that made sense against the contrasting flavors of the apple and walnut, all while the cheese added a weighty, salty overtone to the dish. Vegetarians may do alright here after all.

baby cauliflower
baby cauliflower [$12.00] | crushed lemon bagna cauda
I'm quite the cauliflower fiend, so this was a must-try for me. The bagna cauda sauce really added a fantastic depth and complexity to the vegetable, with the lemon providing a sort of overarching tartness that worked too. My only concern was that I would've liked the cauliflower to have a crisper, crunchier consistency.

funghi ripiene
funghi ripiene [$20.00]
I ordered this dish thinking that it would be one of our lighter mains, but I should've known better! Instead, the mushrooms arrived stuffed with pork sausage and veal that was rolled in caul fat. It sure was tasty though, showing off some really deep, dark, satisfying flavors that were only partially moderated by the greenery on the plate.

santa barbara spot prawns
santa barbara spot prawns [$26.00]
Santa Barbara spot prawns arrived simply prepared, with a drizzle of lemon and olive oil working well with the sweet, saline relish of the crustaceans. Unfortunately, the prawns were on the smaller side, so they weren't quite as satisfying as I would've liked, especially when compared to a version that I'd just had at Providence.

red wattle pork 'segreto'
red wattle pork "segreto" [$24.00]
Is the "segreto" here the same as the "secreto" cut of pork I'd enjoyed at Playground and é by José Andrés? Obviously this wasn't Ibérico, but the meat was delicious nonetheless: lean, yet immensely flavorful, with a delectable char bitterness and an aromatic counterpoint prominently featuring what I believe was rosemary.

pollo alla diavola
pollo alla diavola [$25.00]
The chicken, meanwhile, was the surprise hit of the night. An entire half-bird was presented to us, and I eagerly went for the drumstick portion. I found the meat tender, juicy, and very pleasing to the palate, with a marked pepper-y kick and a wonderful jolt of creeping, lingering heat.

costata alla fiorentina
costata alla fiorentina [$175.00] | 42 oz.
Finally, we come to the evening's cavallo di battaglia, a massive 42oz T-bone that managed to be the priciest steak I'd ever eaten (though not on a per-ounce basis--that would have to be at CUT). The bistecca alla fiorentina was done up in classic fashion, cooked via chi SPACCA's wood-burning grill and simply seasoned. It was a tasty cut of meat, with a straightforwardly satisfying beefiness to it, along with a lovely char savoriness from the outer crust. I enjoyed being able to compare and contrast the tenderloin and strip sections too, finding the former to be expectedly more tender in consistency, but the latter having a more assertive flavor.

dario's olive oil rosemary cake
dario's olive oil rosemary cake [$9.00]
Moving on to desserts now, chi SPACCA had a threesome on offer, and, despite being rather full of meat by this point, we went for the trifecta. The first sort of reminded me of a fruitcake, with the herb-y, subtly savory components in the dish melding well with the tasty bits of dried fruit sprinkled within.

vanilla pine nut biscotti
vanilla pine nut biscotti [$9.00]
The biscotti, meanwhile, was probably our favorite of the three. In fact, it was probably the best version of the biscuits that I'd ever had, crumbly in texture, and conveying a sweet, delectable sapor that reminded me of Chinese dan juan egg rolls.

tiramisu [$10.00]
The tiramisu, lastly, was also a very strong interpretation of the iconic dish, with a deft balance between sweet, boozy, and coffee-like flavors. Definitely get it if you're a fan of the dessert.

Chad Colby has garnered considerable acclaim for the quality of his salumi, and for good reason. His preparations were spot on, some of the tastiest bites of cured meat I'd had in a while actually, and his curing program should easily find its way among the City's best. In fact, chi SPACCA is worth a visit solely to try the charcuterie, though the rest of the menu is no slouch either. The place definitely represents a unique dining experience vis-à-vis its sister restaurants, and unsurprisingly, seems well on its way to becoming yet another hit for the Mozza group.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW this place looks great.

I tend to judge Food Bloggers based on their ability to pick out good items on a menu. The stuffed mushroom selection was a great choice by you.

Definitely interested in coming here. The beef and bone marrow pie also sounds enticing.

Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

happy bday kev!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Sam C. said...

Thanks for the posts. They just opened and you got an update..Gotta love it!!! :)

Friday, February 15, 2013 7:33:00 AM  
Blogger Charlie Fu said...

I have one critique of one dish. That steak, was cooked awfully. At least 30% of the steak was over-cooked and overall ended up at Medium opposed to medium rare. At the price we paid, I feel like it should have been perfect. Guy definitely left it on the high heat way too long.

Otherwise, food and service there is pretty great!

Friday, February 15, 2013 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Another wonderful review, Kevin. I've been following your blog for four years now, and one thing I've always wished you'd post, is a regular dinner at home or your guilty pleasure (KFC mac and cheese for Bourdain or Mcnuggets for David Chang). That'd be an amazing birthday special post.

Happy Birthday!

Friday, February 15, 2013 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Anon: We were interested in that pie as well, but they had run out (we actually saw the last order leave the kitchen).

Jipeng: Huh? It's definitely not my birthday!

Sam: But hey, too bad it wasn't opening night.

Charlie: I actually didn't mind the steak, though I'm not a stickler on my meat being done rare. They didn't ask us how we wanted it cooked, so is that how it's intended to be?

Kevin: Again, what's with the birthday? But I don't really cook, so a dinner at home wouldn't work. I'm with Chang on the nuggets (the Filet-O-Fish too), but as for other guilty pleasures, maybe this, or low-brow Mexican from Alberto's?

Saturday, February 16, 2013 4:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlie- Totally agree with you on the steak. It was certainly medium, and I am super picky with my steaks, and with high quality beef I tend to prefer "rare-plus". I didn't want to say anything though as I was so full, and the rest of the meal was fantastic. (and the steak wasn't bad, but for $175 it should have been better).

Kevin- Continuing on the steak tip, I was thinking that maybe since it was more of a "roast" preparation, perhaps it was supposed to be cooked a little more. Didn't they tell us it would be prepared medium-rare?? Maybe I am crazy... Anyways, great meal and good post, though no mention of any of the wine we drank??? And lastly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY dude!


Sunday, February 17, 2013 4:52:00 PM  
Blogger Charlie Fu said...

Collier: definitely not a roast. Italian style steaks are almost always served medium rare (hell many do rare). Also I don't think anyone would roast a porterhouse (in the traditional sense of roasting) as the meat would get too tough compared to a high fat rib eye.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 1:58:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Collier: Did they mention medium-rare? I don't remember. Wine was good, but didn't take any notes. And lastly, it's not my birthday!

Charlie: Yep, according to Wiki: "Bistecca is invariably served very rare." So then what happened here?

Sunday, February 24, 2013 11:58:00 PM  

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