Royale - New Restaurant Near Downtown
My understandably cranky wife arrived in a huff. She’s very busy, and has some unreasonably tight deadlines. But instead of working, here we were trying a new restaurant. She didn’t know where to park, and she probably wouldn’t like it.
From the street, it doesn’t look like much. The corner of Wilshire and Rampart isn’t exactly “on the way” to anywhere we go. But it really isn’t far off track. In fact, it’s only about 5 minutes from downtown. They’ve only been open about 3 months.
After passing through a lounge area that was tastefully decorated and featured a DJ playing some interesting music, we entered a beautiful courtyard with decorative canvas draped over the top and sparkling Christmas lights strategically placed to excellent effect. This would be a fantastic place for a summer party.
The dining room is very pleasing to the eyes, too. The 3-story arched ceiling and the dark oak floor give it both space and comfort. The sparkling white New York subway tiles lining the columns brighten it up enough to keep from being a dark cavern. The room itself has good balance. The bar on the end is classy, and the lighting is very creative and serves to both illuminate and fill the space. And the music is right on target: Some rat pack, some recent stuff, then Ella Fitzgerald. It just works.
We’ve begun going to places earlier than the crowds, and thank goodness we did on this Saturday night. Just as we were waiting for our dessert, a party of 25, including about 10 kids, arrived. Talk about a noise-level adjustment. Whoa. But before that, it was a pure oasis.
Our server, Alexis, was nothing short of outstanding on all levels. We were never left wanting anything, and she was both courteous and fun. The Maître de, Adam, came over and introduced himself and was also very personable.
The big-eye tuna appetizer was delicious. It’s cut into cubes and served raw (there’s a whole crudo section of the menu). It comes with avocado cubes, some radish and a tasty sauce.
We also had the salt and pepper shrimp. This was a good accompaniment to the raw tuna, as the taste and texture were totally different. The shrimp was coated with a corn starch mixture and quick fried. It was served with some frisee lettuce, whole baked garlic, pine nuts, jalapenos, and Szechuan peppercorn. It was spicy and good.
The sea bass was excellent. It’s extremely delicate, and served over a root vegetable (parsnip or turnip?) puree that is a good textural accompaniment. Over the top is some warm marinated cabbage that brings a nice sourness to the plate. It’s served with some eggplant “fries” that are coated with a parmesan cheese crust. These are absolutely addicting, and they should sell them by the basket. You only get 3 with the dish.
The filet mignon is also top drawer. It has a nice charred crust, and underneath (I ordered it medium) it was a tender, juicy ball of beefy pink. It was served over creamed spinach that was different from most insofar as the pieces of spinach weren’t pulverized into a mash like tuna salad. It actually had whole pieces of spinach. It also came with miatakes, which I originally thought was a typo, and was supposed to read “mistakes” …. like they had made a mistake in writing mistakes. But I came to learn that miatakes are mushrooms, and quite delicious mushrooms. They have a deep rich mushroom flavor that you don’t find in most other varieties. Alongside the meat was nice bordelaise sauce that was a touch sweet, but not overly so. Like the appetizers, the main courses were quite different from one another, and for that reason they went together quite well.
For dessert, we ordered the chocolate soufflé. We ordered it with the rest of the food because it takes some time to bake. When it came out, it was piping hot (as expected), and the server cut a small hole in the middle and poured in some melted chocolate. He then put a small scoop of chocolate ice cream in there, and dripped the last of the melted chocolate over the top.
This was a real treat. It was lighter than those we’d had in the past, and it wasn’t as chocolaty. It was also fluffier. It seemed like he used more egg whites, and not as many yolks as we use at home, and not as much chocolate. But this was delicious, and we ate the whole thing. It’s enough for two. Or at least it was enough for us two, especially after our nice dinner.
We noticed at a table nearby that they ordered the cotton candy dessert. It’s quite a dish, standing over a foot tall, and blue. And we could tell it was fresh cotton candy because we could smell the sweet scent wafting over as the waiter hustled it right by our table. We’re going to try it next time.
And there will be a next time, and a time after that. This was a truly wonderful meal, and as really good meals do, it helped my beautiful bride transcend her stress and enjoy the moment. Needless to say, I also enjoyed it.
The meal was about $100 before tip. This would be a great place before Staples Center or the Music Center/WDCH.
2619 Wilshire Boulevard (at Rampart, in the Royale Hotel)
Nice writeup. I'm weary of restaurants that deliver a dense brownie-in-a-ramekin instead of a properly fluffy chocolate souffle, you know, baked to order. I'll flag this as a "near downtown" mid-upper tier restaurant for us to try.
WOW! We must live on different Planets? We were at ROYALE last week and had an almost OPPOSITE Experience , Foodwise.
Three of us ordered several items(approx doz) from the Menu and shared them. $400- (including 1 btl of Wine) later we were underwhelmed.
We felt most of the dishes were average at best (dried out Short Rib, Fishy Crudo Seabass, Ahi Poke<too spicy> ) with a few intermittent stars( Duck Breast, 4 types of Choc Fantasy) and felt our $$ would have been better spent at a Top Notch Restaurant like Providence, Melisse, Spago, Valentino, or anywhere the Food is more dependable on a nightly basis.
We saw the Chef (previously at Tartine, Boa, Spago)come out into the dining room several times but he never acknowledged any of the guests in the Room, he could learn a lot from Wolfgang Puck regarding that.
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Royale is terrible. It's mediocre food in miniature portions and maximized prices that tries too hard and falls flat, presented by standoffish servers in a weirdly overdesigned room. To get there, one must cross through a bar that is usually pumped full of the latest lame hip hop/Top 40 tracks (i.e., prepare to have some Fergie accompany your meal). Residents on the upper stories of my building complain of being able to hear how loud Royale is, and it's a block-and-a-half away. The owners seem to be desperately shifting gears, shifting from being a hip-hop club to having a fake Sinatra-style singer come in and amateur stand-up comedy nights.
Honestly, this is no place to cross town to try. It's certainly not one most people in the neighborhood tend to bother with.