We spent this past weekend in Los Angeles celebrating B’s birthday a few days early. We scored a great deal on airfare through Virgin America and just couldn’t pass up the chance to get out of Seattle’s already declining weather. So we headed for sun, smog and a whole new world of restaurant opportunities.
Friday night, we had a chance to have dinner with two of my favorite people from college, J and A. A chose Osteria la Buca on Melrose for dinner.
It’s a very cute little Italian spot with two levels and warm decor. According to A, it’s not in the best neighborhood, but once people figured out how good it is, they were willing to make the trip. They also have short-distance delivery on a very cute little Zero bike with a wooden crate attached to the back.
We spent a pretty good amount of time with the menu and I think I must have changed my mind at least ten times. I tried to talk myself out of pasta (since I’m supposed to limit my gluten intake), but couldn’t resist the uniqueness of the Cinghiale e Cioccolato (Wild Boar and Chocolate Ragu). The amazing enthusiasm of our very perky server convinced me that it wouldn’t be sweet and that the chocolate just served to turn down the gamey flavor of the wild boar. The lighting was low, so this photo isn’t the best, but it also wasn’t the prettiest dish ever.
It was good, but not great. I’ve never been one to be able to pick out gamey flavor and perhaps it’s just the fact that I was expecting it, but I wasn’t crazy about the taste of the wild boar. The chocolate wasn’t sweet at all, though. It had more of a slightly bitter, cocoa taste. The house made noodles were very tasty and I very much enjoyed their texture and flavor.
For the rest of the table, B had the Jijo pizza: mozzarella, Italian speck, walnuts, truffle oil.
A had the Gnocchi alla boscaiola (I had a fair bit of hers too).
We also had hazelnut gelato for dessert. I certainly could have eaten my own 3-scoop order, but limited myself to my one and a half scoop portion.
From Osteria la Buca, we headed to The Tar Pit for after dinner drinks. J and A both ordered Juleps which were served in beautiful julep glasses.
I had a Daisy de Martinique (Rhum Agricole, Lime, Cane Sugar and Green Chartreuse) and a Summer & Smoke (Jalapeno infused Mezcal, Yellow Chartreuse, Lime, Cucumbers, Agave and Smoked Sea Salt). Both were very good, but the Summer & Smoke was startlingly spicy. Everyone at the table tried it and struggled to hide their shock at the taste. I managed to keep sipping on it, though, and I will say that it grew on me. I wouldn’t order more than one, but actually enjoyed it to the end.
Saturday night, we had an early reservation at Rojo y Blanca, part of The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Beverly Hills where we were staying. As a general note on the hotel, it’s amazing and I highly recommend it. It’s definitely worth the money. With the exception of the fact that they have the worst hotel elevators I’ve ever experienced (the functionality, I mean… they are beautiful), every tiny detail about the SLS just screams 5-star!
I was initially disappointed with our reservation time and place for The Bazaar. I called only a week before we arrived, so the best we could do was 6:15PM on the Terrace. The hostess warned me on the phone that while the Terrace was heated, it faced the valet and they allowed smoking. Eating at The Bazaar was the part of our trip I was probably looking forward to most (aside from seeing old friends), so I was worried that we weren’t going to have the true Bazaar experience. When we checked into the hotel, though, I asked the guy giving us a tour of our room (yes, there was a tour) if he could do anything about the reservation. After telling us that he could not, he reassured us that we were better off early because the service would be more personal and that he preferred the Terrace. I know he’s paid to make us feel better, but it worked.
As it turns out, earlier was better. Beginning to end, dinner took just over 3 hours. We had two servers. One who seemed to be the drink guy, one who was the food guy. Both were friendly. Our table turned out to be just fine. The heaters were close enough and it was warm enough outside that the temperature was comfortable and we had a view of every exotic, absurdly expensive luxury car that drove into the valet. B enjoyed this part a bit more than I did. We both started our meal with the “Magic” Mojito because multiple people said we had to. When we ordered, we told Drink Server that it came highly recommended. He replied, “You’ll see.” And did we ever. Here are the before, during and after shots of the “Magic” Mojito.
Yes, that’s a regular mojito (minus the sugar) poured over cotton candy into the glass. Amazing! The other notable thing about the drink service is the fact that they have a water list… like a wine list. We went with the low-end Evian Still since… Well, it’s WATER!
Food Server recommended we get 5-6 items each (Bazaar is all tapas style). We managed to choose 10 between us. Wow, was that a mistake! While it was all incredible, we had TOO much food.
Sweet potato chips with yogurt, tamarind and star anise foam
Tortilla de Patatas
Catalan style toasted bread for the cheese
Sauteed shrimp with guindilla pepper
Embutidos Plate (Chorizo, Lomo and Salchichon)
Bechamel and chicken fritters
Everything was wonderful except the shrimp… The shrimp was just good. The server paired all of our choices perfectly and the food came out in four waves. My favorites were the two different types of fritters, the Tortilla de Patatas and the Papas Canarias. What can I say? For better or worse, I love carbs. I also love dessert… which makes the next part of this a little sad.
Patisserie is the dessert shop located inside The Bazaar. We didn’t know (nor did anyone tell us), that seating in the Patisserie is strictly limited to guests who have just finished a meal at The Bazaar. Because we had just finished our three hour extravaganza of food, we couldn’t even think about the idea of dessert. We told our server that since we were staying in the hotel, we would just come back the next night for dessert. He said that was a good idea. In fact, 3 different people who worked in the hotel told us we could go to Patisserie. It wasn’t until we arrived on Sunday night that we were turned away by the hostess who told us we couldn’t sit there because we hadn’t had dinner. She did offer that we could sit in the lounge and order dessert from there. That’s what we did.
Now, it’s entirely possible that my patience were at a minimum because I was suffering from sun poisoning on Sunday night (no, I’m not kidding), but the service in the lounge was abysmal at best. We waited a very long time for everything from menus to dessert to tea to the check. Since I was feeling under the weather, B ordered for both of us. He chose the Tres Chocolate Mousse and the Red Velvet Cupcake.
I only ate a bite of each (and that’s how you know I was really under the weather), but the mousse was far better than the cupcake. It had an amazing crunch to it and even had a tiny vile of chocolate sauce that you squeeze on yourself before eating. The red velvet cupcake, on the other hand, was a tad dry and bland. The cream cheese frosting was very good (creamy and not over-the-top sweet), though.
There’s nothing better than vacation food! Despite Seattle’s endless possibilities for new, exciting and delicious food, it’s always fun to find out what another city has to offer. LA has plenty! I love LA!