525 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90071
For me, Drago Centro is consistently one of the most frustrating dining experiences. The frustration doesn’t stem from the food (it’s consistently fantastic) but rather from the consistently poor service. Since it’s opened, I’ve probably dined here close to a dozen times. The food continues to bring me back (and the fact that I work and live downtown), but the service, at times, can be downright mediocre. For a number of my meals, the service has overshadowed the strong food.
Occasionally, I wonder whether I’m getting less attention from the waitstaff because I’m a relatively younger diner. The best service I’ve had here was coincidentally one with my parents. Other meals have seen a dessert with bacon bits served to a pescetarian diner (as part of a fish-only tasting menu), forgetting to serve the wine pairings accompanying the tasting menu, and a weekday lunch that took 2.5 hours.
On this night, I felt that our main server seemed almost…unhappy to serve us from start to finish. Not once did he follow up on any of the dishes to ask how they were, and I don’t recall any “thank yous” throughout the meal. There weren’t even any apologies when someone forgot to serve us the amuse bouche. In my opinion, Drago Centro serves one-star Michelin worthy food, but the service lags far behind.
Enough bickering, on to the food:
il carpaccio di langostino langoustine carpaccio, pears, yuzu vinaigrette
This dish was a very light starter. The langoustine was pounded thin – the sweetness of the pears and the acidity from the yuzu vinaigrette made this a successful dish.
le pappardelle al fagiano pappardelle, roasted pheasant, morel mushrooms
This was probably one of my favorite dishes of 2009. When I first had this dish, one of Drago’s signature pastas, I marveled at the chewy, eggy ribbons of pasta and the rich ragu filled with shreds of pheasant. This is still a great pasta even if I’ve had it a number of times.
Next came the amuse bouche. While we were eating our first courses, the neighboring table was presented with this dish. Naturally, we were confused and annoyed. When we inquired as to this dish, our waiter responded with “oh, they must’ve missed you.”
Salted cod croquette with herb aioli
A crispy exterior added some crunch to the bite, with the salt cod adding a mild fish flavor. The herb aioli rounded it out with some acidity and herbal flavor to add some depth.
il branzino branzino, cioppino broth, potato, seafood ragout
My previous experience with branzino here was carved tableside. It looks like they no longer do this, but the fish is still an excellent preparation. The flesh is moist and flaky, while the skin is crispy. A seafood broth filled with mussels, clams and shrimp adds some depth of flavor. I still think La Botte has my favorite branzino preparation, however.
la quaglia sausage stuffed quail, polenta, fall vegetable ragout
This dish somewhat reminds me of a stuffed squab my grandmother makes each Thanksgiving. Fennel sausage is stuffed into the cavity of the quail – the flavors of the sausage and quail combined is quite delicious. The quail was cooked a little more than I would’ve liked, as I thought it could’ve been even more moist and juicy if it was a little rarer. However, still a very nice and flavorful bird.
We passed on dessert, partially due to time constraints and partially due to the fact that we just weren’t happy with this experience.
I will be back to Drago Centro. Put simply, it’s very convenient for me and I love the food. However, my visits will likely be limited to lunchtime and service at the bar for the time being. The service in the dining room has been just way too frustrating for me – enough to easily detract from the experience. If the service could match the food, this likely would be one of my favorite restaurants in the city.