Review: Risotto, Studio City
A happy development at work required a small celebration last night, so Mrs. Ubergeek and I shelved the pasta pebronata I was going to throw together and headed to Risotto in Studio City.
We walked in sans reservations, and perhaps because it was Tuesday after Labour Day, there were tables available inside and out. We sat outside, which was much more "happening".
The interior of the restaurant is very nice but perhaps a little bit too much white (sorry, Swiss mocha or whatever) paint. The patio is much nicer, and will be a very nice once they convince the plants to grow. It's not much different from the previous restaurant, but they did do a lot of touchup painting which makes it look much better.
Despite the upmarket look of the place, the patrons were the usual sort of Valley mixed bag, from couples of a certain age in blue blazer, khaki trousers and summer dresses to a family with kids in shorts (in their defence, it was well over 100° in the Valley yesterday).
We sat down and were given water, very good ciabatta, olive oil and vinegar, and a dish of -- you knew this had to happen -- pebronata (roasted peppers of various colours with onions, garlic and eggplant).
A note on the service -- it was the first time in a long time I've seen the "LA friendly" service actually work. You know what I mean, where the waitstaff are deliberately informal (which drives people from New York CRAZY), upbeat, excited-appearing (whether actually excited or not). Usually this translates into one of three service disasters: "bungee waiter", in which the waiter comes over, asks how you're doing, and is headed back the way he came before you can even open your mouth; "waiter from another planet", in which you and the waiter appear to be communicating in parallel dimensions and nothing ever actually happens; or "waiter as bit-part nurse character", in which you get the cloying bedside manner as a façade but the distaste of the waiter for you is palpable.
At Risotto, there was a bit of a tendency toward "bungee waiter"dom, but with some deft nonverbal communication ("stay here and talk to me") it was easily rectified.
A better-than-average selection of wines by the glass (since Mrs. Ubergeek does not drink) was available, and despite the fact that the menu is probably better with white, I wanted red. I asked after Pinot Noir and was told that the house was better than the Estancia. Apparently the house PN was supposed to be a BV, but ended up being a Mondavi Reserve. It wasn't bad -- and let me just say that I'm not a wine connoisseur, I just classify things into "will drink" and "will not drink". It wasn't anything special, but it was a "will drink".
It being hot, we decided to forgo the starters and ordered a risotto ai gamberi (shrimp, white wine sauce) for me and ravioli all'aragosta (lobster, goat and ricotta cheeses) for Mrs. Ubergeek.
The waiter returned a little bit after our orders went in with the single biggest wineglass on which I have ever personally laid eyes, with a healthy measure of wine it it. "I want you to try this," he said, "it's a red Zinfandel. It's spicy, it's woody and it's a bit mouldy."
"Yes. Just try it."
So I did. If I had smelled it in the usual pre-pouring taste ceremony I'd probably have sent it back as spoiled. It absolutely smelled like mould. Nevertheless, I tasted it -- and it was wonderful. Spicy, warm, woody, and jammy (which is not something I usually like in a wine, but which worked really well here), just what he said. It ended up being a Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel. Who knew they could make wine in Lodi??
The dinner eventually came out, and while the risotto was very good (the shrimp perfectly cooked, the risotto mounded so that the centre stayed warm while you ate from the outside, the sauce buttery but not cloying), the real star was the ravioli. Tons of lobster, well-made ravioli with just the right tang from the cheese, spicy tomato sauce.
We split a dessert of pere cotte, pears simmered in rum and cinnamon and served with vanilla gelato in a pastry tuile with whipped cream and berries. As it was brought over, the waiter said "It melts REALLY fast, please dig in."
The pears were firmer than Mrs. Ubergeek liked, but I thought they were fine. The vanilla gelato, though, ended up being chilly vanilla soup by the time we ploughed through the pears on top... absolutely delicious, but perhaps a bit underdesigned. The pastry tuile was superfluous -- I'm pretty sure it was a wonton skin, actually -- but it soaked up the sauce, which was the idea.
A shot of espresso (the saucer of which, refreshingly, contained no silly nonsense like orange peel or rock-candy sticks), a need to resist the temptation to lick the dessert plate, and the bill.
$48. I could hardly believe it. It was a LOT of food, the pour of the wine I had ordered was definitely generous, and the dessert was big enough for three to share, let alone two.
We'll definitely go back, perhaps when it's a bit cooler -- a lot of the menu items are a bit prematurely autumnal, with butternut squash and heavier soups. Not what you want when it's boiling hot in the Valley, but as soon as the heat dies off they'll be just what the doctor ordered.
I recommend it... it's the best use of that space I've seen in years. I wasn't a fan of Spumanti, but I am of Risotto.
12650 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
Looking forward to trying this - right between the office and home.
as for wine in lodi, your comment intrigued me. Looked it up. It's Lodi's centennial (happy birthday Lodi) From their website:
1899 – Lodi is said to have 2,346,061 grapevines.
It also seems that Lodi has a Tokay high School (team: Tokay Tigers). So thanks, who knew?
I'm so glad to see others discovering the "joy of Risotto". As I recently posted, we have had several really wonderful evenings there this summer and I am glad to see the word getting out and others having similar positive experiences. When you go back, try the filet of sole or the sea bass...both fabulous. I might add that their house merlot (a Beringer variety, I think) is quite good. Oh and by the way, the pear dessert comes in a deep fried crepe, not a wonton skin.
Nice review! We were just there on Saturday to try it out and I agree with you on all accounts - friendly service, decent wine list (and even better corkage - $7!), healthy portions and pretty affordable. I went with a few friends and the standout was the rabbit which was tender as can be. I'll be back.