So... in the line of duty at my new job, I dined at Impresario last night. Does anyone else know about this place? I have been going to concerts at the Music Center for years and never knew it existed. It is only open just before shows at the Dorothy Chandler although they are considering expanding to be open before Ahmanson & Taper shows. It is on the Fifth Floor of the Center with a beautiful view of the lit fountain below. Here's the deal...
Prix fixe, of a sort. Three courses, the first and third of which are presented at your table, the second being a buffet. And, unlike other prix fixe, there is no limit on which courses you choose. So, before last night's opera, a friend and I went to Impressario and were served the following:
Act I: Poached Shrimp Martini - 6 large shrimp served cocktail-style in a martini glass. Also on the menu was a Corn Chowder which is only served upon request (our waiter recommended against it only because so much food was going to be served). The last part of Act I was an astounding Antipasto Plate which included: Marinated Mushrooms, Citrus Olives, Salami, Prosciutto-wrapped Cantaloupe, Red Pepper-flaked Mozzarella, Wasabi Aoili-topped rare Ahi, fresh Heirloom Tomatoes, Asparagus spears, Smoked Salmon, and a Gorgonzola/Walnut-topped grilled Pear half.
Act II (Buffet): Insalata del Giorno, Field Greens with Balsmic Vinaigrette, Grilled Vegetable Assortment, Bakes Tomato with Herbs, Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes with Rosemary, Wild Mushroom-filled Ravioli with Walnut Mascarpone, Penne all'Arrabiata con Pancetta, Paella with large Green-tipped Mussels and Prawns, Veal Scallopini, and on the carving board, a Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine and Shallot Jus.
Act III: This was a dessert course. For the two of us, we were given one plate with large Opera Cake in the center, surrounded by a small lemon slice, small cherry clafouti, two "chocolate burgers" (small, filled cookies), two chocolate-dipped strawberries, and two sake-cup filled Creme Brulee.
The price for all this food? $34.00 a person. THAT is was blew me away. The atmosphere is elegant and understated. What really astonished me was that this restaurant, which could seat around 200 people, was less than half full. The wine list was extensive and varied. We shared a bottle of Ballentine Meritage for $55 that tasted like a $90 bottle. There are over-stuffed couches that lied empty, where we could have taken our coffee and dessert.
Perhaps it's gotten better but I didn't care for it at all when I went there last year before a dull performance of La Boheme. I'm not much of a fan of the Music Center to begin with (I loathe the architecture, don't think much of the sight lines or acoustics and go out of a sense of duty to "culture") so maybe I wasn't in a very good mood and take this for what it's worth. Also I was set off by having one of those waitresses who treats you as if you've never eaten Italian food before. I don't know who she was used to serving but this is the big city. In our party all four people had been many times to different regions and knew far more about it than the waitress. Maybe she was used to serving the West Covina Music Center crowd who wouldn't know a tiramisu from a tear duct but still...
As for the food, I don't remember it at all, which says a lot because I have a pretty good memory for what I eat (not for much else unfortunately). What I do remember is those interminable Music Center elevators, worse even than Cedars Sinai, that make you think you're certain to miss the curtain. Anyway, if the magement has changed since last season, disregard all this... although I bet the elevators still stink.
My impression is that there have been repeated attempts to establish an upscale restaurant at the Music Center, varying from sit downs to fancy buffets. On the lower end of the scale, I recall eating a mundane buffet lunch in the space on a weekday years ago. When the room was christened Impressario my recollection is that it was run by Piero Selvaggio of Valentino fame, evenings only. I had a good but rushed due to too many people needing to eat and get to the show at the same time meal there during that regime. Best of luck on keeping something good there.
It's a tough job, but somebody had to do it, (me, take me with you, me, me, me I want to do it!). Only kidding, but I did click on the link and took the virtual tour. That was fun. And your dinner sounded, and the menu I perused on line through your link read, delightful and delicious.
Now I want to take my wife and have that same dinner. How late do they serve? We have to do a delivery for my wifes store on Saturday night, but we could drive back through downtown on the way home. In any case, I plan on trying this out, if not Saturday then soon. Thanks for the wonderful post.
re: Mike Kilgore
Mike, Unfortunately, the restaurant closes up around 8:00, since all of the diners have left to go to 7:30 and 8:00 shows. Essentially, it is only open from 5:00 to 8:00 on nights there are performances. They will be open this Friday and Saturday, if you care to dine that early (which never bothers me).
Let me know what you think!