Ortolan & Bashan = 2 GREAT Meals!
Saturday night we ate at Ortolan. The room is sophisticated and stunning with crystal chandeliers, yards of white drapery and tall tufted cream-colored booths staged against an exposed wall of used brick lining one side of the space and a dark and moody lounge with fireplace toward the rear of the restaurant. The room is dramatic and elegant and perfect for a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion. Our evening began with a champagne toast in the most exotic champagne flutes I have ever seen served from a champagne cart that added a touch of elegance (and at least $100) to a wonderful special occasion dinner. The regular dinner menu was intriguing but we opted for the chef’s winter tasting menu since that seemed like the best way to experience Eme’s genius in a single meal and boy we were right – it was! The meal began with a muse of eggplant caviar; a lovely selection of breads and some rich soups with foam presented in slender test tubes, mushroom cream for the ladies and watercress something (if I recall) for the gents. YUM! Immediately we knew this was going to be terrific. Instead of the wine pairings we ordered a bottle of Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc (because I love her wines!!) that went very nicely with the first few courses. First was the fois gras, which was served on a macaron “sandwich,” in a cube artistically layered with black truffle, and one other little delicious fois gras preparation, which I can’t recall – all, accompanied by a perfectly buttery and extremely delicious slice of toasted brioche. The first few courses leaned more to the sweet than the savory, and although I generally prefer savory, the hint of sweetness was so perfect and enticing that all I can say is WOW! Every single course on this menu was amazing and Eme’s skill was evidenced throughout – for example by the langoustine ravioli served with a tiny quail egg cooked so perfectly that the yolk was still runny – or by the delicate little caviar-like pearls of watercress and blood orange that adorned a perfectly cooked scallop…oh my!! But, my absolute favorite was the Egg and Caviar cooked in ash that honestly is reason enough to have the tasting menu again. Inspired. The panacotta with blood orange caviar served in what looks like a caviar tin I thought was also knockout yummy, beautiful and creative. Honestly – everything from the first course to the last was wonderful. The only course that really demanded a red wine was the roasted venison so, we asked the ultra-hip sommelier who had an accent so thick I couldn’t understand a word he said to select a pairing. He brought a cab-based cuvee from Mendocino, that although I asked 3x, I couldn’t understand what he said the label was… anyway, although definitely better with the venison than on its own, I wondered what I would have thought of the pairings since his selection didn’t really wow me… Overall - the service, the ambiance, the food = GREAT PLACE! Without question in the league of Spago and Providence and possibly the best dinner I have had in Los Angeles ever. There was so much food that none of us could finish the deserts (although delicious) and I had to pass on the final offering of little macarons and chocolates since I honestly could not eat another bite! Our reservation was at 6:45 and when we called that morning they were unwilling to push it out any later. We arrived about 15 minutes late due to traffic and were promptly seated. The restaurant was never completely full so I guess the reservations are spaced to insure attentive service – which we certainly received. Fellow CH-ers…if you haven’t been and Ortolan is not already on your list, all I can say is ADD IT NOW!
Hmmm- well, after the Omakase on Friday at Musha and the Tasting Menu Saturday at Ortolan – one might think that we were due for a disappointment…but NO WAY! Bashan turned out to be another fabulous place and the perfect spot for a Sunday night, post GIANTS WON THE SUPERBOWL!! dinner. Bashan is very small and unassuming with simple wood tables. No crystal chandeliers or champagne carts here but the room is warm and welcoming and the hostess, Bashan’s wife, was gracious and lovely. There were 6 of us so we were able to sample many of the things on the menu - all of which were fantastic. This is a very interesting menu and I look forward to coming back to taste the rest of it!! Chef Bashan treated us to a muse of Mediterranean-ish style chopped “salad” or “salsa” with octopus that was served on a Chinese soupspoon. Tasty – but not a showstopper. The starters we tried were the pork belly with mussels (EXTREMELY YUM), fois gras that literally melted in your mouth, crispy sweet breads, and the mild and gooey burrata cheese that is served with very thinly sliced braesola on spring salad with pistachios and dates. Delish. I had the Barramundi, which was excellent - the fish was moist and flavorful and the skin was delicate and crispy. My husband had the duck - thick slabs of medium-rare perfection served with an Asian slaw that was oh-so good! The duck paired perfectly with the Elk Cove Pinot we selected from the limited but solid wine list. For desert they had a special which was some sort of chocolate something with homemade marshmallow and this crunchy, nutty streusel topping served with an espresso sized shot of rich and wonderful hot chocolate. We also had the chocolate bread pudding. Both were quite good. The coffee (served by the half or full size French press) was served with tiny, coconut macaroons, which were also delicious.
Another year older and now several pounds heavier, it was a fabulous foodie weekend. Good friends, good wine, good food…what more can a girl ask for? (Except maybe dinner at Urasawa sometime later this year?!)