I was loving the weather this past weekend in Los Angeles. At one time, I may have been one of those annoying Midwest ex-pats that complained about “missing the seasons,” but let’s be honest: Heat wave after heat wave into October does not a City of Angels make. We finally get to bring out the boots and maybe even sweaters. Late October is better than never, as they say.
Inspired by the grey clouds as well as the feeling that we Southern Californians will always have one foot in the sunshine, I recalled Mo-Chica’s Quinotto – a quinoa-mushroom dish that invokes the consistency and tastes of a mushroom risotto. Drizzled with parsley-infused oil, this savory dish is perfect for the grey clouds that have been finally adorning our skies.
The other night, I again had the privilege of visiting Petrossian on Robertson – the caviar boutique that doubles as a dining hotspot with a clean and casual ambiance. I know the space well from my numerous visits to Chef Benjamin Bailly and have even had the honor of judging a cold soup Dine LA Quickfire ChallengeÂ (recap) held in the boutique area.
But things have changed since the end of Chef Bailly’s year-long tenure as Executive Chef. He has moved on to Fraiche in Culver City and now, Giselle Wellman has taken over the kitchen. She has some big names on her resume, including New York’s Del Posto and most recently Beverly Hills’ Bouchon. Armed with just a basic pasta recipe by Tony DiSalvo, she taught herself how to make 20 kinds of pasta at his Jack’s La Jolla for the purposes of its reopening as an Italian restaurant – quite a feat that would be perfected by working in Mario Batali’s kitchen thereafter.
And the agnolotti that I had at Petrossian happened to be my favorite dish of the evening. The house-made pasta was tender and the filling was perfectly cooked – with fontina being one of my favorite cheeses, of course. The pasta was topped with perfect prosciutto, accompanied by fresh asparagus and extremely flavorful mushrooms while finished off with a further savory, non-frivolous parm foam. Everything in this dish worked together extremely well in no small part by top-notch ingredients and good execution. Not bad for a chef in her new kitchen. (She still has Ben’s pistachio creme for the Pistachio Creme Brulee.)
My second favorite dish of the evening was the Smoked Sturgeon Risotto with pressed caviarÂ cooked into the dish in order to fully integrate the eggs’ flavors. The topping of slicedÂ apple slices was an elegant, sweet reprieve from the rich risotto. Everything on the plate made for a really delicious combination while the risotto itself was amazingly complex in its richness. If I weren’t so full, I might have licked the plate.
Of course, we had to have dessert and with a vendor like Petrossian and their delicious chocolates, it’d be premature to leave their dining room without having done so. Giselle was especially excited about her on-theme espresso pearls, which, of course, look like caviar. She showed us a video of her making them byÂ droppingÂ theÂ espressoÂ mixture into clear liquid with an eye-dropper. The result?Â A glorious topping to spread over panna cotta.
The beads weren’t especially potent but they were indeed novel and well, espresso goes extremely well with vanilla. The cardamom shortbreads had good spice and were a nice, crunchy side note. This is definitely my go-to dessert at Petrossian.
Overall, I was impressed with Giselle’s new but solid menu – especially given that she just moved in a few weeks ago. It seems like she’s fitting in well into the space at Petrossian and will continue to evolve in that space, given her unbridled passion for cooking. I can’t wait to revisit to try more dishes, which she’ll have time to perfect. The blogger-friendly boutique-restaurant hybrid has great things to look forward to.
Also, Petrossian is participating in Dine LA (going through Friday this week and Sunday – Friday, January 30 – February 4 next week). Fortunately, the risotto, agnolotti and espresso panna cotta I’ve mentioned are all on that menu so this is the opportune time to try them out.
All food and wine were hosted.
Mon – Fri: 11 AM – 10 PM Sat: 10 AM – 10 PM Sun: 10 AM – 4 PM Happy Hour: Mon – Sat, 4 to 7 PM
I had a wonderful dining experience at Fraiche the other night, and the standout dish was an amazing bowl of basil sauced and perfectly cooked risotto. The rice grains altogether made up a creamy consistency but had a firm bite underneath it all.
Of course, the real treat was the four snails that rested atop the green bed. Buttery and flavorful as ever, their richness was a pleasure to apportion to every other bite of risotto, which stood by itself thanks to the vibrant basil. The tomatoes were a perfect addition, providing a subtle sweetness that complimented the other rich flavors in the dish.
Paul, Fraiche’s sommelier, poured us a delicious 2008 Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc – the crispness of which made a perfect pairing to the richness and creaminess of the risotto dish. Every bite I took was beautifully finished off and washed down with a sip of Sancerre.
There are other spectacular dishes you should try at Fraiche, like their Endive Salad with Truffle Vinaigrette and Copa de Parma – a savory and indulgent yet balanced salad (thanks to the dates) like you never had, before. Their House-Made Agnolotti, filled with mascarpone and topped with wild mushrooms and truffle butter were another favorite of mine. The mild mascarpone was a good match for the heavy truffle butter, with the delicious wild mushrooms that lined the plateÂ making meÂ close my eyes for a moment. Of course, if I failed to mention Chef Ben Bailly’s awesome truffle burger, I’d be omitting a huge reason why foodies across town dine in Culver City. Try it for yourself, and unless you also had the tasting menu, plan on eating the whole thing yourself. No room for sharing.
These are the kind of dishes that cause food-gasms, and it looks like Chef Bailly has settled in to his new home (since Petrossian) pretty well. Drop in to see what he’s up to – that is,Â a rustic menu with some solid dishes.
Mon – Fri
11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Mon – Sun
5:30 PM – 10:30 PM
5:30 – 6:30 PM ($3 draft, $4 house wine, $5 well drinks)
Fraiche CC 9411 Culver Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232 310.839.6800
There’s this dish at a place that I just learned is within delivery distance of mine. It’s really delicious, and just when you thought it was enough to cross “osso buco risotto” or “veal rice dish” off your list – you are pleasantly surprised by another push, a kick of flavor at the end. A spice. Sweet green peas…relief. Throughout, you are delivered that creamy, slow-simmered richness. It’s more of a flavor than texture study, but it’s such a good one thatÂ you want to keep on reading.
All the reasons you wouldn’t have ordered the risotto entree in fear of the one-note go out the window with Osteria La Buca’s Osso Buco Risotto. Say that ten times fast. Or, just order it – it’s off-menu. You can also try a reliable plate of burrata, prosciutto and tomatoes to start. What also was a big hitÂ was another off-menu pizza with figs, kale andÂ tomatoesÂ – but it would be unfair to go further into that. Just consider this a vouch for their other itemsÂ on the menu.
The best thing is that the prices are reasonable – perfect for that quick dinner delivered straight to my place withÂ zero emissions andÂ zero guilt. And if you feel like dining there, the atmosphere is pleasant – and is even about to get upgraded at the end of the month.Â Until then,Â it’s painted pink in solidarity in the fight against breast cancer and proceeds go straight to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. What a great cause and reason to dine at Osteria La Buca – all the while enjoying some great rustic.
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.
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.
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 Ã‰ric Texier Condrieu OpÃ¢le, which was refreshing with melon notes that went perfectly with our first few entrees.
There are few Italian restaurants that strike meÂ as havingÂ an authentic charm it can call its own. But now that I’ve been introduced to to the hospitality and cuisineÂ of Marino – I can now point to a place that prides itself as much on attentive serviceÂ as its food.Â Great conversation andÂ the freshest ingredients: I canÂ only describe it asÂ The Italian Way. I’m a fan.
Sal Marino – son of original restauranteur Ciro, who first opened Il Grano in Santa Monica – personallyÂ took care of Caroline on Crack, Joshua of FoodGPS and me one night at the restaurant nearby Paramount Pictures. As our team of servers came out with our food, we were increasingly overwhelmed by not only the quantity but also the presentation of things on their menu. We started out with an antipasti dish that included eggplant, zucchini, beets, sweet roasted red and yellow peppers with capers and cipollini onionsÂ seasoned withÂ marinara. Decidedly seasonal, the dish whetted our appetites for the real heavyweights to come.
The baked artichokes were rich, creamy and stuffed with two different cheeses. Though they look small, they were so rich as an appetizer I could have actually shared one. Call me weaksauce.
The fried calamari that came out were noticeably fresh and had a perfect breading. Apparently, the calamari doubles as that also supplied to sushi chefs – not your typical filler appetizer with something to hide from being fried.
The Risotto alla Salsiccia e Funghi came paired with a delicious,Â house-made Maccheroncini sauced with an Amatriciana marinara (tomato with caramelized white onion and pancetta). The risotto in particular was my favorite – okay, yes, I am partial to risotto – but the homemade sausage in the risotto was especially good, as was the fact that three different kinds of mushrooms were included: oyster, shiitake and porcini. The porcini is so delicate it actually dissolves into the risotto upon preparation.