Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Allumette - 06/28/2014

1320 Echo Park Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 481-0454

Its a shame, but sometimes critical acclaim doesn't translate into commercial success and that seems to be the case with Chef Miles Thompson's Allumette with Jonathan Gold placing the restaurant smack dab in the middle of his 101 top restaurants in LA. For my part, I've watched Thompson since his Vagrancy Project breathed new life into the tired Allston Yacht Club. Given the pop-up's success I wasn't surprised when Thompson took up permanent residence in the space, replacing the defunct Yacht Club with Allumette. Given my affection for the restaurant it was only fitting for me to be there to celebrate its final night of service.

POTATO CHIPS - Smoked Whitefish, Uni Cream, Chive
First up was a sextet of gentrified potato chips. While I thought I would favor the uni cream, it was actually the biting saline smoke of the whitefish that stood out. In either case both seafood sauces paired well with the crisp savory chips

BABY TORPEDO ONION PANISSE - Meyer Lemon Mustard, Hibiscus, Cilantro
Next up were dense savory cubes that exuded an aroma of sweet caramelized onions. The torpedos were heightened by the zesty bite of the mustard and the twang of the pickled hibiscus.

POTATOES A LA PLANCHA - Furikake Aioli, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Katsuobushi
The final of the three snacks also proved to be the most substantial. Grilled potato hemispheres laced with a three-pronged dose of umami from the furikake, bonito flakes and shredded cheese.

FOCCACIA - Lava Salt, Marscarpone Potato Ball
Allumette's composed bread course remains one of the best bread services I've had in recent memory. The grilled bread carries a heady char and crunchy texture while the potato cheese ball conveys a buttery rush wrapped up in a satisfying starchy package.

Allumette's formal menu consists of 10 distinct dishes divided into four courses with an option for an additional savory course. Naturally I coordinated with one of my companions to divide and conquer in order to try the entire menu.

CUCUMBERS - Apricot Fennel Comopte, Ripe & Unripe Berries, White Chocolate
Brut N.V., Michelle, Domaine ste. Michelle
Cucumbers are one of my favorite vegetables, a delightful blend of crispiness and succulence with a clean freshness on the palate. The vegetable itself is subsumed by the sweet and sour melange of fruits while the chocolate adds a weighty creamy sweetness to balance the austerity of the fruit and vegetables.

RED PRAWN - Vinegar Meringue, Rice Paper, Tokyo Negi
Cider, Anthem Hops, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks
The prawn was one of the stars of the evening. The perfectly cooked crustacean has a light translucence and beautiful snap. Hints of spice and heady char compliment the prawn's inherent salinity while the accompaniments bring a blend of tang sweetness and saltiness that is deliciously cerebral.

SUMMER SQUASH - White Corn Fondue, June Garlic Miso, Sage
Sauvignon, Erste + Neue, '12, Alto Adige
I've never been a fan of squash but proved to be one of the night's standout courses. The bright beautiful medley of herbs, flowers, and vegetables convey an unexpectedly weighty savor that winds down to a lingering sapid fried heft.

ARROWTIP SQUID - Pistachio Ponzu, Cherry, Black Mint
Sake, Gokun Honjozo, 'the Five Disciplines'
In terms of texture the squid was spot on, a touch rough on the char with a dense snappy body throughout. In terms of flavor the gentle salinity of the squid plays second fiddle to the punchy tangy onion and the lightly bitter mint. The combination is light and refreshing but I would have liked the squid to be more apparent.

OCTOPUS - Za'atar Yogurt, Okra Caviar, Plum
Plum Rush - CapRock Gin, Smoked Salted Plum, Sage Honey, Lemon
The second half savories definitely had more weight to them. Though the octopus was actually fairly sparse, the darkly grilled meat had plenty of smoke and vigor; shame the tentacles were a bit overcooked. The salty plum and twang of the yogurt represent a deft blend of Asian and Mediterranean flavors, that is quixotic yet undeniably effective.

IVORY KING SALMON - Soured Celtuce, Radish, Beet Syrup
Sherry, Amantillado, Alvear, Montilla
The octopus' counter part was a filet of salmon. Light color and dry texture aside the dish was nicely put together with the radish and pickled celtuce countering the viscous sweetness of the beet syrup

BRANZINO - Shellfish Tapioca, Fried Broccoli, Lemon
Chenin Blanc, Fielded Recordings, '10, Santa Ynez
The first of the two additions was a branzino topped with crispy skin and dense tender meatiness. With its potent shellfish relish, the snappy tapioca is a natural accompaniment to fish. The broccoli and lemon convey a slight wrinkle of bitterness but let the umami and savor shine through.

PORK COLLAR - Pho Charcoal, Eggplant Mayonnaise, Pickled Wasabi
Cabernet Franc, Le Rocher des Violettes, '11, Touraine
The pork was easily the strongest course of the meal's second half. The meat is firm but with just enough fat to keep the texture springy and tender. The char dovetails seamlessly with the collar's porcine savor while the pickles and mustard exude a funky acidity along with the smoky earth of the eggplant mayo.

TOASTED BARLEY POT-de-CRÈME - Feuille de Bric, Strawberry, Rosemary
Amaro Meletti
The first dessert was an airy whipped pot de cremé. The barley is apparent in the form of a light toasty savor which feels especially pronounced in contrast to the strawberry. The aromatic rosemary forms a bridge between the two ingredients making for a seamlessly cohesive dessert.

LEMONGRASS BAVAROIS - Hibiscus, Oat, Blood Orange
Rosenhof, Welschriesling, '06, Burgenland
The final course centered around a dense cream redolent of lemongrass. The tangy fragrance is augmented by tart blood orange and sweet hibiscus while the crumbled oats add a weighty pie crust like sweetness.

Three for three, this meal was another strong performance from Thompson and his crew. While I am sad to see Allumette go, I'm confident Thompson will land on his feet; he is simply far too talented a chef for anything less.

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