5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dining date: 7/13/12
Ray’s (and connected Stark Bar) has been a place I’ve wanted to try for some time now. Opened a little over a year ago, it’s somewhat quietly gained some strong accolades including being named a Best New Restaurant in 2011 by Esquire. It’s uniquely located on the LACMA campus in mid-city; on a Friday evening the place was bustling. There were a lot of people walking around (something was going on…still not sure what it was), making for an interesting place to dine and people-watch.
Given the restaurant is attached to a museum, the restaurant has some artsy touches of its own. One of these was the dining room table, which included drawers that opened up with silverware. How fun! I’m just glad the server pointed it out before we inquired about missing silverware.
The chef at Ray’s is Kris Morningstar, someone who’s been bouncing around LA for some time now (Blue Velvet, Casa, District). The concept is farm-to-table featuring a wood-burning oven and grill. The menu is pretty condensed with a number of appetizers, a few entrees, two pizzas and a few sides. We ended up ordering a bunch of items to share.
Warm, crusty bread was the first thing out of the kitchen. The first batch was excellent but the second one suffered from uneven reheating.
sorrel soup, lemon creme fraiche, marcona almonds
The kitchen sent out this amuse – a sorrel soup. The flavors were mainly grassy and tart, and the amuse as a whole was kind of refreshing.
calf’s brain haricot vert, hazelnut brown butter, preserved lemon
The calf’s brain was seared nicely leaving a silky soft interior. Some hazelnuts and waxy green beans rounded out the dish nicely.
corn agnolotti stuffed pasta, hazelnuts, lime brown butter, wild arugula, hen of the woods mushrooms
Good chewy agnolotti pasta was filled with a sweet corn filling. The pasta was covered in a rich butter sauce; arugula did a good job of balancing it out with a fresh, peppery bite.
bottarga squid ink bucatini, calabrian chile, mint, cherry tomatoes
I thought the pasta was kind of soft (overcooked?), but I enjoyed the flavors. The squid ink and bottarga provided the sea flavors while fresh mint really brightened things up.
calabrian pizza fiery salami, parmesan, garlic, mozzarella
I thought this pizza was pretty well done. A thin, charred crust held up a zesty tomato sauce and some pretty good salami.
farro broccoli di cicco, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, chili sauce, slow cooked egg
Loved the textures in this dish between the chewy farro and oozing egg yolk. Juicy cherry tomatoes packed a punch, while some chiles brought a lingering heat. There were a lot of components to this dish and I thought they all came together very well.
branzino potato gnocchi, piquillo peppers, sugar snap peas, olives
The branzino had a crispy skin but the meat may have been slightly overcooked. The small gnocchi were nice touch, while the snap peas provided some texture and sweetness.
chicken roulade anson mills grits, collard greens, roasted turnips, sea island red peas, crispy shallots
This simple chicken dish may have been the highlight of the night with its succulent and tender meat. It was pretty juicy and packed with herb accents, and the creamy grits were a good earthy accompaniment. Very nice.
hanger steak grilled scallions, charred onion puree, sungold tomatoes, smokey blue cheese, crispy bread, smoked marrow
This hanger steak was cooked well and really exuded a smoky aroma. Juicy tomatoes made a repeat appearance, adding some sweet and brighter flavors. I’m not sure I caught the marrow flavor, though.
We also ordered a couple of side dishes to go along with the entrees,
macaroni gratin, comte gruyere, buttered bread crumbs
The pasta was a little bit soft, but overall this was a good enough dish. The bread crumbs were an integral part of the plate for me.
frites josh’s ranch
This side didn’t fare quite as well, with many of the fries being rather oily and soggy. Ick.
Lastly the kitchen sent out some sweets, dubbed BTOs (Better than Oreos). I’m not sure I fully agreed with the title; they were different with a soft, crumbly cookie and richer cream filling.
The food at Ray’s was overall pretty good, particularly for something considered a ‘museum restaurant.’ The dishes seemed fairly simple in concept, allowing them to shine (or falter) pretty clearly. Given the most expensive thing we ordered was $25, I thought the prices were pretty reasonable; I’d come back if I were visiting the museum.