Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Patina - 07/01/2010

141 S Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 972-3331

I've had consistently good experiences at The Patina Group restaurants and the flagship Patina was one of the best. This should come as no surprise as the restaurant has long been a fixture on LA's culinary landscape. The restaurant has a laundry list of alumni that any establishment should be proud of. My first visit was three years ago while the restaurant was still under Chef Theo Schoenegger. With his departure for Las Vegas, Chef Tony Esnault was tapped to lead the kitchen. Previously Chef Esnault was Exec Chef at both Alain Ducasse and Adour in New York. I had the opportunity to try his cooking at Adour and was looking forward to how this meal compared.

Bread - Epi, Green Olive, Seven Grain
A fairly simple bread selection. I thought the olive was quite mild, a welcome change from typical olive bread and the seven grain smacked distinctly of Corn Flakes.

Amuse: Nettle Veloute - Burgundy Snails, Cellery, Fennel, Buckwheat Galette
The meal started off with a bang. The bold green of the soup aptly reflected its striking herbaceousness. The snails were a fitting compliment to the veritable liquid garden and I appreciated their earthy bite and light garlic sapor. They would have been perfect but for the mouthful of sand I got in my third snail.

01: Marinated Hamachi - Geoduck, Cucumber Vinegar, Avocado, Crostini, Green Apple Mustard
Clemen, Vinho Verde 2008
This looked very similar to one of Chef Esnault's dishes at Adour though I thought the flavors were more balanced this time around. The fish itself was oily and dense but surprisingly light on the palate, needing the geoduck slivers to give the dish a fitting essence of brine.

02: Duck Foie Gras Terrine - Peach Chutney and Salad, Basil Leaves, Toasted Country Bread
Sauternes, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, 2006
Recently I've been enjoying more bitter pairings with my foie, so it was nice to see a return to more classical accompaniments. I was concerned that the peach would be overly sweet but it proved to be very much in tune with the rich foie and fresh zest of the basil. The country bread was the perfect foil to the foie with its rough texture and rustic flavor.

03: Seasonal Vegetable Mosaic - "Jus de Cuisson," Lemon Oil
Vouvray, Domaine Pichot 2008
Another holdover from Adour, though the name has improved from the "Glazed Multicolor Vegetable Composition." Unlike most other preparations of gargouillou, Chef Esnault's uses cooked vegetables. Though the cooking unifies the vegetables to a degree I was still able to appreciate the riot of flavors and textures. The savory jus gave the dish a stew-like complexion which helped balance the sweetness of the cooked vegetables.

Supplement: Creamy Morels Risotto - Asparagus, Parmigiano Reggiano
Rjgialla Selènze, La Tunella 2006
Our first dinner here began one of my friend's love affair with risotto. I don't think there was any way this risotto could have lived up to the memory of that first transcendent experience, but stepping back it was easy to appreciate the charms of this risotto. I especially enjoyed the interplay between the heavy earthy morels and the grassy bitterness of the asparagus.

04: Butter Poached Maine Lobster - Haricots Verts, Sugar Snap Peas, Fava Beans, English Peas, "Jus de la Presse"
Patz & Hall, Sonoma Coast, Chardonnay 2008
The lobster came to the table redolent with the scent of sweet brown butter which complimented but didn't overwhelm the natural flvor of the crustacean. The lobster itself consisted of two layers a dense well-cooked exterior and a snappy rare core. The mixed greens worked exceedingly well, imparting a sweet nuttiness perfectly suited to the richness of the lobster.

05: Dorade Royal "Au Plat" - Fennel, Zucchini, Eggplant, "Riviera Jus"
Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine du Vieux Lazaret 2007
The beautifully cooked dorade was plated tableside with each diner getting two generous pieces. The fish was coated in a light "Riviera Jus" that gave just the right amount of flavor but didn't overwhelm the fish. The vegetables were enjoyable but I preferred the fish on its own.

