REVIEW - My dinner at BASTIDE. (Long post...)
Hello fellow hounds.
Last night we had our much anticipated dinner at Bastide. We walked into the courtyard (our reservation was at 8pm, for two, and we were right on time). The waiter had us wait at a table outside and poured us generous glasses of champagne - Diebolt Vallois Blanc de Blancs. Fruity and sprite, with a great creamy finish. As we sipped, he explained that there were two menus - a 4 course for $80 and a 7 course for $100. We went with the 7 course. He added that the wine pairing was included with our meal and was on the house. A nice surprise, to say the least...
Once seated in the main and small dining room, we had our first course - a "lobster taco." A shot glass of salsa on the right (topped off with a skinny chip), in the middle was a fork with a perfect bite-size piece of lobster, followed by a sorbet shot made of tequila. Salsa first, bite of chip, then lobster, and the shot of tequila sorbet to end - that was the order. The presentation was lovely, it was fun, and all the flavors combined really worked. This was a definite pleaser. The tequila sorbet shot was potent and definitely woke me up.
The bread basket was filled with bacon brioche, hazelnut brioche, and several other beautiful, dainty breads. The first two mentioned were amazing. But I held back from inhaling the whole basket. After all, one down but six to go...
The first wine served was a Croatian wine - Posip Mark Polo, 2005. A lovely, light white wine - fruity, fragrant without being perfume-y, and one of the highlights of the evening. It was paired with our second course, a yellowtail sashimi with lime zest, accompanied with an oyster shooter over a carrot and ginger slushy. The waiter then brings out what looks like a pink brick - turns out it's 7000-year-old Peruvian salt and he grates this over the yellowtail. The fish was delicate yet rich. The zest and the salt definitely gave it a kick and spiced it up without overwhelming the subtle flavors of the fish. The oyster shooter was good but the oyster itself was slightly overwhelmed by the ginger (which I usually love, but felt it a bit too much here).
This time we had a refreshingly sweet Riesling, Spatlese 2005. On the menu, this course was called "Thai Street Food." A curry soup poured over corn mash, with generous pieces of Alaskan king crab. Next to the bowl, one shrimp on a fork. Next to that, a tiny spring roll and a tiny bowl of papaya mash. For me, this dish was great - but not as a whole. The curry soup with crab was warm, savory, harmonious. I could have had three more of these. The crunch of the corn mash with the succulency of the crab and the sweet and spicy curry - heaven. The shrimp and the spring roll were perfectly fine, albeit a little boring. The papaya mash was fresh and clean. The star here was clearly the soup and the Riesling was beautifully paired with it.
A very dry, Chardonnay, Matyas Szoke, 2005 paired with Abalone and Squid Ink Risotto. This was one of the weaker courses for me. Several pieces of abalone, wrung around on top of black risotto. The risotto was tasty and complex. The ink was not overwhelming, but gave it richness and weight. The abalone was disappointing. A cooked dish, some pieces were chewier than others, and some were blatantly rubbery. If the abalone were to be cooked properly, then this dish could be a winner. The risotto wasn't good enough to save chewy shellfish. The Chardonnay was robust and dry, but overall, this pairing didn't please me.
I'm getting a little full at this point. And here we are at the heaviest dish: simply sliced, medium-rare lamb, accompanied by a petite eggplant-stuffed tomato topped with breadcrumbs. First off, I must admit that I am not the biggest fan of lamb. I find it a tricky meat to prepare, and if done so poorly, can really turn you off. This lamb was simple and cooked beautifully; it melted in your mouth. The eggplant tomato was delicious and the breadcrumbs gave it a nice needed crunch. Wine here was a big, bold Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. Spicy and robust, this was a big gun and complemented the lamb superbly. Simple and beautifully done - a winner.
Oh boy, we're approaching 11pm! Wow. I have to admit, I'm feeling a little tipsy by this point. Which is why I can't remember all the cheeses that were brought out. A bleu, a goat cheese. A hard Dutch cheese that was five years old. Each accompanied by a dollop of jelly preserve or honey. It was a cheese plate and it was divine. Didn't help that I drank the lovely Slovenian dessert wine served with it, Batic Valentino, 2003. The wine was lovely - with notes of nectar and honey - a palate pleaser.
Two desserts here - one was a sake martini (very small) with a white wine sorbet. This was paired with Kogl Mea Culpa Kerner, 2006. This dessert was light and refreshing. Much needed after a lot of rich foods, but there's a lot of alcohol going on here. Oh boy.
Second dessert - a dark, rich chocolate panna cotta, served with a tiny glass of warm chocolate milk. This was served with a Porto Niepoort Colheita, 1986. The chocolate was super duper rich (as you would expect). Not too sweet but delicious. For me the winner was the "chocolate milk." I have a feeling I will dream about this one - it tasted like Mexican hot chocolate and hazelnut. A huge winner. The port was lovely, a wee bit too much alcohol for me. I didn't finish it but it went very well with the dish.
Overall, this was a lovely and long marathon of a meal, clocking in at almost four hours from start to finish. The wait staff were attentive, informative, and sincere. The courses were properly timed and consistent. The sommelier came by and explained every wine served, and she did so with humor and ease. We walked out festive, tipsy, with happy palates and bellies. There wasn't an ounce of attitude and a sincere appreciation for our patronage was warmly expressed to us. I will go back to Bastide, without a doubt, and I look forward to its evolution in the months ahead.
I sure hope they keep that hot chocolate on the menu.
Something about a 4 hour meal is not very appetizing, esp. when it's only 7 course (and one of them is dessert).
I'm not sure spending approximately 1/4 of my waking hours on one meal is something I would necessarily enjoy.
While I agree fine dining is an "experience" there are limits. After all, watching paint dry or downloading a 2-hour movie on a dial-up modem are all experiences, they're not something I would necessarily look forward to, much less enjoy.
I understand, russkar. You have to get into the experience - it's not just eating as a nice accompaniment to good company, or anything similar. Best done with an epicurean, bacchanalian, or similar attitude.
If you think the described meal is long, do a 12-course "degustation" in France!
I think there's plenty of buzz about this place, but doesn't have the "ooh" factor that a celebrity chef restaurant like a Mozza or a Craft will illicit. Tell the average foodie on the street that you ate at Chef Colicchio's new restaurant and they'll fawn. Only a hardcore Angeleno 'hound will even twitch when you mention Bastide, or even know that it once closed.
With L'Orangerie gone, it'll be a fun battle to see who claims top French toque in this town. I thought it would come down to Ortolan and Melisse, but there's been considerable excitement about Bastide in the past week that the other two never seemed to have.
I'm really excited about Bastide and highly recommend all 'hounds to check it out. I think the buzz will come...eventually. Plus, there seems to be a bit of a Mozza/Craft backlash on these boards...
And don't forget, the wine pairing was free...you might want to go before they do away with that.
Ron, after a serious visit to Craft (tom cooked several courses for us) & O' Mozza (19 courses) we were not impressed. At both Restaurants we ordered most of the menu and didn't eat anything that was stellar. Time to head back to basics like Providence , Angelini, All Angelo (down the street from O' Mozza and kicks it's A**), etc?