Monday, October 8, 2012

Patina - 08/16/2012

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

Though Patina might not be as flashy as some of its contemporaries, Joachim Splichal built his reputation restaurant empire on the strength of its high-quality fine dining fare. Opened in 1989, the restaurant has seen a number of chefs occupy the top spot over its 23 year life. I myself have been fortunate enough to enjoy two wonderful meals under Theo Schoenegger and Tony Esnault. With the departure of Chef Esnault in June, Splichal tapped Charles Olalia to head the kitchen at Patina.

I didn't know much about Olalia before KevinEats invited me to this dinner, but he had a surprisingly varied career despite his youth. Born and raised in the Phillipines he found his passion for food early and pursued it at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management in Manilla. Olalia soon found himself stateside bouncing around California and Las Vegas with stints at Guy Savoy, French Laundry, COI, and Meadowood among others before making the move to Patina in 2010.

Amuse: Corn Soup - Crostini, Chive Oil
The meal started off with a delightful summer treat of chilled corn soup. The bright sweetness of the silky broth was heightened by the toasty crunch of the croutons and the fragrant savor of the chives.

Watermelon Gazpacho - Japanese Octopus, Pedro Ximenez
Trefethen, Dry Riesling, 2008, Napa Valley
I thought it was a bit odd serving two summertime soups back to back but the similarities pretty much ended there. The gazpacho abounds with fresh watermelon but with bitter vegetal notes and a strong garlic-y savor. The octopus provides some much needed weight though the flavor is relatively subdued compared to soup. The floral tinged acidity of the riesling was the perfect pair for the Gazpacho's zest.

Dungeness Crab Fraicheur - Mango, Avocado, Basil
Pazo Barrantes, Albarino, 2010, Rias Baixas, Spain
The crux of this dish was dungeness crab wrapped with mango which displayed a brine-tinged tropical sweetness. The accompanying summer salad consisted of reconstituted basil, microgreens, and avocado; their vibrant herbaceousness tempering the fruit and shellfish

Heirloom Tomato Salad - Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Soy Caramel
Pazo Barrantes, Albarino, 2010, Rias Baixas, Spain
This next course puts your run of the mill tomato salad to shame. The tomatoes themselves are a delightfully sweet and complimented by a smoky relish from the bell pepper. Despite that the vegetables are more of an adjunct to the caramel. The mixture of tomato water and bonito, think thickened dashi, was a natural companion for the sea urchin roe. The Albarino was well suited to this course with a crisp acidity, notes of lemongrass and citrus, that complimented the salad and a saline minerality for the shellfish.

Poached Hen Egg - Fresh Peas, Calamansi, Arugula
Château Toumilon, 2007, Graves, Bordeaux
Poached eggs and peas are two of my favorite things so I absolutely adored this dish. The peas definitely dominate this dish with a lush grassy sweetness though the egg makes itself known with a surprisingly weighty savor. The duo is then finished with hints of citrus verve from the Calamansi.

Santa Barbara Spot Prawns - Carrot, English Celery, Lemon
Elio Zanotelli, Mueller Thurgau, 2009, Trentino, Italy
The spot prawn was cooked just enough that a hint of translucence remained. The resultant texture was tender and slick, somewhere between the jellied snap of a raw shrimp and the plump fullness of a completely cooked one. Unfortunately, the carrot, celery, and lemon were all very outspoken and overpowered the delicate salinity of the prawn.

Weiser Farms Potato Gnocchi - Lobster, Summer Truffles, Haricot Vert
Elio Zanotelli, Mueller Thurgau, 2009, Trentino, Italy
This reminded my entire party of a dish we had at The French Laundry not two weeks earlier, arguably the worst dish that we've ever had there. Fortunately this preparation was far more impressive, brimming with succulent lobster, tender baby corn, and crisp green beans all overlayed with the complex musk of truffle. The gnocchi was a bit soft for my liking but it was easy to overlook such a trifling with such wondrous flavors to enjoy.

Summer Vegetable Risotto - Squash Blossoms
Valle Dell'acate, Bidis, 2009, Sicily, Italy
For some of my friends the risotto we had during our first visit to Patina remains the gold standard so we insisted on adding this as a supplement to our already ambitious meal. The rice was cooked beautifully, with an even plump tension in each distinct grain. The finesse of the vegetables worked remarkably well at tempering the richness of the crème fraîche based sauce while the fried squash blossoms provided a sharp savory accent.

