If you live in Pasadena or the surrounding San Gabriel Valley, it will be worth your while to drop into Vertical Bistro tomorrow night between 7 – 10 PM. Chef Laurent Quenioux has some new dishes up his sleeve that he would very much like to share with you. And for $25, you can taste a few ofÂ them as well as wash them down with some new beers and/or cocktails.
Not a bad open house for the locals.
Make sure you RSVP to the appropriate email address below to reserve your spot. I expect there to be some real tasty French bitesÂ awaiting you tomorrow inside the newly renovated Vertical Bistro. There is even a new “library” for you to check out. Now there’sÂ bookshelves in this wine bar thanks toÂ the new addition, which is a 60-seat dining room. The space now overlooks historic Raymond Avenue. This open house sounds like a great opportunity to try the renovation on for size.
Since Bistro LQ had closed, I had been eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to experience Chef Laurent Quenioux’s food. Apparently, Nguyen and Thi of Starry Kitchen, Chef Quenioux and staff have been working a long time to make this guest appearance happen at their home digs.
In a couple weeks on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights and for most of the summer, you can experience 5 courses of LQ @ SK for $45. There will be a list of recommended wines that you can get from Domaine LA and enjoy them at your accord with zero corkage. If Laurent wasn’t reason enough to entice you downtown on an early-in-the-week night, the added reasonable price point and BYOB option should.
What I appreciated about all 5 courses was that though I knew Chef Quenioux to take chances, they reinforced that he is creative but not outlandish. No magic foams. Just well-integrated dishes that each express a simple statement.
To start things off, you’ll be treated to a surprise amuse. On the opening preview night, we were treated with Escamoles (ant eggs) smuggled straight from TJ that ran out during our run – complete with Sapporo chaser. Talk about taking “seasonal” to a whole new level – that is, to change by the day. It’s good indication you’re at an exciting place to eat.
I loved the Oxtail compote, which was accompanied by a pickled cucumber slice and carrot stick, topped off with a dallop of mustard tapioca. It’s no LQ uni tapioca, which is a dish all on its own, but I really liked this sweet and sour flourish to the oxtail. While I tend to think “sated” whenever I think of oxtail, all the stringy, crunchy and ballsy (couldn’t help it) textures were the interpretive bells and whistles on the down-to-earth flavors of this first course. Wonderful!
The Tai snapper was perfectly cooked – its juiciness, tenderness yet mildnessÂ further highlighted by the citrus fruits and vegetables. A really simple dishÂ yet pleasant andÂ even refreshing, which served as a good reprieve for the rabbit, foie gras and sweetbread richnessÂ to follow.
If Panda Express gave me ill associations with teriyaki sauce or even flavorings, Chef Quenioux may have just reversed those very misgivings. So subtle – and not so sweet – was the “teriyaki” savoryÂ albondigas (rabbit meatball), I could enjoy the miso that was poured into the dish at service. The green garlic tempura was delightfully fluffy and crunchy, which was a great contrast to the seared foie gras in taste and texture. The foie gras itself? I don’t really need to talk about it. It wasÂ heavenly.
But those gloriously breaded andÂ fried Veal sweetbreads.Â Morels andÂ chanterelles really brought forth an earthy tone to the dish whileÂ theÂ shishito peppers added aÂ subtle spice while the pastiness of the yuzu kosho were a great way to add a kick while keeping up with the breaded texture of the sweetbreads. Were the sweetbreads really sweet, you ask? Almost. But it doesn’t matter – sinceÂ the dish itself was fantastic.
And what topped the entire night off was no less than the most artful dish, doubling as a splendid dessert. Chocolate chipotle mousse and a churro sat withÂ lime serrano gel (with basil seeds)Â and cinnamon soil, orÂ crumbs from the churro. This was also the best wineÂ pairing of the night (disclosure: no wines included during the pop-up) with the subtle sweetness of theÂ NV Terres Dorees FRV100 cutting the spice in theÂ mousse yet rounding out the cinnamon quite well.
Anyway. LQ @ SK. You should “pop-in.” This is Chef Quenioux at his most accessible, an opportunity not to be wasted. His dishes are playful, but they also have vision and thanks to the efficient staff, underwent a successful execution even on the very first preview night. Not bad for aÂ test run. All I’m saying is, all systems go on this exciting and sure to be short-lived LQ run. Stay tuned for the official start date, which expects to be June 5th.
Now how about bringing back that cheese selection?
Update: Â So it’s been announced that start date IS Sunday, June 5th and there will be two seatings at 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM. Prix fixe stands at $45 per person. Menu is subject to change whenever Chef Quenioux feels like it. Sorry, no substitutions.Â Parking is validated. Also, reservations are available online only, here, for dates: June 5-7,13-14, 19, 20.Â More dates will be added later. You are confirmed only when you receive an email stating so.Â Go, go, go!!
Brad A. Johnson of Angeleno Magazine bestowed his awards on the best of Los Angeles, as he does every year, and it was time to celebrate. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to participate in this celebration, and boy did it impress.
So I didn’t get to try everything before the tastes ran out – but I don’t really blame the event organizers. I blame my sloth pace at really savoring every bite there was in the Fairmont Miramar’s beautifully appointed parking circle, which surrounds probably the oldest tree I know in Los Angeles. I was happy to note that Oxley Gin was a liquor sponsor (along with Veev), and whom created the cocktails with which I washed down all the heavenly plates of food. It was an impressive showing, indeed.
The beef tartar could have stood on its own – nevermind that the shavings of black truffles put it over the top in the best possible way. I had two.
Another favorite was Chef Ben Bailly’s Cauliflower Panna Cotta topped by Petrossian Transmontanous caviar. So indulgent and so delicious – it was like creamy heaven accented with that perfect, almost briny zest caviar gives. I, again, had two.
Chef Ludo Lefebvre was there to deliver punches to the mouth. Not literally, of course, but his Heirloom tomato smoothie came accented with its own extractions from the sea:Â Squid ink vodka jelly and seaweed tartar. As with LudoBites, the combination of everything together was done amazingly well – while in fact I love tomatoes, seaweed, squid ink and vodka individually. The shooter was surprisingly spicy, with the umami of the squid ink and seaweed probably augmented by the vodka. Delicious.
LaurentÂ Quenioux from Bistro LQ’s Lobster Tapioca topped with uni was amazing as always. Once upon a time I did the tasting menu at Bistro LQ and the lobster tapioca in particular, as one of theÂ starters,Â was my favorite dish. It was a decadent revisit and one I was glad to have.
It was refreshing yet surprisingly weighty. The tiny filets were cooked to a perfectly tender consistency, and I was amazed I could appreciate the flavor in such a small piece of fish.
There were a few things that ran out by the time my leisurely pace took me to the other side of the courtyard, unfortunately, like Hatfield’s Braised Pork Belly, Craft’s White Wine Braised Octopus and Comme Ca’s Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Terrine. But as usual, it was good to enjoy the blogger company that was there, like Lindsay of LAist, Caroline on Crack, Hadley of GrubStreet LA, Josh of FoodGPS, Kevin Eats, Jo of My Last Bite, Kat of Eater LA, Mattatouille and much, much more. This was a great event with a great turn-out, and there was no better occasion than to celebrate this year’s winners (the first award of which I was very happy Lazy Ox Canteen won):
Best New Restaurant: Lazy Ox Canteen
Best New Chef: Michael Voltaggio (formerly The Langham)
This year will be my first time attending Project by Project’s main, annual fundraising event called Plate by Plate – but there are plenty of hot names and a great cause on this ticket to warrant going. Your ticket will directly benefit our Asian American community at large as Project by Project partners with an underserved non-profit each year to help them reach their goals.
The names serving up this year’s delectables that have personally piqued my interest include: Chef Laurent Quenioux of Bistro LQ, Chef Ricardo Zarate of Mo-Chica, Chef Kevin Meehan of Cafe Pinot, Chef Amar Santana of Charlie Palmer at South Coast Plaza, Chef Anthony Zappola and Pastry Chef Shannon Swindle of Craft, Chef Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose, Thi & Nguyen Tran of Starry Kitchen, Chef Chris Behre of Gonpachi, Chef Suzanne Tracht of Jar, Susina Bakery and Valerie Confections.
Throughout the event, you’ll get to sip wine from 25 different wineries with your food, enjoy a taiko performance andÂ see Aziz Ansari play sous chef. Bid in the silent auction on generous packages from restaurants and vendors all over the city.
Either way, I hope to see you there. I wouldn’t miss this one!