LA Food & Wine: Lexus Grand Tasting (Los Angeles, CA)

Lexus Grand Tasting: Saturday
Los Angeles Food & Wine

LA Live
800 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 10/15/11

Los Angeles Food & Wine, in its first year, has become the biggest food event in the city. Spanning 4 days and around 50 events, it brought together a top-notch lineup of chefs/restaurants for a whirlwind of events priced between $50 and $2,000. Like the now-defunct American Wine & Food Festival, restaurants across the country were represented, not just LA – something that was a unique draw.

Most of the events featured just a handful of chefs, but there were a few tasting events offering access to a whole bunch. One was the Lexus Grand Tasting, held Saturday and Sunday, with an advertised 30 chefs/restaurants and 200 wineries (though, I’m pretty sure there were less of both in actuality) for an all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink affair at $195. I received a media pass to come taste and sip my way through the Saturday tasting.

The event took place at downtown’s LA Live. A very large tent was set up for some much-needed shade, while food and wine stands were disbursed throughout.

venue1

venue2

venue3

Lexus presented a “tasting lab” featuring a bunch of small bites and mixology demos throughout the afternoon.

lexus tasting

On to the food:

Ricardo Zarate (Picca, Mo-Chica) alpaca & chorizo crostini; diver scallop anticucho

picca1

picca2

Michel Richard (Citronelle) fried chicken with dijon mustard sauce

michel richard

Kenny Callaghan (Blue Smoke) peanut butter and pork (belly)

kenny callaghan

Graham Elliot (Graham Elliot) pumpkin bisque

graham elliot

Taylor Boudreaux (WP Bistro) rosemary rotisserie chicken with garlic mashed potatoes

wp bistro

Jared Van Camp (Old Town Social) fennel-scented salami

van camp

Chris Pandel (The Bristol) chilled crab, mussels and scallops in brown butter miso

bristol

Bradley Ogden (Root 246) duroc pork tenderloin, corn pudding, gremolata of bacon & corn, blackberry cipollini

ogden

Sam Christopher (Rosa Mexicano) duck confit taco

rosa mexicana

Joe Miller (Joe’s, Bar Pintxo) suckling pig sandwich; paella

joes

joes slider

joes paella

Rick Tramonto (Restaurant R’evolution) truffled short rib debris po’ boy

tramonto

Jason Harley (Pici Enoteca) lobster ravioli

pici enoteca

David LeFevre (MB Post) veal and pork albondigas

mb post

Roger Stettler (Four Seasons Maui) salmon tartare cone; lobster risotto

four seasons1

four seasons2

Bill Starbuck (Lucky Strike Lanes) short rib, garlic spinach, bread pudding

lucky strike

Michael Mina (Michael Mina) smoked squab shabu shabu

michael mina

Tyler Florence (Wayfare Tavern) cauliflower panna cotta, hamachi tartare

tyler florence

Todd English (Olives) skirt steak, beet risotto, blue cheese, roasted beets

todd english

Mark Peel (Campanile) mussels

mark peel

Kent Torrey (The Cheese Shop Carmel)

cheese1

cheese2

Hasty Torres (Madame Chocolat)

chocolates2

chocolates1

While it was reasonably possible to try all of the food, it was virtually impossible to make more than a small dent into the wine offerings.

wine1wine2wine3wine4

My favorite pour was from the Beaulieu Vineyard and their 2008 Georges de Latour Cabernet.

bv latour

Overall, I thought the food was good, but not great. I was expecting some more interesting dishes, especially from the chefs who flew across the country to do this. Still, there were a number of highlights including Michael Mina’s smoked squab shabu shabu. I love squab, and his dashi-based broth screamed umami. This was also the first time I’ve had alpaca; Ricaro Zarate combined the meat with smoky chorizo on top of crispy crostini. Jason Harley of Pici Enoteca churned out a really nice lobster ravioli – flavors and textures were spot on delicious. Joe Miller’s paella was just as good as the one I tried at Taste of the Nation, while Rosa Mexicano served up a succulent duck confit taco. Some of the misses included Tyler Florence’s panna cotta and Todd English’s overcooked skirt steak.

The event was well-run, and lines weren’t too bad at all. Todd English and Tyler Florence seemed to consistently have the longest lines, and those were probably in the 5-10 minute range. Given it’s just in its first year, I thought the Grand Tasting showed a lot of promise. I just hope the chefs kick it up a notch or two next year. 

Disclosure: This event was hosted.

WP24 (Los Angeles, CA)

WP24
The Ritz-Carlton
900 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 9/24/11

signage

There were only a few places on my dad’s list of places to try while in LA. Scarpetta’s brunch was one, Bouchon Bakery another, and WP24. I’ve been once before and was pleasantly surprised. It was more authentic than I imagined it to be and the food was pretty tasty. But, I’ve struggled with the cost a little bit. The tasting menu, at $130, is at the high end of most restaurants in LA. Plus, it was way too much food for one meal.

wp24 interior

This time, we opted for the a la carte menu. Three courses are $80 while a fourth will bring the total to $120. Cheaper, and apparently still a lot of food.

It’s easy to want to compare WP24 to some of the San Gabriel Valley’s finest, but I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. The experience is totally different. For starters, it’s in the Ritz Carlton with a really nice view of downtown LA. The decor, level of service, and quality of ingredients are on an entirely different level. I think the most legitimate peer group is to compare WP24 to other fine dining restaurants, whether it be Asian or not.

wp24 view

Sweet Basil Pinarita Patron Silver, Pineapple, Thai Basil

sweet basil pinarita

I’ve been on a thai basil kick lately, so I had to try this cocktail. The alcohol of the tequila definitely hit up front, but I think the sweetness of the pineapple and aroma of the thai basil helped to balance this out.

While we were still debating what to order from the extensive menu, we received a couple of amuse bouche. I found them both to be promising, but just lacking in something.

Shrimp Toast with Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce

shrimp toast

I thought the shrimp filling was very tasty, but found the exterior toast to be overly browned/crisped, having a a much crispier texture that I would’ve liked.

Curried Seafood Turnovers

seafood turnover

The second dish out of the kitchen were these turnovers. Again, good flavors with a subtle curry, but it was slightly dry.

We opted to each order an appetizer, with my mom going with the 3-course and my dad and I sharing the Peking Duck for a fourth course.

Crispy Suckling Pig Black Plum Purée, Sweet Bean, Chinese 10 Spice

suckling pig

I really liked these the last time I had them, but didn’t find the pork to be quite as flavorful this time (it was leaner this time too). It was still pretty good though, with a perfectly crisped skin.

Steamed Diver Scallop and Shrimp Sui Mai Dumplings Ginger-Garlic Crab Sauce, Fresh Chives

shrimp scallop dumplings

I liked the sweet, plump chunks of scallops and shrimp in these dumplings. I really enjoyed the flavors here, especially with the subtle ginger and garlic in the sauce. Very simple, but tasty.

Crisp Lettuce Cups Maine Sweet Shrimp, Rice Sticks, Pickled Ginger-Serrano Chili Vinaigrette

lettuce cups

The flavors were pretty clean here; I could taste the sweet shrimp, cilantro, and slight heat of the chili in that vinaigrette. The lettuce was, indeed, crisp, adding a welcome subtle texture to this dish.

Whole Sea Bass Baked in a Fragrant Salt Crust Zhenjiang Black Vinegar, Ginger, Shallots, Scallions, Mala Flavored Oil

sea bass

The fish was first presented in its salt crust, then taken back to remove from the salt and plate. I thought the fish was pretty good..it wasn’t overly moist but wasn’t dry either. However, I thought it a little difficult to find the tiny bones in the fish especially when it was so dark in the restaurant. At this price level, I expected to have the bones removed.

“Szechuan Style” Steak Au Poivre Prime Filet of Beef 10oz., Smoked Chili-Shallot Sauce, Scallions, “La You” Hot Oil

steak au poivre

A solid piece of steak, very tender and cooked well. The sauce added some depth of flavor with a very mild heat. Nothing too exciting, but done well.

Grilled Lamb Chops Marinated with Korean Gochu Jang Chili Pickled Ginger Sauce, Crispy Garlic, Wild Arugula Salad

lamb chops

Similar to the filet, the lamb was cooked a nice medium-rare. The arugula was a nice touch (always like it with red meat), adding a fresh, bittery flavor to go along with the ginger-based sauce.

