Bistronomics: Lucky 13
Westfield Century City
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Century City, CA 90067
Dining date: 10/22/11
Lucky 13 is the latest “Bistronomics” pop-up from the team of Jet Tila (Wazuzu) and Alex Ageneau (formerly of The Royce). The fourth in their “Bistronomics” series, the core concept remains the same – creating upscale food in a casual environment for a reasonable price. Sounds simple enough, right?
I attended the second iteration of Bistronomics in April (“Play With Your Food”) and found that meal to be quite good. I missed out on the third, but found myself at this fourth “Bistronomics” at Breadbar Century City. This latest incarnation had a menu largely driven by Ageneau’s French background, with 11 a la carte dishes priced between $8 and $18.
We tried everything:
Foie gras torchon apple puree, toasted brioche
Marc Bredif, Vouvray, Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley, France 2009
We started with a generous portion of the foie gras torchon (though I think this was a double-portion). It was velvety smooth with a rich, foie gras flavor – perfect for spreading on the crusty brioche. A classic dish well-done.
Lobster bisque water chestnuts, tarragon
I’m familiar with water chestnuts in Chinese cuisine and was intrigued to see them here. The bisque exuded a strong lobster flavor while the water chestnuts provided just a slight crunch for texture. A welcome dish given the cold evening.
Scallops poached in beets, leek salad, crunchy black olives
Beautiful presentation here. The scallops were prepared in a unique way (poached with beets), giving them the pinkish hue. The leeks added some earthy body, while the crunchy black olives provided a slight crunch to each bite.
Grandma’s seafood gratin scallops, mussels, creamed leeks, button mushrooms, cream sauce
Domaine des Lauriers, Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France 2010
This was supposedly the first dish Ageneau learned to make from his grandmother. Really comforting and homey (it screams ‘rustic French!’), it had a lot of the flavors of a clam/seafood chowder. The interior was creamy and rich (yet not overly so), while toasted breadcrumbs on top added a really nice textural element.
Cod brandade cuttlefish and chorizo ragu
Here we had a sort of yin and yang of light fishy brandade with a rich, meaty ragu (as well as crostini for sopping it up). Very different flavors, and I’m not sure they came together as intended.
Tree in the forest confit of salsify, crispy maitake mushrooms with garlic & herbs
Joseph Drouhin, Brouilly, Gamay, Beaujolais, France 2010
The exterior of the salsify was charred, bringing out some of the inherent sweetness of the root vegetable. The maitake mushrooms were delicious, while the garlic and herb sauce rounded out all of the earthy flavors on the plate.
Oxtail banh mi oxtail ragu, melted brie, grapes, pickled cauliflower, baguette
I was really looking forward to this one. The brie and grapes added more traditional French flavors to the already French-influenced banh mi. I liked the combination, though preferred more oxtail as the brie and grapes seemed to be the star (though, I think the most traditional banh mi are not as meat-centric as more “American” sandwiches).
Braised pork belly savoy cabbage, watermelon radish, pork/sesame consomme
The pork belly here was relatively lean (which I liked), though still tender and flavorful. Still, it was a rich cut of meat and I think the cabbage was critical in cutting through some of that.
Flat iron steak crispy pee wee potatoes, shallot/whiskey marmalade
Marc Bredif, Chinon, Cabernet Franc, Loire Valley, France 2009
Essentially, a simple meat-and-potatoes dish. Both the potatoes and steak were perfectly executed; however I thought the shallot/whiskey marmalade really elevated the dish, adding a savory sweetness to each bite. The baby purslane was a nice touch, too.
Pear clafoutis coffee cream
The cakey clafoutis was tasty, moist and mildly sweet. The same could’ve been said of the pears. A little bit of coffee flavor added some depth.
Chocolate ganache orange supreme, gingerbread, lemon basil
The ganache was pudding-like in consistency with a hearty chocolate flavor. Pretty tasty, while the gingerbread crumble added some crunchy texture. I really enjoyed the lemon basil, which added bursts of aromatic, savory flavors to pair with the chocolate.
This was another good meal. “Bistronomics” delivered upon its promise – the food was inventive and creative…interesting. Most importantly, I thought flavors were on point for the most part, with my favorites being the foie gras torchon, seafood gratin and flat iron steak.
Various reports have suggested that Tila and Ageneau will open something more permanent in LA. It seems that they are still playing around with the type of food at these pop-ups, but the core concept “Bistronomics” will surely be at the center.