Le Comptoir (Los Angeles, CA)

Le Comptoir
Tiara Cafe
127 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 3/29/12

tiara cafe

Le Comptoir has been sort of a longer-term pop-up, occupying the Tiara Cafe space in downtown’s fashion district for a number of months now. For three days a week (Thurs-Sat), Gary Menes cooks his version of seasonal farm-to-table food. What I found pretty unique (and very intriguing) about this dinner was that essentially all seating is at the kitchen counter – diners get an upfront look into each and every dish being prepared.

counter

A la carte is not offered at Le Comptoir; rather, each diner is served a vegetarian five course tasting menu ($52). That’s right, vegetarian. Meats are available through a number of supplements (if all are taken, the cost of the meal rises to $106), but the focal point of the meal is definitely on the produce. A four-wine pairing is also available for $24.

We decided to order one “base” menu and one with all of the supplements in order to try everything.

croquette fromage, pesto aioli

croquette fromage

First we were served this amuse; it was a hollow croquette with a dense, cheesy crust. The pesto provided some brightness and acidity…as well as the bulk of the flavor.

The housemade bread was served early and often, and had a subtle sourdough flavor with a delightful crispy crust.

le comptoir bread

okinawan sweet potato velouté, farinette, yogurt, green garlic, herbs
mas bruguiere les muriers 2009; coteaux du languedoc; roussanne, marsanne

soup before pour

pouring soup

roasted french foie gras, dried cherry compote, saba (supplement)
mas bruguiere les muriers 2009; coteaux du languedoc; roussanne, marsanne

foie

These were the first course options. The veloute was a hearty soup with a creaminess and subtle tart flavor from the yogurt. I thought it had good earthy flavor, while the crispy bread added texture.

The supplement featured a silky and creamy seared foie gras, complemented by a bittersweet cherry flavor. The execution was on point, but I thought there could’ve been some more exciting accompaniments to the liver.

kitchen

sunny side-up egg, young lettuce, herbs, jus vert
mas neuf paradox 2010; cote du rhone blanc; grenache blanc, roussanne

egg

composed egg

“asperge vert” et oeuf sur la plat, reggiano, beurre noisette, citron (supplement)
mas neuf paradox 2010; cote du rhone blanc; grenache blanc, roussanne

egg asparagus

Second courses. This first one was a little interactive, where you add the compound butter, lettuce and herbs. Finally, the jus is poured over the top. The egg was cooked perfectly, showing off a rich and creamy (and huge!) egg yolk that went very well with the lettuce and herbs; a green vegetable juice was a difference-maker adding a bright, bitter flavor in each bite.

The supplemental dish featured some delicious sweet and smoky thick-stalk asparagus. A little bit of citrus was a nice accompaniment, as were the rich egg and crunchy croutons.

“veggie plate” beets, pickled onion petals, turnips, radish, kohlrabi, pears, rutabaga, grapes, scallions, fava beans, celtuce
domaine du fresche, alain boré; anjou rouge loire valley 2010; cabernet franc

veggie plate

house made fettucini, black winter truffles (supplement)
domaine du fresche, alain boré; anjou rouge loire valley 2010; cabernet franc

plating fettucine

fettucine black truffles

Third courses. The first was very simple, highlighting a bunch of fresh produce. Some were roasted, some were blanched, and each showcased their own clean flavors. I enjoyed tasting each one separately…my favorite had to have been the delectably sweet fava beans.

The supplement was hands down the most anticipated dish of the evening for me. The unmistakable truffle essense easily came through in a strong way, but the house made fettucine was lacking the desired al dente texture. It was soft. Tragic. A very light cream sauce kept it simple, letting the truffle flavor come through.

“flavors of tangerine beef broccoli”, pea tendrils, broccoli, black forbidden rice, caramelized onion jus, tangerine
luc lapeyre san bres 2010; minervois, coteaux de languedoc; grenache, syrah, mourvédre

tangerine beef

“poitrine de porc”, slow braised heritage pork belly, stone ground grits, apples, greens, white wine braised leeks (supplement)
luc lapeyre san bres 2010; minervois, coteaux de languedoc; grenache, syrah, mourvédre

pork

Fourth courses. This first was a vegetarian take on ‘tangerine beef.’ I enjoyed the broccolini and pea tendrils, particularly with the orange citrus. The black rice was made to resemble beef; texturally I think it did, but there was no mistaking that this was an earthy grain and not cattle flesh.

The pork belly was expectantly tender and fatty, accompanied by some underseasoned grits, sweet apples, and an olive-based sauce. It’s hard to go wrong with braised pork belly and it was delicious here, but I’m not sure the rest of the plate did much to elevate it.

chocolate, blood orange, vanilla tuile, sour cream, pistachio, graham cracker, mint

dessert

There was only one option for the last course, dessert. The cake was very moist, while a myriad of flavors including sweet strawberry, tart blood orange and a deep chocolate flavor heightened the dish. A whipped creme fraiche was a nice topping too, completing a light yet satisfying dessert.

Coffee is available at the end of the meal from Handsome Coffee Roasters. Menes prepares the coffee with some of the most painstaking detail I’ve seen outside of an actual coffee bar. He even uses water sourced directly from Handsome itself. As expected, it yields a great cup.

coffee making

handsome coffee

I thought Le Comptoir was a good meal, though not without its flaws. While a lot of restaurants try to showcase seasonal and farm-to-table produce, I found the quality to be much more apparent in this meal than others. Though, maybe that was because the vegetable-centric nature of the meal forced one to. Indeed, I found the strictly vegetarian plates to be more interesting and more successful than the supplemental ones containing meat. Given this and the fact that the supplements doubled the price of the meal, I think many of them weren’t worth the splurge. It was unfortunate that the execution of the fettucine with truffles wasn’t spot on – it had to be in order to be successful.

My main concern with vegetable-centric meals (which I know is shared with others) is the fact that meals tend to be lighter and sometimes less filling. However, I think Menes composed his plates in a way that was individually interesting and for the most part, well-rounded. While one may not leave full, I think most stomachs would at least leave content. If not, Mexicali Taco is nearby and open late.


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