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Wood Spoon, downtown (review)

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I'd read about Woodspoon in the LATimes and it sounded great: a newish Brasilian restaurant conveniently located downtown serving tasty food at reasonable prices. Quite a find. I checked posts on this site which all seemed extremely positive and all signs pointed to a great evening out. And it was. Kinda.

The good.
I'd called an hour earlier because I'd heard they do a Saturday family meal and, having never been there, I wanted to check on availability, reservations, etc. I was told that the place served a big meal (which happened to be Feijoada that night) and for $25, they served an appetizer, drink, entrée (with all the fixings) and a dessert. Great! Let's go!

Given downtown at night, there was plenty of parking. The restaurant is really well-designed. So pleasing when you walk in. Bright, simple. The place had about 8-10 tables, three were occupied at 8pm. But it filled up later.

We were met at the door by the waitress, who immediately wanted to know if we'd be ordering the family dinner. We hadn't really sat down, didn't have menus. We hadn't really had the family dinner explained to us (I'd spoken to a man on the phone and he'd said to just show up). When we asked questions about the meal, she seemed confused and we learned later she was new. That's fine. No big deal. She brought water, served in carafes with giant cinnamon sticks in it. A great touch. Everything on the menu looked delicious and we opted for one of us getting the family meal and the other ordering off the menu.

Then Nathalia, the head chef and owner, stopped by the table. What a terrific, warm lady. She explained the dinner, suggested a few things on the menu and was so damn welcoming. I'd forgotten how lovely it is to have the chef come out and actually TALK to you. I would've ordered her shoes after that if she'd have suggested them.

Then the food arrived.

I'd ordered the coxhina appetizer ($8) I'd heard so much about. These are small teardrop-shaped, croquette-like bites served with a mayo I'd read was delicious. Each of the four bites is about the size of a very small fig. The filling is a ground chicken and, what seemed to be, a mashed-potato mixture. Good, not great. For the price, somewhat underwhelming. The mayo: just okay. It got a solid shrug (which is not quite a head-scratch, but close).

For dinner I ordered the chicken pot pie ($10). Again, I'd read and heard raves about it. Let me add my two-cents to the record: regardless of what you've read here, it's not a big pot pie. I don't know where some of my fellow Chowhounders hail from, but a "big" pot pie should be somewhat larger than the size of my hand. Shortly after ordering, I saw my soon-to-be dinner crossing the room toward someone else and thought "that can't be the huge pot pie I've heard so much about." Now, it's definitely unique. The filling is full of meat, hearts of palm, olives, etc. The flavor is quite nice, but the effect is more of an empanada than a pot pie. It was good, quite light, served with a simple salad, but not overly filling. Or really filling at all. Just manage your expectations on this dish and you'll be fine.

The feijoada was a similar situation. Maybe more so. The "dinner" we'd been told about on the phone was absolutely not the meal we received. There was no appetizer, no drink, no dessert. Here's the meal: a bowl of the stew with sides. Not a lot. Maybe the size of a cereal bowl, half filled. A single portion of rice. A nice-sized portion of collard greens. A bowl of salsa (which tasted strangely like the stew itself). A small bowl of farofa and three 2-inch lengths of fried plantain. The stew was delicious (comment: "Well, there's not a lot here, but at least it's tasty"). It had some nice chunks of meat and even a few meatless bones in it but, hey, it's feijoada. It struck me as odd that given the small portion that the kitchen would send it out with meatless bones in it. Totally forgivable, though. The greens were very fresh. The rest, perfectly fine. It simply all bordered on those single-portion entrees where one asks the question "this is it?" And for $25, it was unquestionably small.

Here's the skinny (no pun intended): We really really wanted to love this restaurant. Two small (albeit tasty) entrees, water, one even smaller appetizer. The bill was over 50 bucks. Not astronomical, but not a "find." Sadly, we won't go back. I'm glad we stopped here in the name of trying something new, but honestly, I'd probably steer people away from it. More the price than anything else. The food had nice flavor, but it was nothing earth-shattering or even special.

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  1. I'm a real fan of Wood Spoon, and I'm sorry you didn't like it. I personally can have quite an appetite - especially after hiking around Downtown all morning - and I find the offerings there quite filling. I had the same reaction as you did when the pot pie was first placed in front of me, but I was struggling to finish it halfway through. The same holds true for the pork burger and the grilled plates. I'm disappointed I didn't get there to try the feijoada, in fact.

    I've never left Wood Spoon anything less that satisfied, which is why my friends and I return again and again. In fact, Friday night, I went to Chichen Itza with a friend who is particularly picky about Mexican food. She was not really enjoying her meal there, and several times she said, "We should have gone to Wood Spoon."

    1. A Feijoada completa with all the sides you received is a complete meal, there are no other accompaniments.Feijoada, rice,couve(greens),farofa,and orange slices is the deal.Traditionally, feijoada is served with a few bones left in the stew and the salsa(molho) is made from the broth adding some malagueta peppers to spice.At "A Bolinha", a restaurant in Sao Paulo, the waiter brings this molho to wet your appetite before the Feijoada arrives.This is done as feijoada takes a long time to make, anywhere from 2-3 days of preparation when done properly.Hence the price.

      I enjoy Woodspoon and welcome its contribution to the growing Brazilian restaurant scene in LA.

      1. I've only been for lunch (twice) and loved it. I know what you mean about the pot pie but I agree with Woolsey, if you do finish it all, you should be leaving full. The pork burger is fantastic too. And I also enjoyed being visited by the owner, she is sweet.

        1. I tried the pot pie today, it was fantastic.

          1. I can really appreciate your detailed explanation (or opinion) of your experience... I like that I was able to picture what you described in great detail. Although you didn't appreciate your experience enough to go back, I will be checking this place out very soon because I have heard nothing but really positive feedback (I will get back to this post with my opinion after dining). I would like to add that I don't know what city you think you are living in, but $50 for two people to dine out is extremely reasonable! It seems (from your very "price-conscious" email) that you are more concerned with paying a very small amount for a very large amount of food than for quality itself.