Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bistro LQ - 12/29/2009

8009 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 951-1088

I've known about Bistro LQ since it opened, and after hearing buzz about Bistro LQ I was eager to give the restaurant a try but never could seem to find the right time or people to go with. Bistro LQ is the new home of Chef Laurent Quenioux, formerly of Bistro K and interestingly the director of food and beverages at Dodger Stadium. The restaurant has a cozy feel, though perhaps a bit more contemporary than your typical bistro as evidenced by the photography on the back wall.

LQ offers 6 and 9 course tastings as well as an eclectic a la carté menu. Though my typical MO is to go with the tasting, but with the option of ordering half portions of many of the courses allowing diners to build their own tastings, a la carté is the way to go at LQ. My companion chose to go with the set six course tasting, and I picked seven courses from the menu to keep the pacing even, though truth be told, I would have liked a few more courses.

2003 ETZ Gruner Veltiner (Kamptal, AU)
I started the meal with a Gruner hoping that the acidity would compliment the early seafood courses. The wine came tinged with the scent of green apple but lacked the sharp crispness I was expecting.

Amuse: Smoked Salmon - Kumamoto Oyster Gratin
A very enjoyable start to the meal, the gratin complimented the natural flavor of the fish, but was so mild I didn't even know it was oyster until I asked our waiter.

Foie Gras 3 Ways
Torchon Style: Black Truffles, Earl Grey Tea Roll
Terrine Style: Quince Marshmallow and Quince Gelée
Sautéed Style: French Toast, Apple Chanterelles with Cotton Candy Syrup
We were told to start with the warm preparation. Both my companion and I got the impression of a breakfast course from the french toast and syrup while the foie was more of an afterthought, adding a tinge of savoriness. We followed with the terrine which boasted a noticeably richer flavor and rustic texture. The torchon proved to be my favorite, with a buttery smooth consistency and a subtle accent of truffle to compliment the unctuous liver.

Oysters - 2 Kumamoto and 2 Kushii in Half Shell
I am typically a huge fan of Kumamotos but I found these examples to be overly minerally. The Kushii oysters by comparison were meatier and milder in flavor making for a lissome mouth feel and clean finish.

Uni - Sea Urchin Tapioca Pudding with Yuzu Kocho, Kumamoto Oysters in Yuzu Martini Gelée
The best course of the night, I really wish I went with my instinct and got a full order of this. The beautifully fresh uni, was superb on its own but the tangy spice of the yuzu kocho brought the dish to another level. The uni came with an oyster shooter which served as an effective palate cleanser though personally it boggles my mind why anyone would want a palate cleanser, since all it does is cut short the beautiful flavor of the uni.

2006 Chasseur "Russian River Valley" Pinot Noir (Sonoma, CA)
We didn't actually order this wine, the restaurant was out of Burgundy we chose so our waitress selected this as a replacement. The Chasseur had all the elements of a classic pinot with fragrant aromas of strawberry and bright cherry, with secondary dimensions of earth and spice. A good substitute for the Burgundy, but I just would have liked to been have given a choice.

At this point the dining room filled up, and service consequently took a nosedive. The next two courses took just over an hour which really disrupted the flow of the meal.

Rabbit Terrine - Garlic and Fresh Herbs, Served with a Pear and Tamarind Chutney
This is the first time I have had rabbit served as a terrine, the dense meat was an interesting change from the typical tenderness of rabbit meat. The garlic and fresh herbs added a straightforward but effective compliment to the sapor of the rabbit while the chutney provided a blunt sweetness.

Venison Tartare - Juniper Berries, Celery Root Garlic Slaw, Tortilla Crisp, Quail egg
An incredibly distinctive tartare, the earthy iron tang of the venison was immediately apparent. The distinctive weightiness of the deer was punctuated by the bitter greens and vegetal celery root. While the vegetables added some crispness to the soft gamy meat, a more complex flavor profile would have made this course.

Intermezzo: Huckleberry Sorbet - Honey, Truffle
One of the most intensely flavored and complex bites I have had in recent memory. Even before tasting the first spoonful, the aroma of truffle is dizzying. The flavor opens with herbal sweetness accented by the complex flavor of the truffle and completed with a chilling berry tartness on the finish.

Mr. Fierson Eggs - Poached Hen’s Eggs, in Red Wine, Bacon, Mushrooms, "Meurette Style"
After having a superb Oeufs en Meurette at LudoBites I was eager to try LQ's version. The Meurette sauce was spot on, with a deep savoriness enriched with the richness of the bacon and earthiness of the mushrooms. The eggs themselves felt more soft boiled, lacking the supple grace and runny yolk so critical in a poached egg.

Mussels - Pearl Barley Risotto Corn Chowder Style
This is the first time I have tasted a combination of risotto and chowder, but I thought the grain did an admirable job adding substance to the soup while the sweet corn was a natural foil for the flavor of the shellfish. The mussels themselves were unnecessary, as the chowder was already infused with their delicate brine, rather their mealy texture and slight funk detracted from the overall enjoyment of the dish.

Pigeon - Shallot Flan, Duck Gizzard, Pumpkin and Serrano Ham Mirepoix, Pumpkin "jus"
One of the preparations of pigeon in recent memory where the accouterments actually added to the course. The gizzard providing an appreciable note of organ meat while the smoky sweet mirepoix added a welcome complexity and depth of flavor. The bird itself was a bit dry, my companion who had this course earlier tried some of mine and agreed that it was overdone.

I typically like to end dinner with dessert I wasn't given an opportunity to order dessert, instead we were brought a single baba au Rum which I assume was the dessert course that came with my companions tasting menu.

After being open for almost half a year, operations should have been running smoothly by now; however numerous service gaffes kept me from fully enjoying the meal. Foremost among the issues was the fact the restaurant wasn't equipped to handle the number of diners. Aside from the long wait between courses in during the middle of dinner, our waitress was so overworked she didn't even have time to describe the courses as they were brought to the table and she forgot to take my dessert order. In addition to the above issues, twice the staff made substitutions without informing us first, first with the wines and again when serving my companion Pigeon rather than the hanger steak that was supposed to be part of the tasting. There was nothing wrong with either of the changes, but we would have liked to know in advance so we'd have a choice. After the meal, Chef Quenioux apologized for the spotty service, stating that they were short two chefs and weren't expecting a full house. While I understand problems with the back of the house can be challenging, the restaurant should have better control over the number of diners; either taking fewer reservations or turning away walk-ins rather than accommodating everyone at the expense of the dining experience.

While the food was not perfect Chef Quenioux is certainly willing to take risks with the menu even quoting Pierre Gagnaire's maxim when describing the philosophy behind his food. As a result, Bistro LQ offers some of the most distinctive fare available in LA, including intriguing game courses and a superb cheese cart. I'd certainly recommend trying the restaurant though I'd wait until they get their house in order before making that reservation.

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