06: Californian Squab Cooked "En Cocotte" - Wild Mushrooms, English Peas
Torre di Ceparano, Sangiovese, Fattoria Zerbina 2005
I had a good feeling about this course the instant it was presented. The breast had the perfect amount of firmness and a smoky flesh complimented with a rich flavorful skin. The confit was also particularly noteworthy, succulent and tender with a heavy unctuousness not present in the breast. The bird stood easily on its own, but proved to be equally delicious when eaten with the mushroom and peas. There seemed to be no wrong way to enjoy this course.

Supplement: Fromage - Etorki, Pont-l'Évêque, Époisses de Bourgogne, Blu di Bufala
As always we asked our server to pick a selection of cheeses and we were not disappointed. The Etorki was surprisingly good for a hard cheese, nutty and clean with a characteristic cheesy undertone. The Epoisses du Bourgone was another exceptional cheese gooey soft, like a more full-flavored version of my favorite, Brilliat Savarin.

08: Starwberry Composition - Tarragon and Arugula Granité, Yogurt Sorbet
Jurancon, Clos Uroulat 2007
An absolutely gorgeous dessert, the bright tang of the fresh strawberries ties beautifully with the tart creamy sorbet while the vegetal granite adds a refreshing bitter counterpoint to the sweetness of the fruit.

09: Crispy Chocolate Hazelnut - Chocolate Mousse, Burnt Sugar Ice Cream
Smith Woodhouse, 20 Years Old Port
Hard to find fault with this dessert, while not as daring as the Strawberry Composition, the familiar pairing of chocolate and hazelnut is hard to beat. One of my companions likened this to Voltaggio's Fool's Gold while I saw the obvious visual parallels, I felt Richard's Kit Kat Bar was a more apt comparison in terms of flavor and texture.

Once again the Patina Group delivers. The style is fairly understated, lacking the glitz of say The Bazaar but the more low-key tempo seems fitting for one of LA's oldest fine dining restaurants. The meal was solid from start to finish with the mosaic, squab, and strawberry composition standing out. It certainly won't be three years before I'm here again.


food je t'aime said...

My idea of the perfect date in LA would be a concert at the Disney Hall followed by dinner at Patina haha however, I want to visit Patina so badly I probably shouldn't be waiting around for that to happen

Epicuryan said...

I think that's a totally reasonable expectation. Though it might be more practical to have a light dinner before the show.

Michael said...

Actually they do have afternoon concerts on Sundays, so your perfect date will work as they get out at 4:00 to 5:00 and you can have an early dinner. I used to eat at Patina's a lot and I love my 25% off, used to dine there like 3 or 4 times a week when I was working on the pipe organ in the concert hall.

To tell the truth, I prefer Theo's cooking to Tony's. Theo's cooking started off fairly boring but he improved over the years. When Chris started as sous chef, his creativity provided a very nice balance to Theo's sometimes stuffy and occasionally UNinventiveness. His cooking has improved leaps and bounds ever since that.

I think Patina was at its best when Dave Myers (Sona) and Eric Greenspan (of Foundry fame) were there with Michelle Myers being the pastry chef; the period when Theo Schoennegger had the incredible Chris Watson and later Steve Rojas as sous chefs with Ian Gresik worked as pastry chef coming in a close second. I didn't think they'd find a dessert chef better than Michelle but Ian is amazing. I am sad to see him leave for Drago Centro and become the chef di cucina there. Love the dessert quartet he used to make for me.

I started eating at Patina when it was still at the old Melrose location (where Providence is now!) in 1998, I honestly wasn't that impressed with Walter's and Joachim's cooking back then and couldn't fathom why it was ranked the top restaurant in L.A., I ended up giving it a second chance and it became one of my favourite restaurants in L.A. Became friends with a lot of the staff there too. Unfortunately, Tony was unable to carry on the high standards set by Walter, Joachim, Eric, & Theo...