We also ordered a couple of sides to go along with the entrees.

Shanghai Noodles Fresh Chilies, Thai Basil Leaves, Slow Cooked Oxtail

shanghai noodles

I really liked this one. A noodle dish with oxtail and thai basil? Money. The oxtail was rich and tender, while the thai basil brought a really nice aromatic essence to the dish.

XO Fried Rice Maine Lobster, Fried Shallots, Budding Chives

xo rice

A good fried rice, for sure, but I was looking for something more at $18 a bowl. I thought the small pieces of lobster were overcooked, too.

Whole Roasted Duckling “Peking Style” with Traditional Garnishes (For Two)

peking duck

duck2

duck buns

duck accoutrements

My dad and I shared one additional entree. A whole duck was presented then cut, served with all the traditional accoutrements including the buns, cucumber, scallions, radish and hoisin sauce. It was seriously a feast that the table could barely contain, and the duck was done really well. Good flavor with a really nice, crispy skin.

While we were pretty full by now, the a la carte menu included dessert – five of them were available to choose from. Apparently, WP24 is in a transitional phase in their pastry department, with Cassie Ballard taking over the reigns from Sally Camacho. We tried a little bit of the old, and a little bit of the new.

Marjolasian Layers of Dark Chocolate, White Espresso Mousse, Cashew Nougatine, Coffee Ice Cream

Marjolasian

A classic from Camacho’s menu – beautiful layers of chocolate, espresso and a nutty noutatine. Loved the design. The crispy wafers were so delicate and crisp, and each layer displayed a unique flavor. A complete bite through each layer contained a rich chocolate-espresso flavor, as well as a nice crunch from the wafers and nougatine. The coffee ice cream was delicious.

Birds Nest Chocolate Truffle Cake, Crisp Won Tons, Condensed Milk Ice Cream, Fresh Raspberries

birds nest1

birds nest2

One of the entrants from Ballard’s mind, I thought this was another interesting one. A rich chocolate truffle was contained inside this “nest” made of wonton wrappers. How cool! When cracked, the molten center oozed out; really nice with the creamy condensed milk ice cream, as well as the textural interplay of the fried wonton wrapper. Imaginative play on the traditional Chinese Bird’s Nest Soup.

cookies

The bill came with cookies and an almond tuile.

I again left WP24 satisfied and very full. I think some of the plates were really well-done and justified their price tag (lettuce cups, Shanghai noodles, Peking duck, both desserts and maybe suckling pig), while some were probably best saved for a favorite restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley (XO rice, maybe lamb/beef).

Three courses ($80) is probably an appropriate amount of food for most. But yeah, it’s still rather expensive. If I had to choose an expense-account dinner in downtown LA, this would probably be it. Also, I think it’s a really solid option as a special occasion restaurant for non-Japanese Asian food.

Totoraku (Los Angeles, CA) (2)

Totoraku
10610 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dining date: 9/26/11

signage

Totoraku (AKA ‘secret beef restaurant’) is one of the more unique dining experiences in LA. I thought it would be a good idea for my parents to come and eat here while they were in town. Plus, my dad loves beef as much as I do. As far as I know, they don’t have quite the same type of yakiniku experience in the Bay Area. Given I don’t have the ability to make a reservation, this would prove tricky. However, my friend was kind enough to make one and dine with us.

I handled the alcohol duty, always fun since Totoraku is strictly BYOB.

drinks

krug

Of my three visits, the menu has varied very little, with much of the differentiation being in the first appetizer course.

appetizers

Shrimp with caviar, fresh abalone, asparagus, proscuitto with lemon, momotaru tomatoes, smoked salmon, king crab with mushroom, black sesame tofu and bluefin tuna with okra is what I remember from this plate. Always hard to catch everything on here. For the most part, this is the chef’s lone creative outlet in a menu full of raw beef dishes. Basically a plate of 9 different amuse bouche, the flavors are typically on the lighter side, just enough to get the appetite going. My favorite would have to have been the bluefin tuna with  okra – something about the slimy and crunchy texture of the okra went well the flavorful tuna.

Sirloin Cap Carpaccio

carpaccio

The onion was a key component adding the brightness of raw onion, contrasting the rich, well-marbled meat. A well-made carpaccio, indeed.

Seared Ribeye and Beef Throat Sashimi

seared ribeye and beef throat

The ribeye was fine (it was about as expected), but I rarely see beef throat on a menu…let alone raw. Slightly chewy but I liked the texture, with a rather mild beef flavor. I just wonder what happens to all of the other cow throats out there.

Ha. Oh, the irony.

warning sign

Steak Tartare topped with Quail Egg

tartare

A solid tartare. I think the quail egg, stirred into the mixture, really added a richness that brought everything together. I think there was a touch of light soy sauce here, a differentiating flavor from a French steak tartare.

The grill signals the start of the GYOM stage…that is, grill your own meats (yay!). The progression of courses have been exactly the same as my previous visits, so I won’t comment individually.

grill

Beef Tongue

tongue

Filet Mignon

filet

Assorted Raw Vegetables

veggies

Momotaru Tomatoes

momotaru

Outside Ribeye

outside ribeye

cooking

Inside Ribeye

inside ribeye

Short Rib

short rib

Skirt Steak

skirt

Alaskan King Crab Udon Soup

crab udon

crab udon soup

We passed on dessert (ice cream), opting for Scoops Westside’s instead.

While the meats are certainly a highlight, the king crab udon may have been the most memorable dish of the night. I was glad they had this since my dad loves crab, and it’s really an impressive looking dish. It’s served in a huge bowl ready for sharing, topped with large chunks of crab legs and udon. So good. Seriously. If anything, it’s on the spicier end of my lame-ass tolerance, which means it’s probably just right (or mild) for most. Still, I love myself some soup noodles (udon was one of my favorites growing up), and the meaty crab legs just added to the fun. An excellent dish.

At about $200 a head, Totoraku isn’t cheap. It’s probably more expensive than it needs to be (heck, you do all of the cooking), but that seems to be the market price of a top-notch yakiniku place in LA. I think it’s worth at least one visit for the experience. The combination of variety and quality of beef is second to none in LA, and it’s really a treat for any lover of beef. The meat is pretty well-marbled, marinated just right and delicious. And that Alaskan king crab soup is something to behold. Oh, and it’s a fun experience too.

Previous Tototaku posts:
8/7/107/9/11

Le Saint Amour (Culver City, CA)

Le Saint Amour
9725 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Dining date: 10/4/11

I’ve been hearing a lot of positive things about Le Saint Amour, a French bistro in Culver City. What really got this restaurant on my radar was that Walter Manzke (whom I am a huge fan of) was brought on as a consulting chef late last year. Granted, the involvement of a “consulting chef” varies widely (couldn’t any restaurant on “Kitchen Nightmares” boast Gordon Ramsay as a consulting chef?), but my interest was piqued. A BlackboardEats 30% off deal was exactly the tipping point I needed to come in.

The menu is classic French – think charcuterie, escargot and moules/steak frites. Our party of four decided on four appetizers and five entrees.

Chef Bruno’s Charcuterie Plate assortment of housemade pâtés and terrines

charcuterie

I don’t appreciate charcuterie as much as I’d like…I’d almost always prefer a cooked slab of meat. However, of all of the meats on this plate (most of which I don’t recall), I enjoyed the duck prosciutto the most (bottom left).

Escargots de Bourgogne Burgundy snails, garlic, parsley, puff pastry

escargot

A great example of the classic dish here. Strong garlic, parsley and butter flavors complemented the tender and chewy snails. The puff pastry was done well too, flaky and served hot.

Steak Tartare hand cut hanger steak, mesclun salad

steak tartare

I liked the presentation of the tartare, particularly the uniformity of the chop and the colors. Unfortunately, it didn’t taste as good as it looked; there was something in here that was overly acidic and tart, overshadowing the beefy flavor. I did like the textures in the tartare, but that wasn’t enough to save it.

Crispy Veal Sweetbread braised mustard greens, roasted grapes, mustard, bacon

veal sweetbreads

Probably the best of the appetizers we ordered. The breading was light and crispy, while the sweetbreads was moist. I thought the mustard greens added some body, while the roasted grapes contributed welcome sweet and fruity accents to the dish.

Chef Bruno’s Housemade Sausages (Lyonnaise, Toulouse, boudin noir) summer shelling beans, tomatoes, kale

sausage

Advertised as three different sausages and explained as such when it came to our table, we were surprised to find that we actually got only two variations – one boudin noir and two of the Toulouse. Only once we inquired were we told that they were out of the third sausage. I thought this was a bit dishonest of the restaurant, feeling as thought they tried to slip one past us.

merguez

We were supplemented by some merguez sausage, which may have been the best of the bunch. I’m just glad we didn’t get extra boudin noir. It was undercooked, leaving a chewy and difficult-to-eat casing, as well as a pudding-like sausage that bled out of the casing when cut (pun intended!).

Steak Frites prime beef flat iron steak, beurre MaȊtre d’Hotel, french fries

steak

Adding to our entree drama, we were informed their fryer broke – french fries were no longer available. Sounded like this had been a frequent occurence lately, given one person at our table had the same thing happen less than a week prior. I think the fries are an integral part of steak frites or moules frites, so I wasn’t too enthused to hear the options were a salad or sauteed vegetables. After some back-and-forth, we got a substitute side of kale with bacon, shallots and lemon.

The steak was tougher than I expected but had good flavor and was cooked well. Expectanctly, the butter added a welcome richness and some herbal depth of flavor. The kale was quite good too, with the lemon and bacon being key flavor profiles.

Roasted Jidori Chicken ratatouille Provençale, chicken jus

roasted chicken

I was expecting a portion of a traditional whole-roasted chicken, but this variation was a half-chicken pounded thin and pan-roasted. This allowed for a very crispy skin while the meat was delicious. The ratatouille provided some bright flavors that I thought paired pretty well with the chicken.

Moules Frites mussels, saffron, white wine, tomato, basil, french fries

moules

Potatoes au Gratin

potatoes

Our substituted side for the mussels was potatoes au gratin. I found the mussels to be tiny, but the broth was excellent. It really benefited from the saffron, which added a subtle aromatic characteristic to the broth. The potatoes were solid, but I was really missing some crispy fries to dip into the broth.

Boeuf Bourguignon red wine braised beef cheek, bacon, butter noodles

beef cheeks

Tender chunks of beef cheek were smothered in the rich braising liquid. Very flavorful and very good. The butter noodles (finally, an appropriate starch) were good as well, sopping up the rest of the sauce.

We ordered quite a bit of food, so we opted to split just one dessert.

Profiteroles au Chocolat vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate sauce

profiteroles

Pretty good profiteroles here. Kept simple, I thought the ice cream and chocolate sauce were both solid, while the choux pastry was light. Always love the hot-cold and vanilla-chocolate tandems.

Overall, my experience at Le Saint Amour was disappointing. Maybe my expectations were too high, but quite frankly, I’m glad we didn’t pay full price. There were clearly some highlights to the meal, offset by some lows too (boudin noir, steak tartare). Plus, the sausage and french fry issues really detracted a lot from the food. I’ve been told I need to try their brunch out, but I’m not in a hurry to do that.

Lukshon (Culver City, CA)

Lukshon
3239 Helms Ave
Culver City, CA 90232
Dining date: 9/27/11

lukshon exterior

I first went to Lukshon when it opened in February and really enjoyed it. I even had random cravings to come back, but for some reason it took 8 months. The restaurant recently started lunch service; I thought it would be a good time to bring the parents while they were in town.

Lukshon does a surprisingly good job of using flavors throughout Asia. While a traditionalist wouldn’t say the dishes are authentic to any particular region, I think the flavors are authentic – just used in some different ways. But what do I know, I’ve never been to Asia.

I really like the sleek, modern look of Lukshon, and it looks even better in the daytime.

lukshon interior

We first started with some drinks. A wide variety of wines, beers and cocktails were on offer but we opted for some of the non-alcoholic options.

wenshan baozhong oolong spring 2011 (taiwan) floral, melon

oolong

An iced oolong tea seemed ideal for lunch on a sunny day. It was pretty mild in flavor but refreshing. I loved that it was kept unsweetened too.

rau ram lime soda

soda

My mom opted for this housemade soda showcasing the eastern Asian flavor of rau ram (Vietnamese coriander). I thought the herbal flavor really came through and, with the addition of the citrus notes, made for another refreshing drink.

vietnamese coffee

viet coffee

After ordering drinks, I heard someone in the background mention “Vietnamese coffee” and instantly remembered the great one I had the last time I was here. I also remembered I was up until 4am that night. But hey, this was lunch and I was on vacation, so I opted for an extra caffeine fix here. Subtly sweet with a very deep, bold coffee flavor, I enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

shrimp toast rock shrimp, cilantro, chiles, tiny croutons

shrimp toast

Small pieces of flavorful shrimp were packed in and breaded, making for some nice bursts of flavor in each bite. I enjoyed the textures of the delicately crispy exterior and the moist interior. While different, I think I liked them better than the ones I had at WP24 just three days prior.

spicy chicken pops shelton farms’ drumettes, garlic, kecap manis, spicy sichuan salt

chicken pops

I remembered not caring for these the first time I had them, though I think this must be one of the most popular items on the menu. I was able to pick up more of the flavors this time, and I’m glad the heat is pretty subdued…though still not one of my favorites. I just can’t appreciate the spice, but I think my dad really enjoyed them.

duck confit spring roll cabbage, woodear mushroom, herbs

duck rolls

Unfortunately, I thought the cabbage and mushrooms overpowered the duck here. Couldn’t taste the meat at all; instead there was a very strong earthy flavor. In a blind taste test, I probably would’ve guessed these were vegetarian.

softshell crab green mango, chile sambal, shallot lime gastrique, peanuts

soft shell1

soft shell2

A standout dish here. The crab was fried to perfection, leaving a crispy light batter and an exceedingly moist meat inside. Surprisingly moist. I thought the flavor of the crab itself was nice, but the green mango and lime gastrique really added some nice acidity and sweetness to complement the crab.

x.o. rice jasmine rice, x.o. sauce, long beans, egg

xo rice

A solid fried rice – I liked the small bits of waxy (and slightly crunchy) long beans dispersed throughout.

chiang mai curry noodles chile, tumeric, lemongrass, chicken, yu choy, rice noodles

curry noodles

I thought this bowl of noodles was very well balanced between the lemongrass, citrus of the lime and the heat of the curry. Very comforting and full of flavor. Chunks of dark meat chicken made this a more substantial dish, while the large cracker-looking things were actually fried chicken skin…very cool.

brown sugar butterscotch brownie

dessert

As always, dessert is complimentary at Lukshon. I wasn’t particularly enthused by the dessert; I found the dinner desserts last time to be infinitely more interesting. Still, pretty good bites of brownie (served cold), exhibiting a dense butterscotch flavor.

Lukshon provided another good meal, and I think my parents and I unanimously agreed it to be the best lunch (over Scarpetta and Marche Moderne) on their trip. It might be my favorite of the “upscale Asian” restaurants in LA (it’s difficult to compare to WP24, but definitely over Red Medicine and Spice Table). Outside of the duck spring rolls, the dishes were tasty and well-executed. I’ll definitely be back…hopefully it won’t take 8 months again.

Scarpetta Brunch (Beverly Hills, CA)

Scarpetta Beverly Hills
Montage Beverly Hills
225 North Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 9/25/11

exterior

I haven’t been back to Scarpetta since the opening night truffle tasting dinner last October, one of my most memorable meals last year. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but there have been so many other dining options as distractions. So, when my parents came to town and wanted to try their brunch, it was an opportune time to come back.

The brunch is served buffet-style, $68 including non-alcoholic drinks. Not cheap, but it’s a nice restaurant in a nice hotel. The food options feature a few dishes that can regularly be found on Scarpetta’s dinner menu, as well as a whole range of what I’d call standard brunch fare. Representing Scarpetta were a couple of crudo dishes and a couple of pastas, including the famed spaghetti. Other brunch items varied from breads and salads to omelettes and waffles, to a seafood and sushi bar, and a carving station featuring prime rib and leg of lamb.

For my stomach space, I focused in on the pastas, meats and seafood. There’s no way I’m filling up on pancakes or waffles when it could be prime rib, crab claws or spaghetti…but that’s just me.

Live music, a nice touch.

music

Assorted Breads and Pastries

bread1

bread2bread3

Caramelized Cauliflower toasted almonds, fried capers

cauliflower

Grilled Asparagus parmigiano, hazelnuts

asparagus

Grilled Zucchini hard boiled eggs, gremolata breadcrumbs

zucchini

Fagolini & Potatoes pickled onions

fagoli

Roasted Beets ricotta salata, pistachios

beets

Marinated Mushrooms thyme, toasted fennel salad

mushroom

Mixed Green Salad oregano vinaigrette

salad

Citrus Cured Salmon lemon, dill, horseradish

salmon

Tuna “Susci” lemon, olive oil

tuna

Shellfish: Kumiai oysters, Snow crab legs, Shrimp cocktail

seafood

Assorted Italian Meats

meats

Customized Omelette Station

omelette

French Toast

french toast

Pancakes

pancakes

Waffles

waffles

Assorted Sushi

sushi

Assorted Cheeses

cheese

Sliders

sliders

Macaroni & Cheese

mac cheese

French Fries

french fries

Chicken Tenders

chicken tenders

Spaghetti tomato & basil

spaghetti

Ricotta Ravolini baby stewed tomatoes

ravolini

Prime Rib barolo reduction & horseradish

prime rib

Leg of Lamb minted salsa verde

lamb

I started in on the cold dishes first – the crudo, sushi and seafood. I thought the crudo and seafood were both good, while the sushi was unmemorable (my first sushi at an Italian restaurant?). I particularly enjoyed the crab claws – big, meaty and sweet. Between the two crudo I might’ve preferred the citrusy salmon, but they were both good.

plate2

My mom started with a customized omelette as well as some of the cold dishes.

plate1

I went for a “pasta course” next. The pastas were made frequently in small batches (approx. every 5 minutes) so as to keep them fresh at all times. I swear I heard “Fire spaghetti!” every time I walked into the kitchen. I thought the spaghetti was pretty close to what I remember for dinner service, which I was happy about. Like the carving station, the pasta station was constantly manned by a chef for quality control. I’ve never had the ravolini for dinner before. I found the pasta itself to be nice, but the sauce to be very runny.

plate3

My next plate went in for some meats, more seafood and a few miscellaneous brunch items. I requested medium-rare for both meats and got it, and I thought they were both done well. The other items on my plate were mediocre – dry, bland sausage and soggy French fries.

plate4

Back for more spaghetti.

plate5

An impressive array of desserts were on offer from Montage Pastry chef Richard Ruskell, some of which I was able to try at The Taste. Really liked the variety here, and everything was sized to sample.

Assorted Desserts

dessert1dessert2dessert3dessert4

dessert5

No way can I recall everything, but we were able to make a (very) small dent into the offerings. If a to-go bag was an option, I would’ve gone to town here. Unfortunately, I was running short on room in my stomach.

plate6

My mom’s plate: bombolini, cookies, fruit tart and a panna cotta.

plate7

I went for three desserts in a glass, from left to right: salted caramel budino, tiramisu and a spicy chocolate pudding with tapioca. I was quite pleased by all three of these, with my favorite probably being the tiramisu.

plate8

My dad opted for more chocolate-based desserts including a tart, layered cake, cookies and a yuzu meringue tart.

Scarpetta’s brunch was good, but not great. For $68 I was expecting a little bit more, especially since the price doesn’t include any alcohol. Going in, I thought this would be a good way to get a taste of Scarpetta in a more casual setting, but it’s a very different experience. I felt this was more like “Brunch at the Montage” rather than “Brunch at Scarpetta” as the restaurant’s representation was less than I anticipated. The dishes unique to Scarpetta were very solid; I just wish there were more. The menu online, as well as previous reviews, had additional offerings (whole-roasted branzino, yellowtail crudo) so I was disappointed to see they may have cut back. It’s unfortunate since I’ve experienced first-hand that this restaurant has much more to offer. I’ll surely be back, but I’m sticking to dinner.