Black Bass en Crout - Flavors of Barigoule
Thalvin, S. De Siroua, Chardonnay, 2009, Zenata, Morocco
This dish blends the classic French cuisine Patina is known for with the Southeast Asian influences Chef Olalia brings to the table. The pastry wrapped loup de mer is broken down table side with each filet is doused with an alluring blend of white wine, lemon verbena and lemongrass which gives the sauce an exotic edge. The fish is paired with assertive accompaniments in the candied lemon and bacon, bold but effective.

Local Black Cod - Fresh Shelling Beans, Toasted Almond, Purslane
Thalvin, S. De Siroua, Chardonnay, 2009, Zenata, Morocco
Our second fish was markedly different from the delicate loup de mer. The cod is certainly mild and moist but there is almost an oily weight lurking in the dense flakes. The starchy tender beans and creamy and nutty almonds also made for a weighty more rounded dish.

Caramelized Scallops - Lilly Vegetables, Lardon, Maple
Miura, Pinot Noir, 2008, Silacci Vineyard Monterey County
Like most of the proteins, the scallops were cooked fantastically. The maple and bacon play off one another with a sweet and savory ballet that mimics the duality of the scallop while the spring onions provide a tangy counterpoint.

Snake River Farms Pork - Black Mission Fig, Fennel, Plum Radish
Quinta de Roriz, Prazo de Roriz, 2009, Douro, Portugal
Though Snake Rivers is probably better known for its American Wagyu, their Kurobuta pork isn't bad either. The duet of loin and belly highlight the versatility of the meat. The former is quite tender with a juicy meaty sapor that benefits from the fennel and other embellishments. The belly on the other hand is much softer and has more than enough flavor richness especially when the crisp skin enters into the equation.

Colorado Lamb - Eggplant Variation, Summer Peppers, Mint
Cuvelier Los Andes, Grand Vin, 2007, Mendoza, Argentina
Our final savory featured another duet this time a lamb rack and shredded lamb confit. Like the loin before it, the rack had a refined meaty savor and lamb-y relish that are elevated by the accompanying vegetables. The confit concentrates the natural flavor of the lamb leaving little room for other flavor.

Cheese - Capriago, Sainte-Maure, Cana de Cabra, Saint-Marcellin, Époisses, Caveman blue
Cuvelier Los Andes, Grand Vin, 2007, Mendoza, Argentina
With plenty of soft and ripe cheeses this was one of the more adventurous carts that I'd seen in a while. We opted for six cheeses with an emphasis on the stinkier varieties. The cheeses came with traditional adornments of honey, jam, toasted hazelnuts, and bread

Tom Kha Semifreddo - Gai Nougatine, Cilantro, Yuzu, Rau Ram
Yuki No Bosha Sake, Akita Komochi Daiginjo
Like the Heirloom Tomato Salad, I thought our first dessert best typified Patina's new direction. The nougatine is laced with classic tom kha flavors of herbs, lemon, and coconut. The cool sweetness of the dish marks it as a dessert but with a profoundly complex savor.

Harry's Berries Strawberries - Crème Fraiche, Elderflower, Basil
Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee, 2007, Russian River Valley
This dessert is all about the pure essence of strawberry. The tang of the cream and herbaceousness of the basil are delightful counterpoints but it always comes back to the jammy sweetness of the fruit.

Mango Bavarois - Sugar Plums, Star Anise, Pistachio
Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee, 2007, Russian River Valley
Despite the mango bavarois headlining the dish I thought it was the sugar plums that stood out with their lush blend of spicy-sweet flesh.

Chocolate Moelleux - Dacquoise, Passionfruit, Hazelnut Sorbet
Ramos Pinto Quinta Do Bom Retiro, 20 Years Old Port
Our final dessert features a classic pairing of chocolate and hazelnut. The duo compliment each other beautifully while the bright lively tang of the passion fruit gives the dish a fragrant lift.

Petit Fours
Despite being full to bursting, we had no trouble finishing the final bites of the night: pistachio-rose white chocolate, pistachio macarons, passion fruit dak chocolate, strawberry pâtes de fruits, and peanut butter fudge.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but this was my best meal at Patina yet. Though the food has a familiar luxuriousness, Olalia manages to put his own spin on the menu giving it a more casual contemporary feel. Pastry Chef Kasra Ajdari does the same for the desserts which feel even more avant-garde but still convey a sense of elegance. I'd highly recommend a visit to Patina before one or both of these talented chefs decides to strike out on their own.


Charlie Fu said...

beautiful presentation! Something we miss with all these "high end" small dish restaurants, they forget about presentation.

Great post

Epicuryan said...

I agree with even old standbys like Spago moving to a more casual format its nice that Patina shows there's still a place for classic fine dining