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Mar 25, 2007 06:44 PM

Review of Wilson's Restaurant, Culver City

TN 070323 – Wilson’s Restaurant

While in L.A. for a legal conference, Lynn and I met some old friends and went to Wilson’s Restaurant – – in Culver City for dinner. “Youthful,” “hip,” and “trendy” are all words that could quite easily describe the décor. The chef is Michael Wilson, son of the late Dennis Wilson of Beach Boy-fame, and he is very talented indeed.

We began our meal with a couple of appetizers to share – a serving of tea-smoked whitefish, topped with a healthy dollop of tobiko that was pure, clean and oh-so-delicious, and an absolutely superb beef-stuffed calamari with horseradish aioli that almost takes on the character and quality of a marrow bone. With this, we shared a bottle of

2004 “Terre di Tufi,” Vino da Tavola, Terruzi & Puthod (Tuscany, Italy): Bright, clear, and wonderfully aromatic, with orange blossoms, apricots, peaches and more, accented by a light mineral note; in the mouth, it was crisp and clean, with firm acidity, silky texture and nice fruit, which lingers through the moderately long finish. Very fine indeed.

Moving into our main courses, we had a jidori chicken crusted in cilantro pesto & wasabi mashed potatoes that was just wonderful; a “slowww roasted” pork with African spices, maple grits, hominy & a cranberry barbeque sauce that was positively superb; and a “scallops” special that would have been sheer perfection if it wasn’t just a bit too salty. Instead, it was only delicious!

With these entrées, we decided to opt for a red. And here is where we ran into a serious problem.

All of the red wines in this restaurant – those not hidden away as “back stock” – are behind the bar, standing up, and on a shelf above the “pass through” where the food comes from the kitchen into the dining room. All the bottles, if ours is any indication, are sitting up there in what must be near-80° heat, at least. Our wine arrived, far too warm, and we needed an ice bucket for the bottle and ice cubes for our glasses. Once the wine was down to a proper temperature, the 2004 Nebbiolo di Langhe from the Produttori del Barbaresco was fine, but what would it/could it have been?

Additionally, while watching the staff re-stock some of the more popular wines during the course of our meal, it was clear they do not “rotate” the stock, meaning the new wines get placed in front of the ones already baking in the kitchen heat – thus insuring that if they aren’t damaged yet, they soon will be.

So what can you say about a restaurant with some truly excellent food and really poor wine service? Either stick with whites, or BYOB!

BTW, the espesso was pretty poor, too.

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  1. Do you think the whites are in a refrigerator at 40 degrees? Generally a place like you describe serve the whites faaaaaar too cold.

    1 Reply
    1. re: carter

      Actually the white was served pretty close to the right temperature -- a bit too cold, perhaps, but not excessively so. More like 45 . . .

    2. Forgot one other appetizer: we also had a house-made ravioli filled wth a blend of fig and potato, served with a brown butter and sage sauce that was truly fantastic!

      One more thing, just so there is no misunderstanding. The food was great, and I certainly look forward to returning . . . but unless things change, I will certainly be following my own advice and stick to white wines or BYO.

      4 Replies
      1. re: zin1953

        My husband had that pasta with fig and it was gorgeous... notes of parmesan and was that gorgonzola deepening the flavor? Very rich and very worth returning for. I had perfectly-done halibut in a light toasted-coconut-and-black-mustard-seed cream sauce. First time I recall ever having coconut truly used with a light touch in a recipe - perfectly toasted wisps, adding just the right note of flavor. Likewise the black mustard seeds, which didn't make the whole dish taste mustardy. Even the accompanying Swiss chard was amazing.

        1. re: Cinnamon

          I agree -- the food was great. But I was so "put off" by the wine storage that I'm not sure I'd return. Or rather, I wouldn't avoid it, but it wouldn't be my choice. (I don't want to encourage them.)

          1. re: zin1953

            I understand - we went there after I'd read your post and even as a not-so-much-wine drinker, it looked a little unwise to have the bottles there. I rarely order wine, so I just ignored it. Husband got a pinot grigio and did not complain, but I suppose if I was a real oenophile it would be prohibitive!

            They look a little pressed for space - I was noticing the coffeemaker or espresso machine in front of some bottles of liquor. If anything, they could feng shui the behind-the-counter area a bit better.

            1. re: Cinnamon

              LOL! Great idea . . .

              The white wines aren't a problem, in that they are either in storage elsewhere (back room, other building) or in the cooler, away from the kitchen heat. It's just the reds.

              I did email the restaurant with a link to this thread. Haven't heard anything back, though . . .

      2. I agree 100% re the wine and have posted on this topic before. We've had to ask for an ice bucket for the red wine as well.

        1. Totally agree with the roasted pork props, it was delicious on our visit as well. We also really like the tagliatelle with a boar/procini ragout sauce. Fortunately, we brought wine with us, but you point out a pet peeve of mine; I can't stand warm red wine!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: vinosnob

            "room temp" in LA is usually 72 degrees; not the preferred 55 or so of temperate climates where wine service originated. We've had a "red hot" wine problem in LA at many places where the food and prices would lead one to hope they'd take better care of this essential facet of their business.