Dinner at L'Orangerie (review with pics)
For the last few years, I've been meaning to dine at L'Orangerie, but have never found the occasion to do so. With this restaurant landmark finally closing its doors at the end of this year, I finally decided that now was as good a time as any to check this place out. So last Friday, I visited L'Orangerie for the first and last time.
Upon walking through the green door from the valet to the front courtyard of the restaurant, I caught my breath at the very pretty sight before me. There were tables with white linen table clothes, fresh pink and white roses, and candlelight along with sage green wrought iron chairs with a curvy pattern. There was greenery everywhere from potted miniature fruit trees to ivy along the walls. At the end of the courtyard was a beautiful creamy white fountain that had a yellow glow of light at the mouth of the lion where water would normally be streaming out of.
Even the door to the restaurant was no ordinary door. It was a dark blue with a golden knocker and with arched windows above it made it seem larger than it probably was. As you enter through the front door, you're greeted by Sphinx-like statues guarding the entrance into the middle patio of the restaurant, which is where I was guided by the Maitre'd to await the rest of my party. Inside was just as beautiful with more greenery and white tablecloths, but instead of pink roses, white roses were the choice this time and of course, candlelight and crystal stemware were on the tabletops.
Once everyone arrived, we started perusing the menu and eventually placed our orders. Many of us ordered appetizers and that included me. Before the appetizers came, we were treated to an amuse bouche. It came in a little glass cup and it was three-layered. The bottom layer was eggplant, the middle layer was yogurt and the last layer was something sweet, but I can't remember what. It was a weird mix of flavors. I didn't care for it much and neither did most of the people in my party.
As for the appetizers, I decided to share an appetizer with someone else and we ordered the zucchini flowers with basil, tomatoes and olive oil with lemon. Believe me, I'm glad I shared because there's no way I would have been able to finish all four of the zucchini flowers, which is what comprises a full order. A nice thing that the restaurant did was to split the order onto two separate plates.
In regards to the zucchini flowers, while I liked the combined flavor of the acidity of the tomatoes and the slight bite of the basil, the dish as a whole was really mushy. The only time I've ever had zucchini flowers in the past were when they had been stuffed with cheese and deep-fried and those were delicious. Not that I expected the ones I ordered to be deep fried, but just the general limpness of the flowers were quite disappointing to me. They seemed overcooked.
For my entrée, I had the roasted breast of duck with Tonka beans, grilled zucchini and potatoes. I was really disappointed with this dish as well. The duck breasts were too chewy and the bean and veggie mixture left a funny after taste in my mouth, so I took a couple of bites and that was it. So far, it's been three strikes and dessert hadn't even arrived yet.
For dessert, I ordered an assortment of 4 crème brulees: vanilla, coffee, amaretto and dark chocolate. Thank goodness for these crème brulees. They were so good. Creamy with lots of flavor. I think if I didn't have at least one good course, I would have been really upset. While enjoying our desserts, we also were treated to two trays of little mini dessert trays, which included cream puffs, a guava-tasting mousse and a few others. The presentation was pretty. Unfortunately, many of us were too full to enjoy them, so I ended up taking most of them home.
While the restaurant is absolutely beautiful, there were more misses for me than hits. The service wasn't that great. It seemed like we were always having to signal our waiter or the bus boy for things we needed. I already mentioned how I wasn't very happy with my food orders, except for the crème brulees. I don't know if the fact that the restaurant is closing down at the end of the year has anything to do with my negative experience there. Whether it is or not, it's too bad that a restaurant that I've always kind of put on a pedestal would come crashing down so hard.
Anyway, regardless of my less than spectacular meal, I'm glad that I was able to say a good-bye. At the very least, I'll have pictures of what was once a beautiful restaurant space and now will be able to share them with you.
To see pics, go to:
903 N. La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90069
the zucchini dish you mentioned is supposed to be that way... baked, not fried. it's an alternative method of cooking the zucchini flowers than deep frying it, but perhaps it just wasn't what you were expecting?
i went to l'orangerie back in spring, and i also wasn't enthralled by their food, though. even though the chocolate souffle was a memorable one, their entree special of prime rib was rather flavorless... but the service was impeccable, and the interior of the restaurant was so romatic and beautiful; i will definitely miss the landmark building.
it's kind of sad that the beautiful french history that was l'orangerie will be obliterated by the modern zen-like quality of restaurant nobu...
we ate there a few years ago, and I thought it was brilliant. I was actually a little overwhelmed by the decor, but we had the cremed eggs with caviar and found them delicious. (I saw you had them too) I can't remember exactly what I had for dinner, but I remember being very happy with it. I think I will try to go back once more before they close.
I also have fond memories there. Delicious les oeufs, squab, loup de mer, corona beer granita, chocolate souffle -- just to name a few! It's unfortunate they're closing, and that you had an unimpressive experience. The host, servers, and chefs are very nice; I was even able to tour the kitchen. The chefs are very handsome, by the way. =) Many outstanding chefs in LA rose from L'Orangerie, including the ones at Maison Akira and the now remodeling Bastide.