My DineLA experience at Grace
Full write-up with pics:
Last week I made a trip to Grace for their DineLA offering. I went on a Wednesday night with five others around 7pm and it was packed, and despite a few of us showing up well past our 6:45 reservation, Grace kept a table for us and seated us around 7:30. The DineLA menu has two price levels for dinner: $44 for three courses or $60 for five courses. Both include one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert, with the five-course option adding in another appetizer and entree. I decided to split a five-course and a three-course meal with my friend Linda, and looking back I now realize that it was a ridiculous amount of food. We both have monstrous appetites but two-three course options would have been just fine, especially when you consider the richness of the dishes. Everyone else wisely went with the three-course option. One thing I'd like to note is that the menu was slightly different than what was listed on the Grace website, which is in fact different that the one listed on the DineLA website. OK on with the food, here are our dishes:
Appetizer 1 - Pumpkin and Sea urchin risotto.
I know this gets rave reviews but quite honestly all I could taste was cream and butter. Pumpkin has a mild taste to begin with so that ingredient was doomed, and I could barely detect any sea-urchin. Linda agrees on this misfire. Skip this.
Appetizer 2 - Sautéed La Belle Farms Foie Gras with grilled pineapple, brown butter brioche, black pepper ginger caramel. (extra $10
)The perfectly cooked foie gras was buttery soft and very rich in flavor. It paired well with the brioche whose sweetness nicely counteracted the savory flavors of the foie gras. Notice the plating (on the blog posting)--it's gorgeous. .
Appetizer 3 - Lobster Cavatelli with Maine lobster, cavatelli pasta, fava bean purée, and chanterelle mushroom.
Delicious and perfectly cooked and seasoned. The dish could have used more lobster meat, but I think that would have increased the price somewhat. The mushrooms and fava bean puree added nice texture and were very fresh tasting.
Entree 1 - Grilled Tenderloin of Wild Boar with brussels sprouts, Yukon gold potato spaetzle, and violet mustard sauce. (extra $5)
The boar was cooked medium rare and served over a manicured arrangement of Brussels sprouts and potatoes. The meat was tender, juicy, and packed with flavor. Unfortunately, the mustard sauce was way too overpowering and nearly ruined the dish for me as it was simply far too pungent; I had to be careful to not mix the meat with the sauce. The Brussels sprouts and potato spaetzle, however, were delicious and paired nicely with the meat.
Entree 2 - Bacon Wrapped Saddle of Rabbit with wild rice, squash flan, roasted figs.
My favorite dish of the night. Tender rabbit meat wrapped in thick, smokey bacon proved to be a delicious experience in both taste and texture. The meat was so tender tender that I only needed a fork for cutting. I was getting full at this point but I didn't care, I did my best to finish two pieces (left the others for Linda)
Entree 3 - Day boat scallops with aged goat cheese red wine risotto, chanterelle mushrooms, red wine reduction.
These were probably the largest scallops I have ever seen. They were very fresh and cooked nicely throughout from edge to center and then artfully presented with tasty risotto and more chanterelles. I actually liked this risotto more than the one I had for an appetizer.
I can't believe I'm still eating at this point, but I found some room to scarf down a good portion of the pork shank, which someone else ordered. It was definitely fall-off-the-bone tender, but I thought it was a bit dry. I'm surprised this wasn't served with a side of house-made BBQ sauce as that would helped with the dryness. The accompanying chorizo home fries were very satisfying and full of wonderful, savory flavors. My friend really enjoyed the pork shank, and quite honestly that's all that mattered.
Dessert 1 - Flight of donuts with ice cream. (extra $3)
Now this was a different preparation that what was listed on the menu, as I believe the menu showed braised apples to go with the donuts. Said apples appear to have been replaced with additional donuts and another scoop of ice cream. As if I'm really going to have an issue with MORE donuts! As good as the donuts were, the ice cream was actually the best part of this dessert offering. It was intensely rich and creamy with lots of flavor. Get this.
Dessert 2 - Sticky Toffee Pudding with brûléed bananas, toffee sauce, hazelnut gelato.
I found this dessert offering to be a bit underwhelming. The pudding was more like a sweet bread and tasted not much better than something I could pick up Ralph's on the way home. The gelato, however, was delicious but I wouldn't order this dessert on a return visit. Stick with the donuts.
The total bill for my five-course meal--with supplemental charges for the foie gras, boar, and donuts--came out to $85 before tax and tip. I also ordered two drinks, a Not So Rust Nail and a Peach Gimlet, both of which were very food and VERY strong. Overall this was a great meal and a wonderful experience. The service was excellent and the portions were more than adequate. Be careful, though,with the supplemental charges as those can really bloat the final bill. Still, I'd recommend this place for DineLA--go with the three-course option and opt for the lobster cavatelli, rabbit, donuts, a peach gimlet or 2, and call it a deal. BTW DineLA ends this week so get your reservation soon!
Their menu sounds a lot better than last years. I went last year to Grace for their DineLA menu and was hugely underwhelmed. I probably wouldn't go back and the donuts are nothing to write home to mom about.
I agree and disagree.
I agree that the pumpkin in the risotto was too subtle. But mine and the rest of the portions at our table all contained a nice chunk of sweet uni.
I disagree as I thought the wild boar dish was spectacular. The sauce was strong but I only brushed a small amount on the amazingly flavorful grilled boar. Most of the time, I ate the boar without any sauce. The meat was amazingly flavorful and tender and goes very well with a nice burgundy. I cannot recommend the boar enough. The spaetzle was pretty unremarkable.
I agree the 3 course is a better value.
The donut offering this year was weak compared to the amazing Elvis donut of last year.
Concur - I went on Sunday and had the pumpkin uni risotto and the wild boar and enjoyed both. I didn't get to try the Elvis donut but was pretty happy with the salted caramel one on the menu this time. I think it's nice that they're offering so many options for DineLA (there are several more choices for the appetizer and entree than at other DineLA restaurants). They're offering the three course DineLA menu as well as a 5 course tasting for (I think) $65.
Porthos, pointone: I think the issue with my boar was that, when my friend and I split the dish, I got a portion that contained too much sauce mixed with the boar. I definitely enjoyed the pieces that had little or no sauce, but the ones that were slathered with sauce were almost ruined. My pumpkin risotto had almost no sea urchin; a definite misfire from the kitchen because after reading other reviews (such as the one above) it was clear that other people got more sea urchin.
Also, Porthos, what did your donut offering contain? Four donuts with ice cream (like mine) or 2 or 3 donuts with apples?
I really enjoyed this place and plan to head back with my better half for two three-course options.