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LA Chowhounds, is this indicative of "finer" dining menus in LA?

kiwi Aug 18, 2006 02:39 AM

I read an earlier post entitled, "LA Restaurants with no corkage fee?". http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/318429 Fierceminou kindly responded with a recommendation for a restaurant called Bistro K in Pasadena.

I've been looking for a restaurant for my husband and I to try. We are stuck in a junk food rut and are looking to up the cost and quality of our meals. So, I followed the link to Bistro K and read their menu. http://www.lqmanagementservices.com/h...

I was just wondering if you guys consider the items listed to be indicative of the LA finer dining scene. I'm not asking about the prices, I'm asking about the hoity-toity descriptions and ridiculous sounding combos like:
"Roasted Maple Leaf Duck Breast from Canada served with Zucchini Crumble in a Cotton Candy Syrup Vinegar Infusion with Long Peppercorn From Indonesia"

Please advise. Thanks!

Kiwi

  1. ChinoWayne Aug 18, 2006 02:51 AM

    Well, sometimes menu descriptions can become over wrought efforts at marketing a dish, but on the other hand, sometimes they describe quite well, what it is that you are buying.

    For example, here are a couple of examples for the Josie menu, another example of "fine" dining in L.A.:

    "Salami, Shaved Artichoke, and Arugula Salad
    tossed in extra-virgin olive oil and Meyer lemon juice and sprinkled with toasted Parmigiano."


    "Skewered Seppia with Merguez Sausage
    baby cuttlefish seared with lemon and herbs, over a warm Beluga lentil and fennel salad seasoned with mustard seed oil."

    I think those two descriptions are good, they tell me exactly what to expect.

    On the other hand, "...cotton candy syrup Vinegar [sic] infusion" does sound a little over the top to me. I don't know about the reputation of Bistro K in terms of their food, overall, but I can tell you that Josie has a very good reputation in terms of deliverying on what is promised.

    1. v
      Vickie McCorkendale Aug 18, 2006 03:35 AM

      I think that yes, Bistro K seems to be following the current trends in modern fine cuisine by doing two trendy things:

      1. Describing the orgins or specific details of each ingredient

      2. Offering creative dishes that are so unlike traditional dishes from any cultures, such that the require a list of ingredients rather than a title of a dish (for example, you won't see a beef bourgignon listed here)

      And I have to add my .02, while it's nice to know... it's wordy to read a description of each ingredient. And sometimes, I just want a really good beef bourgignon, perhaps with a few extras special ingredients to make it special (such as Neutske's bacon or heirloom sweet pearl onions?).

      1. Mrs Fang Aug 18, 2006 04:02 AM

        Certainly ChinoWayne's adjective, overwrought, is appropriate to the description on the menu. And, possibly, even the dish. What's more, the server at Bistro K will probably reiterate the ingredients and you won't be able to bear another word!

        My issues with the service aside, I have had some great food at that place and highly recommend it. I don't think I'd order the dish you pointed out (cotton-candy aversion), but the chef has a unique knack for combining flavors.

        You may need to go soon if BYOB is important. They're getting a bigger space and a liquor license soon; a corkage fee seems imminent.

        1. Das Ubergeek Aug 18, 2006 05:57 AM

          I was doing OK until I got to "Frisée salad tossed with Roasted Pistachios and served with sweet corn tamale 'Elote' and 'Selles sur Cher' goat cheese ripened by Nicole"

          "...oh, I'm so sorry, I only eat 'Selles sur Cher' goat cheese ripened by Michelle."

          2 Replies
          1. re: Das Ubergeek
            g
            gearoy Aug 18, 2006 01:31 PM

            Nicole's is a gourment food and cheese shop nearby Bistro K that is well known for doing exactly what French cheese shops do before they sell cheese; namely, she ages it until it is ready to be served which can sometimes be for more than a year. I agree it could have simply said "aged Sulles sur Cher", but for us locals, adding "by Nicole" tells us that it has been aged properly not just kept in the fridge for a week.

            On the broader subject, Bistro K menus do tend toward being occasionally overwrought, but more often the information is to help identify the source of the food item. IMHO the dishes are usually delicious, challenging, and well worth having to put up with the wait.

            1. re: gearoy
              j
              JudiAU Aug 18, 2006 03:39 PM

              I've never been to Nicole's in Pasadena but had no idea she aged her own cheeses-- a very rare thing in the U.S. That makes me consider driving to Pasadena and it certainly would make me order the dish.

              Does she have a proper room for affinage? To what extent are her cheeses aged?

          2. babette feasts Aug 18, 2006 05:13 AM

            roast duck breast with zucchini gratin, cotton candy gastrique, and indonesian long pepper

            a little bit better?

            1. i
              ilikefood Aug 18, 2006 09:10 AM

              Kiwi, Bistro K's food is Very Good, an excellent value, an even better value w/o the corkage fee. It is fine creative French dining. If the menu gets in the way of you trying- maybe it's your loss, maybe it's not your cup of tea.
              I have to add that it's a very small restaurant. We had to wait even w/ reservations, so come w/ a couple of bottles of wine and some time on your hands but you'll be rewarded.
              OK- "indicative ?"- Yes & No & Why are you asking? If the elaborate descriptions of Bistro K and seemingly ridiculous combinations (yea, that cotten candy vinegar infusion is a good example)turn you off, there are so many restaurants in LA-Pasadena to try. Chowhounds offers good advice* sorting out the pretentious bad food from the restaurants using complex combinations of the finest ingredients creating good food. but you're the decider for yourself-*Do a site search for Luques and you'll see what I mean. Bistro K just happens to have Chef Laurent Quinioux who knows what he's doing.
              This subject brings up a pet peave of mine (& I'm not alone)
              Servers reciting the specials- rattling off all the ingrediants making it all a blur and conveniently not mentioning the price (which usually is not so special). I'm glad they ask if they can tell you the specials so I can say "No."

              1. j
                JudiAU Aug 18, 2006 03:36 PM

                I think that method is a little dated actually. It was popular 5-10 years ago. More common is something in the same vein but simpler like.

                Dirt Farm Duck Breast Roasted with Michael's Pee Wee Potatoes and Romesco.

                or

                Snapper
                (which happens to come on a bed of farro and raised pumpkin)

                1 Reply
                1. re: JudiAU
                  Dommy Sep 15, 2006 08:01 PM

                  Perhaps... Upon reading the initial post (and cracking up with the other ones), my first thought was that this was an SF thing. I certainly saw it a lot there on their menus...

                  --Dommy!

                2. e
                  Ernie Aug 18, 2006 03:39 PM

                  "Cold lobster consommé Aspic with a Sun choke Puree, Cold Poached Quail Egg and Sea Urchin Tongue Seasoned with Liquorice Dust"

                  I didn't know sea urchins had tongues! Bistro K's menu sounds hilariously revolting, almost like a foodie "Zoolander."

                  1. mr mouther Aug 18, 2006 04:03 PM

                    I rarely get a chance to eat a meal that costs more than $20, so a description like that doesn't come my way that often. But I'm surprised people are so averse to it. I like language, and I like to see it pushed around and maybe even pushed into the ridiculous. The effort that goes into pushing language around in this way is surely meant to be a mirror of the increased effort that goes into the dish.
                    Some will find any extra effort overwrought, but I appreciate effort.
                    And I have eaten at Bistro K once and I thought the food was creative, well-thought and carefully prepared - very sensuous.
                    /
                    But like PeterL said above - if you're in a junk food rut, don't make a leap to a place like bistro K - the abyss between is too huge.

                    1. Mrs Fang Aug 18, 2006 05:10 PM

                      In the event that you haven't seen a sample of French Laundry's menu, look here (this addresses the OP's subject line about menus at "finer" establishments):

                      http://www.frenchlaundry.com/tfl/tflm...

                      Laurent Quinioux may never have the acclaim of Thomas Keller, sadly, but you can get a meal at Bistro K that is quite comparable for a fraction of FL's prices.

                      1. b
                        BHAppeal Aug 18, 2006 08:12 PM

                        Straightforward always works better for me. The Mandarin Deli in Northridge: Pig Ear Salad.

                        I think the menus in a lot of fine dining spots reflect the emphasis on product sources. Not just any meat, but grass fed beef from such-and-such ranch. Not just any produce, but produce from such-and-such farms, or heirloom varieties from local growers. I recall reading an article by a consultant for various high level spots who said that a basic description for a dish should give the ingredients, their source, and the manner of preparation. The trouble is that a dish with several ingredients, each prepared differently, gives you one of those never-ending menu entries.

                        1. a
                          AndrewS Aug 18, 2006 08:15 PM

                          Bistro K is excellent and creative food at a very reasonable price for what you're getting. It is challenging, and you will have the occasional miss, but compared with other fine dining establishments in LA, it's so reasonable that it's easy to forgive an unusual combination gone awry as the cost of culinary gymnastics on a creative highwire.

                          It's not a place for someone who doesn't have an adventurous palate, and/or exposure to 'high cuisine'. The menu is descriptive. If you have problem with the menu; it's with what's being prepared; the language is not overly florid- it says what's there. I'm trying to develop an educated palate; I like to know what I'm getting and from where it comes.

                          "Roasted Maple Leaf Duck Breast from Canada served with Zucchini Crumble in a Cotton Candy Syrup Vinegar Infusion with Long Peppercorn From Indonesia"

                          - tells you nothing but what's going to be on the plate. If you aren't interest in that, or find it overly precious, or don't like the style; eat somewhere else. If you aren't seriously into food and are looking to broaden your experience, *don't* go to Bistro K first. Go somewhere where you can experience good food done with an interesting twist and have an experience which won't be quite as challenging- Jar is lovely, Luques has an excellent reputation, Josie, Grace, Violet, JiRaffe- there are many suggestions on this board. Go out to the SGV, check out some sichuan cooking, hit some nice oaxacan places, check out thai town; then you'll have some context for Quinioux's cooking.

                          Andrew

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: AndrewS
                            a
                            AquaW Aug 18, 2006 11:26 PM

                            well put; sometimes though I may not care for every little detail (or would rather have the waiter verbally describe it to me) ~ depends on how epicurean I feel at mealtime, I guess.

                            And I agree that Bistro K's menu is pretty frank, but I've also seen some froufrou menus that are just using colorful imagery and metaphors like crazy to hype up a dish.

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