Thursday, July 03, 2008

How the other infinitessimal slice lives or starring in my own version of Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Since moving to Los Angeles I've had a lot more experiences that make me feel like I'm becoming an adult: promotion, salary negotiation, opening a Roth IRA, having my car towed, serving on a jury (in a murder case no less), hiring someone, purchasing equipment for my company.

The most recent grownup experience: a fancy restaurant. Yeah, I've been to a couple before but I was a college student getting taken out by friends' parents.

Amy and I went to Craft Los Angeles to celebrate her birthday. This is Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio's restaurant. I've learned a lot about food from him and the other judges, guest chefs and contestants during the past few years, some of the most important being about the value of great ingredients. (That's the reason I've become a grocery snob who shops at Whole Foods for certain things, like seafood, now.)

Two friends had been there and raved, so I figured that fellow TC fan Amy would be down with playing grownups for good food, even if we did have venture into Century City (at least we passed the Die Hard, er 20th Century Fox, building, which if you live here you have to point out every time, just like Clark Griswold would).

Right away when we walk up it just feels kinda swank. The first Ferris Bueller joke is cracked as Amy says she'll refer to me as Abe Froehman (Sausage King of Chicago) if I want.

The decor is very modern but it still felt very warm. There's light-brown wood (I wish I was sophisticated enough to ID it) everywhere and low-lighting with columnar lamps dangling from the ceiling. Check out this photo gallery. This one is almost the view from where we sat; we were just to the left in the first booth on the wall.

Immediately, the service, is a change from what I'm used to (though this might be because I also don't make reservations or go to places that take them). Very friendly service with big smiles and professionally warm eye contact that makes you feel like you might be most important guest of the evening. Or at least that our inexperience in these situations wasn't offputting to them. We're invited to wait in the bar as they put final touches on our table.

We had scouted the menu ahead of time to make sure that as non-mammal eaters there'd be sufficient appealing choices, and seeing the price of drinks ($12 for 12-year-old single malt) was no surprise. Honestly, for a place like this that's not bad. I pay almost that much at some shows.

OK, the food. Right when we sit down we're served a basket of bread. There are slices of bread (seemed Frenchish in style) and then a dark brown roll, which honestly might be the best roll I've ever had. I wish I was Remy from Ratatouille who could ID flavors. I can't but it was amazing. So moist and tastey, almost with a hint of a sweet-esque pepperyness. It didn't need the butter, which was served hard-to-spread cold. Nevertheless, I feel like if the meal measures up to the roll (which I could sincerely describe with the word "best"), then we'd be in good shape.

When the server asks what we want he first recommends the $95 tasting menu. We pass, mainly because neither of us eat mammals and this menu is beefy and porky. Though that price is um, uh, yeah.

Amy orders the Local White Sea Bass and Pickled Chanterelles while I get the Diver Scallops and Vermouth Butter (each over $30). We also order a side of roasted baby carrots. We pass on the "first course" portion of the menu and hope that our Main Courses and side will be sufficient, besides dessert is a probable. We acknowledge that our inexperience with fine dining has rendered this decision a small gamble. The server was very friendly and knowledgeable when we had questions about the food on the menu, which was definitely not what I ever make.

Promptly after ordering the food, we're served an amuse bouche of salmon in a teriyaki jelly. (This was free.) From a few seasons of TC, we've learned that an amuse buche is a bite-size appetizer. OK, onto the food ... EXCELLENT. Fresh fish is the only way to go. And based on webiste research that's Craft's specialty. Simple, bold flavors made from fresh, local and seasonal ingredients.

Then came the meals. I am not just saying this to justify the expense, which ended up being $138 for two (before tip), this was the best food I've ever had at a restaurant.

The scallops were sooooo tender and not chewy at all. Damn you professional chefs who can manage that. The Vermouth Butter was soooo rich and tastey and yet didn't drown out the scallops at all. It was sooo good though that I used it to dip my amazing roll in as well.

Amy's sea bass was also excellent. Flaky, fresh.

One thing about fine dining, the portions are right-sized, not TGIFriday's mega-sized or Olive Garden bottomless. But right-sized based on multiple courses. So in our case it was great that we ordered the Baby Carrots, because we got like 16 finger-sized carrots. They were also amazing. And I am not even a huge fan of cooked carrots. But these had a zesty seasoning that ended up complimenting everything.

Now if you eat your food slowly (at what is honestly a more healthy pace) then the portion is fine if you're also splitting a side. After the amazing scallops (there were three) and some bread and half the carrots, I was very satiated and also craving dessert. By the way, I went a whole restaurant meal without eating cheese, which is like a super rarity and a testament to how good the food was.

I ordered the Blueberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Blueberry Gelato. Amy ordered the Smoked Chocolate Cherry Gelato. Before our desserts came another surprise. We each got a shot-glass-sized three layer mini-dessert of ice cream. I have to be honest, the psychology of tiny freebies does sooo much to take one's mind off of the price. Like everything else so far, amazingness in my mouth.

The official desserts come and more wowness. The cobbler, btw, is as big as Amy's sea bass. The rhubarb was soooo fresh and a great balance with the supersweet and juicey blueberries. The cobbler was delicate but had a good enough structural integrity to make eating it very easy.

After the end of the meal, which took a few hours (in a good way that was casually paced, not rushed by the staff and allowed for lots of conversation), we got one last freebie. These weren't so great. They were coin-sized cookies that were too dry. :(

But overall, wow. Seriously, the best meal I've ever had in a restaurant. With the high prices, I can't afford this more than a couple times a year, but I wish that I could. I think the food is good enough that I wouldn't take it for granted. If this is adulthood, sign me up.

Bonus: We had reservations for 8:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night. I think the midweek thing worked well, because we were about 15 minutes late and it wasn't a thing. And they do online booking through

No comments: