il Grano - Heirloom Tomato Tasting Menu w/pics. Very Good, But Expected Better
Experienced and loved the Crudo tasting menu a couple of weeks ago and have been anxious to try out the tomato version. This time, Sal was there that night. You just had to look at the dining room to see the difference - it was completely full at 9pm on a Wed.
The way it worked was they had a supplemental menu with about 25 items featuring Sal's heirloom (individually identified) tomatoes from his garden. Each was individually priced and could be split for two people. Prices ranged from $7-$15 each.
Printed on the bottom of the menu: My family is from Nples, Italy. The tomato in innumerable combinations has been on my table since childhood. This year I planted 92 Plants, 42 varietals. Cooking is my passion, tomato my favorite plant to grow. I hope you enjoy! Buon Appetito, Sal
Sunrise Gazpacho - The least expensive and our favorite dish of the night. Scot's comment: "Umami." Tasted like it was creamed (it wasn't.) Great thick texture, incredible flavor. This would have been a great accompaniment to a crudo dish.
Fritto Misto: Fried German green tomatoes, eggplant-tartar sauce: A fun dish. Two big slices of tomatoes tempura-battered and fried. Also included a few zuccini chunks. Eggplant dip was lovely, a nice light accompaniment.
Grilled Santa Barbara Prawn: Momatara & Green "Sausage" salad: (No sausage, that is a tomato variety.) The prawn was huge and perfectly grilled. Taste and texture were more like lobster than prawn.
The above were the best three dishes of the night. From here, we were not as pleased.
Dungeness Crab, Chervil, Corn, and Green Zebra-Orange Cal salad: A pleasant but not exceptional dish. Crab tasted bland, and there were little or no tomatoes on this dish. If this were Iron Chef tomato, points would have been lost. Not worth the $15.
Sheep's Milk Ricotta, Chestnut Honey,Amish Gold and Sweet Million Crostini: The chestnut honey gave an intriguing nutty dimension to this dish. The ricotta itself was slightly drier in texture than I subjectively prefer.
Pizza Margerita - Pureed San Marzano, basil, fresh mozzarella: For me the most disappointing dish of the night. It tasted fine, but the crust was much too thick, and the marinara was not exceptional in either flavor or texture. If this was a regular menu dish I would not have complained, but I feel it just did not properly honor the tomato. This dish just could have been executed better.
Burrata Stuffed "candy wrap" pasta, Pomodorina del Pendolo: A nice dish but the cheese has a gumminess that made it taste like mozarella and lacked the creaminess I expected from the burrata. It may have just been a bit overcooked, not sure what went wrong.,
Branzino stuffed Manicotti, Pomodorini-Anchovy sauce: Again, a pleasant dish but not memorable in any way. Anchovy was too subtle for me.
At this point, we wanted to try something in the meat family, and the only tomato menu option was rabbit, which is not something we care for. Sal agreed to make us something off-menu
Rolled Lamb Sirloin with grilled cherry tomato accents ($35) Beautifully presented, these were lamb sirloin rilades rolled so that a thin layer of fat accented the meat. It was accompanied with peeled, roasted cherry tomatoes. We enjoyed this dish.
11359 Santa Monica Blvd. (Purdue St.)
I have posted this review on my blog with pictures of what we had: