Post-debate Bastide birthday dinner report
Overall Bastide was a pleasant experience without any real knock-your-socks-off moments. Summary: I won't be saving my pennies and rushing back. Even the best bites of the meal didnt conjure up anticipation (or at least fantasies, considering the prices) of return visits. They also require a fax-back form with full credit card info. to hold the reservation, not unheard of I know for restaurants of this echelon, yet somewhat off-putting nonetheless.
The room is lovely, if not a bit cold. Tones of blue and white have an odd sort of sanitarium vibe. The beige linen clothes, napkins, gorgeous tasteful Limoges china and engraved silverware are no doubt high class all the way. I think the garden is the preferable seating area.
Now about the meal itself. Three kinds of homemade breadsourdough, rosemary, and oliveare dispensed by servers, better that way for not filling up before the meal I suppose. Certainly fresh and flavorful, no crust though, which maybe some people prefer, I am not one of those people. My boyfriend and I both opted for the tomato menu, ala Iron Chef. At $90, this option is priced in between the $80 menu which contains more options per course, and the $100 totally set menu, which all members of the dining party are required to order if anyone is to order it at all.
The first morsel of two small slices marinated octopus with sea beans served as a clean, sharp and lemony intro. to the meal. Kind of like excellent octopus sushi with a little more going on, which wasnt the portion size. Thats ok, due to the preview nature of the dish. First real course was their version of gazpacho, a type of clear pink consommé with baby peeled tomatoes, accompanied with a long description by the waiter regarding the process of towel wrapping the tomatoes and such. This speech came across as over compensating to wow the customer whos shelling out big bucks for this stuff. Despite my annoyance it really was remarkable, a universe away from the kind of traditional Andalusian gazpacho we make at home, certainly the kind of dish youll never ever cook in your own kitchen. The chives and chive oil serve as a lovely counter point to the deep yet light sweetness of the broth.
Second course was herb encrusted Maine scallops (2 on the plate) with vanilla coulis, tomato thyme emulsion and a roasted peeled roma-type tomato. The foamy emulsion was maybe a little nod to Mr. Adria, and all flavors were quite subtle. Scallops were well-seared, not fishy thank god; I wouldve been able to handle eating more than two of them. (But rest assured, by the end of the meal I was full! ;)
The main meat course consisted of a medallion of Colorado lamb, roasted on the bone then gently removed, yielding an incredibly tender, buttery round of meat with jus thats a far cry from the roasted robustness of the lamb with morel yummyness we enjoyed at Opaline Friday night. A lot was going on on this plate. The tomato marmalade I thought put it over the top, and the chick pea puree squares topped with roasted garlic cloves looked cute and geometric but in the end were dull. The various flavor ranges didnt quite harmoniously meld, despite the lamb being, well, awesome.
The cheese course turned out to be the real highlight, with some of the offerings apparently having been smuggled in from France the week before. Reblochon, Pyrenees sheeps milk cheeses, a triple crème whose origin I dont remember, great Tome de Savoie, and the waiter was quite knowledgeable about them all. Raisin and pecan slices, walnuts and dried fruit proved to be a fantastic accompaniment, although the waiter was a little stingy with the fruit.
The most Iron Chef-like dish of them all was the tomato mousse with candied tomatoes. After the cheese I was quite sated, yet I couldnt help but jealously eye the meringue Tim-Burton-creature-on-a-plate offering that other diners were savoring. The mousse was seated on top of a mild crust, and basically tasted like strawberry with a little sour finish. Not all that exotic, really. Homemade chocolates included in the petit four plate were astonishingly rich; the fruit gelees and nougat were nothing to write home about. I found the mini tea-flavored Madeleines practically inedible.
Wines were a mixed bag. Jurancon Sec "Cuvee Marie" 1999 by the glass functioned as an excellent start, but the ½ bottle of Domaine Lucien Crochet La Croix du Roy Sancerre Rouge ($29) was frankly, a big flop. We wanted a lighter red and drink Sancerre often, but this had zero soul and its flavor seemed to degenerate as the meal progressed. It was dreadful with the cheese courseso much for the whole wine and cheese pairing experience. The Domaine Vacheron Sancerre Rouge 2000 at Opaline, was far superior and better value, priced at $32 for the whole bottle. Obviously value and Bastide are opposing concepts, so I cant begrudge the wine prices.
Coffee was the big stinker of the night. I kick myself now for not sending back the macchiatoit was complete undrinkable! It TOTALLY escapes me how a restaurant that hands you a $300 bill for a meal for two would THINK to end said meal with terrible, crappy, bitter, overpulled, subpar espresso!!! What's wrong with these people? To end a meal in such a way is a disservice to themselves.
Ok, rant over. Service was generally super attentive, courses paced a bit too fast. I actually find Patina to be much more relaxed and the courses more leisurely. For a long prix fixe meal, I want to be left alone yet share a bit of conviviality with the waiter, if only a tinge. There was none to be found here, and when we left around 11 pm we were bid a good evening by one food runner and someone else who we hadnt seen at any other point during our meal. The maitred wasn't around, neither was our waiter, despite that only us and two other diners remained inside. Attire conveyed the serving chain of command. In terms of face time with us, however, it was hard to figure out with whom our primary relationship should be during our time at Bastide, and not in a cool, egalitarian sort of way.
Random note on the service: Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist but...every other diner who got up to use the restroom returned to a neatly re-folded napkinstandard practice in this type of joint. Well, we both made visits to the loo (lovely white marble-clad floors and walls with impractical almost flat black sink basins) during the meal, after which our napkins remained the exact same crumpled mass we had left on the table. Cmon, guystheres plenty of staff resources to make sure that every diner gets their damn napkin folded!
So, for the next occasion its Spago, Josie, or Melisse in the category of schmancy places I still gotta try. For the tried and true, Ill head to Lucques anytime.
I made reference to the lamb and wine we enjoyed at Opaline Friday, but forgot to mention the mind-blowing desserts! Deep, rich, sinful rocky road bread pudding with homemade marshmallow sauce and candied nuts; scrumptious cookies; uber-fresh organic fruits; the signature hazelnut cake with caramel and fleur de sel, all to die for.
Disclosure: the pastry chef, Roxana, is a personal friend. But even if I didn't know her I'd be totally impressed
Tomato water is produced by suspending chopped, ripe tomatoes in a thin towel. The tomatoes crush themselves over a period of 12-18 hours. If the tomatoes aren't disturbed they produce a clear liquid that is distinct from tomato juice. The slightest pressure ruins the taste.
It is more of an act of patience and cleanliness than one of skill. As I understand it, this is a technique developed by Charlie Trotter about 10 years ago and is distinct from the traditional force-the-potato through the chinois method of making a smooth soup.
I only point it out because tomato water really is a lovely substance and I wish more people served it, perhaps without the explanation. I had to laugh about the British comment-- I had it two years ago for the first time at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons outside of London.
If you didn't read todays LA Times article, Bastide wants $100 per person for each resv not cancelled within 24 hrs (if you are not a regular). While I understand the frustration of no shows, their policy sucks. Emergencies happen and it seems their policy does not account for last minute cancellations. I always call if I need to cancel. Even if this place had the best food in LA, which it clearly doesn't, I'd never reserve with a policy like that. All I can say to Giraud & Pytka is merde sainte!
Thanks for the review. Makes me think twice about giving our only LAT four-star restaurant my jack. Giraud is supposed to be the past-master and owner Joe Pytka is supposed to be supremely finicky about service and wine. Can Bastide be slipping so soon? Or does it still need more time to mature?