Cecconi’s Offers a Scene With Substance

Pancetta-wrapped Roasted Scallops with Rosemary

There are a few places to eat and drink in town that I might be guilty of having prejudged based upon what I know about their location and reputation. I’m not saying that restaurants that are celebrity favorites couldn’t possibly serve good food. But let’s be honest, we’re afraid of risking bad service at a “hotspot” as non-celebrities. The food’s probably more expensive. And lest we be mistaken for those scenesters who seek validation via famous elbow-rubbing… *shudder*

Wood Roast Bone Marrow, “Agrodolce”

(Can anyone tell me if The Ivy actually serves good food and provides prompt service in a manner on par with the concluding check? And how is that service – and how famous was your “up-and-coming waiter” – at Gjelina?)

In a former life, Cecconi’s was still Morton’s and the site of Elton John’s post-Oscar party, wherein my college girlfriends and I cruised by just to get a glimpse of some major motion picture star waiting for valet. Internally, I made the location die in relevance along with my n00b Angeleno self.

Full disclosure: Leave it to a media dinner to allow me to reassess.

I don’t valet. I drive a convertible with the top down all the time (now with the weather being warm) that, in what I am sure is a subconscious way of acting out my love-hate-love LA self, I keep so dirty you could write “Wash me” on my rims in brake dust.

Pink Lady (Bombay London Dry Gin, high proof apple brandy, housemade grenadine, lemon, egg white)

But let me describe what a great time I had a Cecconi’s. While I don’t comment on service when it’s a media dinner, I have to say that I immensely enjoyed all the cocktails, which had stronger pours than I expected (don’t be fooled by their often pinkish colors). The food was not ground-breaking but appreciatingly solid in their execution. Gin lovers will appreciate this 14 drink menu and some selections, like the Mexican-influeced Jalisco Sour or Picante Paloma, will surprise you.

The selection on the menu is especially savvy. There’s variety without the dangers of being overwhelming. Clear categories line the all-day one pager from apps to salads and “Carpaccio & Tartare.” “Charcoal Grill” and “Wood Oven” items are the priciest yet half-portions are available for all the salads and almost all the pasta and risotto. In combination with the tasty, Italian-influeced cocktails, it’s all perfect for a day on the patio with the ladies.

Picante Paloma (Cazadores, Aperol, fresno chili pepper, grapefruit, agave, sea salt)

Their most popular items, and understandably so, are highlighted as Cicchetti, which are also served in the middle of the day. They effectively supplement or comprise your meal, these Italian “tapas” (the scallops and bone marrow qualify as such).

But don’t gloss over the pasta (I have a hard time doing so, anyway). Their linguine with clams comes flavored with a bit of sea urchin and the rabbit pappardelle is as solid as any in the city – or even better – as there were generous yet complementary chunks of meat in lieu of the usual strings of meat I often see interpersed between the fat noodles. And it was all al dente.

The best part in regards to the pasta is that they’ve just released their Tris di Pasta special on Tuesdays at dinner: Try a sampler of 3 rotating pastas for $18. They’ve also started to feature a different, seasonal pizza with ingredients sourced from the local farmer’s market on Wednesdays.

And back on that celebrity tip: Our table, which was positioned on the beautiful outdoor patio separated from the driveway by foliage as is typical for Melrose place, sat next to another who was celebrating the wrap of a certain dance competition TV show while I spied a certain Elizabeth Taylor impersonator at the bar. So that celebrity factor was certainly still there; it just failed to validate my prejudices.

Prego.

(All food and drink were hosted.)

Mon – Wed

8 AM – Midnight?

Thur – Sat

8 AM – 1 AM

Sun

8 AM – 11 PM

Cecconi’s
8764 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069
310.432.2000

The 2011 L.A. Easter Brunch Round-Up

Quail Eggs at Kaohsiung Night Market | Photo: hk_traveller on Flickr

I don’t remember ever having given up anything for Lent. But I always have celebrated Easter in non-ritualistic fashion – just as I eat and celebrate life. Every day is a rebirth, right?

Did I mention that I love eggs?

I compiled a bunch of Easter Brunch specials around town. There are plenty of restaurants offering up 3-course prix fixe menus for Sunday morning, but a lot of them have some pretty solid choices.

Go ahead…you can scan this post for the bottomless champagne or mimosa spots. I totally understand.

(By the way, I can’t believe how Westward this list skews… Do Eastsiders not celebrate Easter?) 😉

Happy Easter!!

***

Eva (Beverly/Hancock Park): 12 -  8 PM

$39 per person.
Bottomless wine. 5-course prix fixe.

I know I said “brunch,” and I know Mark Gold calls this the “Eva Dinner Party,” but the noon start time has to count for something, doesn’t it? You get all of the following: Deviled Eggs, Nicoise Salad with Olive Relish and Roast Peppers, Chicken “Pallard” with Arugula and Mustard, Warm Potato Salad, Prime Skirt Steak, Grilled Asparagus and Strawberry Shortcake with Whipped Creme Fraiche. I know. Amazing. This is where I’ll be…sometime during Easter Day.

7458 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036, 323.634.0700

Chaya Brasserie (Downtown, Beverly Hills, Venice): 11 AM – 3 PM

$37 per person, $15 per young adult.
Bottomless champagne. 3-course prix fixe.

You get a couple choices for your 3-course prix fixe, all menus of which vary according to location! Be sure to peep the right Chaya outpost for your menu.

A few highlights from what I can see on all three menus include French Toast with Granola Crust, Kabocha Squash Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi, Grilled New York Steak and Fries with Poached Egg, Pancetta-wrapped Gulf Shrimp with Provencal Grits, Meyer Lemon Mascarpone Cheese Tart. I think the Downtown location is where to be!

525 South Flower, Los Angeles, CA 90017, 213.236.9577

8741 Alden Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90048, 213.859.8833

110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291, 310.396.1179

Obika (Century City): 10 AM – 4 PM

$25 per adult, $15 per child under 12.
Comes with one mimosa or glass of Prosecco. Buffet-style plus one family-style pasta.

Not feeling the prix fixe but don’t want any hassle? Obika’s doing it up buffet style – at the mall. Mozzarella di Bufala along with a selection of Smoked Wild Alaskan Salmon, Assorted, Salumi, Caponata with Pan Carsau, Artichoke Ricotta Quiche with Thyme and Mint, Ricotta Mousse and four (yes, four) flavors of Tirimisu will all be available. In addition, your table will get to pick one choice of pasta served family style, including Handmade Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage, Lasagnetta with Peas and Tagliolini with Artichoke and Mint.

10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067, 310.556.2452

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Bastide: Great Food, Beautiful Atmosphere

Squid, Cucumber, Fennel, Olives, Chickpeas, Chorizo Butter

Welcome to the real Melrose Place. Aaron Spelling is nowhere to be found, and sure, Area – an SBE nightclub – is just a block away, but you’d never have guessed it from inside Bastide’s enclosed, quaint and olive tree and garden lined patio. In fact, dining at Bastide is somewhat like dining at someone’s artistically appointed home, complete with a top personal chef. If it really were someone’s home, you’d leave the dinner party while vowing to get that raise so you could buy the house with the patio that everyone else would envy.

Outdoor patio

You can come to Bastide early on a Monday for their $15, 5 – 7 PM special, when you’ll get to enjoy the patio over passed bites that are perfectly executed. Their yellowtail tartare is refreshing, the pork rillettes topped with cashews and pickled cherry are savory and their corn soup has a surprising twist thanks to curry oil. But since I’m prejudiced against all soju martinis, their wine or bubbly will accompany my bites just fine, thanks. I also enjoyed all the wine pairings that came with each course at dinner. Dario Dell’anno, who doubles as the manager and sommelier of Bastide, has a nice touch.

Watermelon Salad | Fried Chicken, Tomato, Feta, Mache, Aged Sherry Emulsion

When we sat down for our meal at our table, which was appointed not with just salt and pepper, but with Fleur de Sel de Guerande and a peppercorn grinder, I found the house-made butter that accompanied our warm bread so indulgent and yet so light. It was practically gone before our first dish came. The watermelon salad with fried chicken was ever season-appropriate with its tomato, feta, mache and aged sherry emulsion. I never considered fried chicken to be a starter, but here it was. It was paired with a delicious 2008 Éric Texier Condrieu Opâle, which was refreshing with melon notes that went perfectly with our first few entrees.

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