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Tapenade in Little Osaka - Thank you carter and prawn...

As a rule, if we don't have reservations on a weekend night, I won't go out to eat unless we get an early start. We didn't get an early start, but the weather was just too nice last night so i waived this rule. I was rolling through my feeble memory banks for some place that was different, out of our rotation, and would hopefully have enough variety to keep our daughter's interest (our son is our ChowPlow so no issues with him). And of course, it had to be something off the obvious list that would have almost no chance of seating us in a reasonable amount of time.

I recalled Hounds carter and prawn making favorable mentions of Tapenade in Little Osaka. It seemed to be a unique place for that neighborhood with a lot going for it:

- Non-Asian cuisine in a neighborhood neck-deep with Asian eateries. Hopefully this would make Tapenade a not so obvious choice for those attracted to this neighborhood.

- chef with strong chops.

- a variety of small plates and entrees with an emphasis on quality ingredients and competent technique.

- slightly off Little Osaka's grid, located in the Olympic Collection building at the corner of Olympic and Sawtelle. In the event that Tapenade didn't work out, we'd still have a lot of other eateries close by to choose from.

We walked in really without any specific expectations other than hoping the food in general would be "good." The hostess was very warm and cordial, greeting us and offering us any open seating that we liked. It was about 7:30PM and the restaurant was about half-full - this part was attractive to me because of the immediacy of seating. The space was nicely laid out, giving the majority to a nicely spaced interior with a large four-sided bar in the center, but more than enough of an outdoor patio area in front to take advantage of the good weather we all live here for. The seating is spacious, comfortable and has a casual Franco-centric feel to it. Since the evening was quite nice, we opted for the patio.

Looking over the drinks menu, they have a handful of beers on tap, a wine list with more than enough options to choose from, and some house-made lemonades that were adult enough for non-drinkers, yet approachable enough for kids as well. I think corkage fee was $15 - pretty reasonable.

The food menu has six sections (apps, salads, vegetables, to share, entrees and desserts), each having about six to nine selections. The majority of the dishes are southern European with a California sensibility to them. Furthermore, there's enough variety in the menu to please most types of eaters.

We ordered the crispy brussels sprouts, warm eggplant caviar, bacon-wrapped dates, flatbread, grilled squid with beans and chorizo, lamb agnolotti, sea bass, yogurt panna cotta with passion fruit coulis and the walnut bread pudding. All were prepared with a deft hand and with first rate ingredients. The portion sizes for most dishes were more than generous enough to share. Our daughter who is the local vegetable hater, was wowed (as were we) by the brussels sprouts and eggplant caviar. The grilled squid was so sweet and tender, and the beans and chorizo added nice dimension to an already pleasing dish. The lamb agnolotti was cooked perfect and served with a lovely truffle sauce. And the sea bass was a huge portion, perfectly cooked. The saucing in general was perfect for our palates. Not heavy with subtle nuances that complimented the dishes without overpowering them.

Service here is very warm, attentive and receptive. Our lovely server did a great job of organizing our various dishes and pacing them in a sensible order. On one hand, I hope this place gains more attention as the food and service makes for a very enjoyable meal. On the other hand, if it does gain more popularity, walking up and grabbing four seats on a friday night might not be in the cards anymore.

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  1. We will most likely go one of these mid-week nights. What was your final per person cost, bula? If this is a $50 per person type of place that would put it in our "seldom" special occasion rotation...And how long did your dinner take?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      The tab was ~$170 including two non-alcohol drinks and a $54 bottle of wine, less tip. So figure about $25-30 for food only per. I thought it was good qpr.

    2. you're very welcome!

      1. Thank you also very much.
        But more importantly, I am glad you were able to appreciate a place that deserves way more attention and business than it is currently getting.
        Even veggie haters will like this place, you say!
        That bread pudding is very good, and the only other one locally that can keep it company is the one at the Weho Bistro on La Cienega & Holloway, in Weho.

        1. Thanks for the review! Sounds delicious. The price doesn't seem so bad, taking into account the bottle of wine and the fact that you ordered so many dishes. Do recall that they didn't seem at all crowded when I passed by one night (was it a Friday?). Hopefully they'll stay open long enough for me to try it out....

          1. It sounds good to me too.

            1. Okay, so I finally made it out this evening. My friend and I had originally planned on AYCE Korean BBQ, but w/ the weather being what it is, we decided to change venues.

              Food was quite good overall. We had the lamb agnolotti, burrata salad, original brussel sprouts, and shrimp salad.

              Thought the lamb agnolotti was the best dish. Sauce had a bit of an odd flavor to it (anise?) but the filling was really tasty. Burrata was good, and the strawberry/vinegar combo was surprisingly harmonious. Loved the brussel sprouts. They came out a bit too charred for my friend, but I like them that way. =) The components of the shrimp salad were good, but there were too *many* components btw the various types of greens, shrimp, mango, and dressing (my friend called it "incoherent").

              The grilled bread was delicious; not sure why we had to ask for it, though.

              I thought the pacing was fine, but my friend thought that they should brought the dishes out at different times and one patron at another type rather rudely admonished the waitress for bringing out the dishes too quickly.

              My friend enjoyed his rose wine. I had a soda since my stomach's been upset for a few days.

              Portion size was pretty generous for a tapas-style place. We were very pleasantly full w/ the 4 dishes.

              Service was polite and friendly (and having a waiter w/ a charming french accent doesn't hurt, either). The place still doesn't have a ton of business, which is sort of a shame. Sitting on the patio was actually quite lovely.

              Would return again.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ilysla

                I'll hit this spot up soon.

                How were the desserts ?

                And don't they have a famed eggplant pate housed in an old canning jar ?

                Btw. I do believe an incoherency in execution applies to a myriad of joints around town.

                Hmmm. If its not that great, I can always hit up Kiriko for a few morsels of sushi and perhaps follow it with a couple dishes at Tsujita and then plan check. Sounds like a pithy food crawl.

                1. re: kevin

                  Didn't even take a look at the dessert menu since my friend was in a bit of a rush to go (for reasons completely unrelated to our experience at the restaurant).

                  Have they open long enough to have a famed dish? Don't recall reading much/anything about the eggplant dish but haven't looked extensively at reviews.

                  Cannot imagine going to Plan Check after all that food! ;)

              2. Update on Tapenade nearly one year later, as in last night.
                First time driving over the 405 for a dinner in the 310 post Jamzilla weekend. No time at all, and I arrived about 6:45. Ah, yes, hope springs eternal for its completion.
                The dinner was really wonderful. Had no entrees, but the 4 smaller plates more than sufficed.
                Started with the Grilled Spanish Squid salad with tomato, chorizo, white beans & tapenade croutons. Oh was that delicious, and that coming from me who really dislikes calamari in its fried incarnation. The subtleties truly stand out.
                Also, the most decadent pork confit brulee you could imagine. Had to have been prepared over more than one day, yet that carmelization atop combined with that delicate flavor of pure pig - pure bliss!
                Second pair:
                A roasted pepper salad, combining both orange & red peppers, with mozzarella, olives, pine nuts, basil with a red wine vinaigrette. This dish should be served in every Italian restaurant in LA to convince people like me that not all Italian food is the same old, same old, yet realizing if they did that it too would become same old, same old.
                The other item was a warm crab salad in a mason jar with grilled bread, homemade btw. Pure taste of crab on toast.
                Wines - I had one glass of Trimbach Gewurtztraminer, 2009, and a glass of Chapoutier Syrah/Grenache, $15 & $12 respectively. That Trimbach will make white wine lovers out of people like me who prefer reds.
                Note - Tuesday nights they have a 3-course special for $29, which permits one entrée and 2 other items on the menui. Also, bottles of wine are 20% off.
                Apparently the announcement went out on Twitter regarding this special, because the Twitterati were there in significant numbers.
                Ressul showed his French school training in a major way. Just hope it continues to attract sufficient crowds to stay open. All in all, a truly wonderful evening of wonderful food.
                Total $100 or so for 2. Companion had one ginger beer, btw.
                www.tapenade.la for more info.
                Menu changes daily, so check daily to determine what you might, or might not want on any given evening.

                2 Replies
                1. re: carter

                  thanks carter, you had me at crab salad in the jar. i'll try that and maybe the italian salad.

                  any desserts, i thought it was big dessert type joint too ??? is that right ?

                  btw, you actually made it up from the valley to specifically go here or where you already in the area ?????

                  1. re: kevin

                    The dessert my companion had was a peanut butter cheesecake with grape & one other fruit atop.
                    I am not a dessert person, so had a small bite, which was quite good.
                    I went specifically for an evening at Tapenade - 25 minutes as I said, arriving earlier than expected at 6:45 or so for a 7pm reservation.
                    As to Servorg's comment regarding its mehness factor, if that is the standard you hold up to for a meh rating, you are one tough critic.

                2. and i still can't believe that I have not made it here just yet.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: kevin

                    I'll be interested in your take on it if you go, kev. We went once and for us it was a "one and done" place. Nothing really stood out and for the price and the verging on meh dishes we tried I just won't be rushing back. The service was very warm and the setting is nice-ish. But the food just didn't hit those high notes for us.

                    1. re: Servorg

                      damn, that doesn't sound that great.

                      and i really don't want to drop dollars upon dollars for meh food.

                      but anyhow, i probably give it a run for it's money.

                      1. re: kevin

                        For a little more $, I strongly prefer Flores across the street....