700 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Dining date: 2/22/11
To me, Cafe Pinot is one of the oft-overlooked dining options downtown. I literally work a block away, but I can’t think of a single instance in which a co-worker suggested we come here. I think, because it’s been around for a while, it’s been overshadowed by the buzz of numerous other downtown restaurant openings in the last few years. But it shouldn’t be.
I was invited to come dine at Cafe Pinot – joining me was Diana. I had been twice before; both for recruiting events. It was almost impossible to focus on the food during those meals, so I was glad to be able to sit down, relax, and enjoy the food and company this time.
The chef is Kevin Meehan, who’s worked in the kitchen of many of LA’s notable past and present restaurants (L’Orangerie, Bastide, Patina to name a few). He’s a character too, with a fun personality – I recommend chatting him up when visiting the restaurant.
We started off with some housemade potato chips.
I think these were just potatoes, oil and salt, and they were really done well – perfectly thin and crispy. Addicting.
Pepper Rubbed Yellowfin Tuna smashed avocado, tomato mousse, soy onions, yuzu granita
3 Stones Sauvignon Blanc
First course. The tuna was tender, and was delish with a bit of peppery bite. I really liked the avocado, which added body, as well as a little bit of the citrus yuzu. The stunning presentation atop a block of Himalayan pink salt was really cool, though a bit salty if I scraped my fork too hard against the block.
Wild Mushroom Risotto truffle shavings, parmesan frico, chantilly cream
Eola Hills Pinot Noir
This was the dish I was anticipating most. I’ve read much about this dish being a stellar example of risotto in the city, and it did not disappoint. It was creamy and luxurious, with a subtle sweetness from onion. The rice was a perfect al dente and the truffles, shaved tableside, added its characteristic earthy flavor. I did not think the parmesan frico was necessary, however, as it added too much crunch to the delicate chew of the rice.
Loup de Mer squid, chorizo, pimenton
Marc Bredif Vouvray
This next course had a bunch of components on the plate centered around the loup de mer. The fish was excellent – really moist on the inside with a crisp skin. The squid was tender and flavorful on its own, but everything was brought together with the smoky chorizo and pimenton.
Duo of Beef filet mignon, pinot noir braised short rib, potato gâteau, wild mushrooms, bordelaise sauce
Rosenthal Cabernet Sauvignon
I love myself some beef, so I was pretty excited to see a dual preparation here. Both of them were executed well, and I preferred the pinot noir braised short rib for being oh-so-tender without being mushy. Really good depth of flavor. I thought the confit potatoes were superb as well.
Lastly, we were presented with a trio of desserts.
Chocolate Mousse Gateau hazelnut crunch, cocoa soil, bitter chocolate paint
Jorge Ordonez Victoria #2
There were a number of chocolate components here – very rich and chocolatey. The classic combination of hazelnuts and chocolate worked well, and I enjoyed the hazelnuts for some nutty crunch.
The dough was light and barely chewy – these were served warm (the only way to serve them, really). A subtle rosemary essence really made these stand out.
Butterscotch Panna Cotta candied butternut squash, pepita seeds, ginger bread streusel, chantilly cream
This was a pretty good custard – not too sweet, which was good. I thought the gingerbread streusel was a fantastic touch, adding a delightful texture to the dessert.
My meal at Cafe Pinot was a pleasant surprise. Sure, I knew the risotto was going to be a show-stopper, but this was a well-rounded menu from start to finish. Given it’s so convenient to me, I’ll be back. And guess what – the restaurant doesn’t charge a corkage fee. And there’s also a spacious outdoor patio surrounded by the Central Library and downtown skyline. On a warm summer evening, this will be hard to beat.
Note: This was a sponsored meal.