The long-awaited restaurant from Neal Fraser, Amy Knoll Fraser and Bill Chait is finally here, and all of Los Angeles is the better for it. With a cocktail program focused on the classics by Julian Cox and a wine list curated by Diane Pandolfini, Redbird will stand to be one of the most exciting openings of 2015 – something everyone can confidently say even while it’s still January.
I admit, I was off form when I took the Metro Red Line to Downtown Los Angeles last week to preview the fall cocktail menu at Drago Centro. I forgot my Canon S90 point-and-shoot camera, the device usually responsible for taking the high res shots you’re used to seeing on this blog. But my desire to safely walk in my own neighborhood and use public transportation in LA (yes – I use it) didn’t diminish my own enthusiasm when I got to Drago. (Plus, I think my BlackBerry Torch did a good job, don’t you?)
Michael Shearin and his team put together a really good menu, and there are a few particular cocktails that I would order in a heartbeat. Caroline on Crack (her post) and Daniel of Thirsty In LA (his post) battled traffic to be at Drago and it was worth it, so it’s safe to say that these cocktails carry a bonus when you Metro it in – and to Metro it back out, again. The station is but a couple blocks away.
The Dazed & Confused, which combines Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, Creole Shrub, Cherry Heering, Fresh Rosemary and Angostura, is a cocktail which Michael describes as “combining everything,” much like the inspiration for the cocktail itself. It’s a man’s drink and delicious enough for tequila drinkers. The Eponymous, which combines Appleton VX Rum, Cruzn Blackstrap Rum, Orgeat and Fresh Lime – is even more complex while utilizing rum, and pleasantly less sweet than one would normally expect a rum cocktail to be. In fact, it evolves on your palate and is the drink that keeps on giving. Very nice.
The 5th & Fig is a special drink, because I had actually loved this drink about a year ago – but Michael said they served it for about a week and then on a fluke, figs had suddenly gone out of season. So, it’s back and better than ever, and even earlier this year so hopefully the figs will be here to stay, for at least a little while. The cocktail is a perfect blend of savory and sweet while really highlighting the nuances of the shrub and complementing the flavors well. It’s a nice balance, perhaps for that indecisive moment where you don’t know if you’re in the mood for something sweet or hearty.
The Golden Goose is delightful bourbon drink with a lot of its charm derived from the gooseberry, itself. The Fernet is a really nice touch, which further highlights the earthiness in the bourbon. Just a touch of maple syrup is added, with compliments to Michael for not adding too much, and letting the gooseberry set the stage.
The Greco Roman is a superb Sherry cocktail in my very little experience of Sherry cocktails. If I could ever muster a sherry craving (haven’t had one yet, to date), I could see this cocktail being my foray. Luxardo Morlacco does make it even sweeter but, I admit, perhaps a bit more palatable. The Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters, however, brings back in an earthy note. I guess when I make up my mind about sherry, I can have it alone. For now, it’s the Greco Roman.
TheÂ Smitten With Britain, made withÂ Tanqueray Gin, Chives, Lime and Fever Tree Tonic is a beauty as it is an imaginative variation on your usual gin and tonic. The added chives and lime make this cocktail refreshing – as I guess does the visual charm of the martini glass and purple blooms. Don’t spill.
The Smokehouse features – let’s not kid ourselves – the bacon.Â Laphroaig 10-year-old Scotch is the liquid centerpiece, here, accented with Clear Creek Cranberry, Apfelkorn, fresh apple, Fee Bros, whiskey barrel bitters and candied bacon. The smoke is thanks to the Laphroaig. I’m pretty glad I didn’t get to taste all the individual ingredients that make up this drink, because otherwise it would have been just too much. But this is your top savory cocktail on the menu – and the candied bacon swirl is alone reason enough to order this wonder. Michael gets away with not letting this one be too sweetÂ on top of the smoky – and the results are delicious.
Don’t forget to order some appetizers while you’re enjoying your cocktail. And there are great bar bites to be had, like a blackÂ truffle-topped funghi calzone. Or order one of Jashmine Corpuz’s delectable sweet bites – her imaginative desserts will have you intrigued.
So get to Drago Centro today: All cocktails are $8 each for the launch. It’s a great day to figure out what your favorite downtown libation is.
All cocktails were hosted.
One night, after an outing somewhere in Downtown LA, Caroline had a need to cleanse her palate with a little something that would ultimately wash away all the dissatisfying drinks we everyone else had consumed earlier that night. (I had gotten there late and benefited from the experience of those who were punctual and who found their cocktails too sweet and frankly sub-par. I ordered Highland Park 12, neat.)
We were done and I might have gone straight home to crash, but instead decided to accompany Caroline. A few tweets later and we were set to drop by Drago Centro – especially since it was known that Michael Shearin would be there. Though now set for next week (delayed from a date this week because of filming schedules – ohhh, LA…), Caroline and I wanted to possibly get a peep at drinks that are to debut as the collective Spring Cocktail Menu. It is set to debut next Wednesday, to be exact, and Michael indulged us in a couple of them – without names but with ingredients. Sweet. Caroline did a fantabulous write-up including names she made up for the cocktails themselves – so let’s defer to L.A. Weekly’s Best Drinking Blog of 2009, shall we? Just remember to get the sneak preview for the Spring menu next Wednesday, April 14th all day – all new drinks will be only $6 each.
While Michael – by choice or not – accompanied us while we sat at the bar, Chef de Cuisine Ian Gresik greeted us and sent out beautiful mini iron pans of peas, gnocchi and crispy sweetbreads. They were perfectly savory and had just the perfect amount of salt. The gnocchi were tender but had good flavor and great bite. Since this was my third stop this night, I panicked a bit that Chef Gresik would send out more food, but was consoled when Pastry Chef Jashmine Corpuz had also come out to visit us and decided to grace us with her beautiful desserts as our edible night cap. Michael Shearin had us covered with our liquid ones.
And out came trays of 3 desserts each – which coincidentally were the first 3 on the dessert menu but couldn’t have covered ourÂ sweets palateÂ more diversely. The light, fruit-adorned one intrigued me in that I had never had grapefruit for dessert, before. But there the sour fruit was, in all its glory while accompanying tiny biscuits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cake, Avocado Mousse and even Basil Gelato. It was aromatic, light and refreshing. The delicious, clear pink chips of Campri candy were the icing on the cake, as Pastry Chef Jashmine had apparently collaborated with Michael to use them as garnishes for both dessert and cocktail – so definitely look for this candy garnish on the new Spring cocktail menu.
And oh, the budino! No, this isn’t the famed Osteria Mozza budino – but it’s practically as good and aesthetically elegant, to boot. The chocolate custard was the close-your-eyes heavenly centerpiece and the caramel gelato put the dessert over the top in sinful delight. The pecans gave the dish good weight and crunchy texture while the date carpaccio framed it well.
As for the I Bomboloni – it’s the dessert for doughnut lovers, everywhere. The doughy holes were a perfect, airy texture while the brown butter ice cream was savory-sweet. The tiny chopped-up apples with cinnamon brought me back to my favorite apple pie but the amaretto caramel added a note of sophistication to the dish. Mmm.
So next time you go to Drago Centro – whether for a full-on tasting menu or just a night cap – remember to not skip dessert. I was very much impressed, especially for someone with a penchant for salt-over-sweet. The desserts here are a sleeper in Downtown LA, and Jashmine Corpuz has the talent and imagination to keep your experience at Drago interesting through the very end…
Lunch: Mon – Fri, 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Dinner: Mon – Sat, 5 PM – 10:30 PM
Now Open Sundays: 5 PM – 9 PM
525 S. Flower Street
Los Angeles, CAâ€Ž 90071