251 S Olive St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 4/5/11
Noe is a contemporary American (with distinct French and Japanese influences) restaurant located in the Omni Hotel downtown. I don’t think it’s really in the collective conscience when people think about downtown restaurants – as it’s located in a hotel, one likely wouldn’t stumble upon it unless they were staying there. However, I’ve read mostly strong (if not limited) reviews of the restaurant; so when I was invited to sample a taste of the new Spring menu, I jumped at the opportunity.
The chef is Glen Ishii, an LA native who has been around the kitchen his whole life (mainly in SoCal and Japan). He’s been cooking at Noe since 2005, and took over as Executive Chef in 2007. Reflecting his heritage and experience, Japanese influences are significant and apparent on the menu.
Bluefin Tuna (akame and chutoro) with Cucumber Wasabi Vinaigrette
We started out with this dish, which was actually one of the strongest. I liked having two cuts of the tuna side-by-side. Both were silky soft, but the fattiness of the chutoro was really apparent compared to the leaner akame. The vinaigrette added a nice vibrant acidity to complete the dish.
Smoked Pancetta Tart with Quail Egg
This next dish was an interesting one. The tart, sort of a thicker cracker, was infused with a gruyere cheese flavor. Add to that the rich pancetta and a runny quail egg, and this was packed flavor. I thought the tart was a little bit soggy and chewy in the interior, but the edges were perfectly crispy.
Scallop Ceviche with Shiso and Yuzu Grapefruit Sorbet
This was the most disappointing dish of the night. The scallop was lukewarm and had a sort of dry texture. The yuzu-grapefruit sorbet, on the other hand, was phenomenal. Tart, vibrant, refreshing…it was just really good.
Alaskan Halibut with Spring Pea Ragoût and Lemon Preserves
New Zealand King Salmon with Braised Leeks and Orange Gastrique
The kitchen rebounded with a duo of fish preparations. The halibut was nicely cooked, and the lemon added some vibrant acidity. The peas were a little too al dente though. The salmon was cooked perfectly, leaving it moist and tender. The orange gastrique added an extra flavor profile, as well as some citrus to complement the fish.
Maple Leaf Duck Breast and Seared Foie Gras with Peach Carpaccio
We progressed to a meat course here. The duck was very tender and not gamey at all. The foie gras was a real star, perfectly seared leaving it buttery and rich. The peach was very good as well – sweet and fragrant. The combination of the rich duck and liver, along with the sweetness of the peach, worked quite well.
Steak with Chanterelles and Pomme Puree
Our last savory course was this steak. Though not the most creative of the courses served, it was very satisfying. Served with a rich pan sauce, the meat was very tender and the chanterelles were a welcome accompaniment. Some smooth mashed potatoes completed the classic “meat and potatoes” combination.
At the beginning of the meal, Chef Ishii asked if we liked coffee. We were like…sure…and he said he’d bring out something special. And boy, did he ever. Kopi Luwak is one of the world’s rarest coffees, particularly because of its unique “production method.” They are collected from the excretions of an Indonesian mammal (called a civet). The beans go through physical changes in the digestive system of the animal, and then are cleaned and lightly roasted. Highly prized, the Funnel Mill in Santa Monica is one of the few in LA that serve this coffee – for $73 a cup.
Kopi Luwak Coffee
I don’t have a very developed coffee palate, only recently really delving into the world of quality coffees, largely aided by trips to Scoops Westside. I found the coffee to be very smooth and surprisingly not bitter at all. A very good cup – it had a rich chocolatey, almost caramel-like flavor. Cream and sugar were brought out with the coffee; honestly, with this type of coffee, it was completely unnecessary.
Goat Cheese and Ricotto Cheesecake with Jalapeno and Berries
This was one of a duo of desserts. The cheesecake was dense, rich and creamy; the heat of the jalapeno was quite subtle, interesting in tandem with the sweet berries and syrup.
Lastly, we were served a classic creme caramel (aka flan). Also rich and creamy, it was sweet but not overly so, with a good caramel flavor.
Noe and Chef Ishii presented a solid meal. The cuisine is rather simple and focused, with a clear emphasis on the ingredients. I thought the fish courses were the highlights here, which isn’t really a surprise given Ishii’s background.
Note: This was a sponsored meal.