Orsa & Winston
122 W 4th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 11/9/13
Orsa & Winston is Josef Centeno’s latest venture in his growing lineup of downtown restaurants. The highly-acclaimed Baco Mercat came first, quickly followed by Bar Ama and now Orsa & Winston next door. All three restaurants opened up within a span of two years and within a block of each other creating quite the Centeno base. For me, Centeno’s food has been a little hit-or-miss, but I was very intrigued by this restaurant given its fine dining concept.
The food at Orsa & Winston is described as fine dining with Japanese and Italian influences. After taking the helm of a few casual small plates restaurants, Centeno is drawing some of his experience during his time as chef de cuisine of Manresa in Northern California. A few menu options are available including a 5-course, 9 course and ridiculous sounding “super omakase” of ~20 courses priced at $60, $95 and $195 respectively. A family style option is also available, 4 courses for $50. Given this was my first time coming in and I haven’t been completely sold on Centeno’s food, we went with the 5-course as a sort of audition for a return trip on a larger meal.
fennel panna cotta, red curry squash, toasted maple
Slightly sweet and slightly savory, this amuse bouche started off the meal. The maple was an intriguing flavor pairing with the fennel.
kanpachi crudo, tangerine, shiso, shishito
Our first proper course was this crudo, centered around clean flavors of kanpachi. The tangerine segments didn’t add a lot of flavor but they did brighten up the bites; the shishito peppers provided some clear underlying heat. A solid dish but very similar to other crudos I’ve had recently.
milk bread foccacia, togarashi butter
Next up was the bread “course,” one of the best in recent memory. The bread was served hot, so light and fluffy…almost creamy on the inside. Really excellent, especially with the rich and spicy togarashi butter.
coddled egg, sherry whipped cream, pancetta
The egg was moderately cooked, with some of the whites fairly firm in texture. Sherry whipped cream provided a tart flavor to offset the rich egg, though I found it almost overly tart. Some pancetta added nice porky flavor to complete the bites. However, the cut of the shell was sloppy – is that too nitpicky?
puntarelle salad, anchovies, burrata
We strongly disliked this. The slivers of puntarelle were crisp and refreshing, but the dressing was very off-putting. I’m not sure how the burrata was incorporated, but there was a strong anchovy flavor.
satsuki rice, geoduck, uni, pecorino cream
The kitchen rebounded with this gem akin to a seafood risotto. The rice, holding up just a bit of chew, was creamy with a hint of citrus flavor. The uni and geoduck were both sweet and delicious, making each of these bites ones to savor.
braised beef, okinawa sweet potato agnolotti
This was another good dish. The pasta was tasty with its sweet filling, while the beef was tender and deep in flavor. A rich jus really brought everything together.
This intermezzo did its job with a bright, fresh pomegranate flavor.
hazelnut chocolate cake, rosemary butterscotch ice cream
The center of the dish was the rich chocolate cake topped with a light whipped creme fraiche. Good, but nothing special. The difference-maker for me was the delicious ice cream. Rich butterscotch was accented by the rosemary to make something really delicious, pairing very well with the chocolate.
madeleines, chocolate cream
The last treats of the evening came with the bill. The madeleines were solid as expected while the chocolate cream was excellent.
This was an interesting meal with a few strong highlights and a couple of real letdowns. The concept of the kanpachi dish lacked excitement nor dynamic flavor while the puntarelle salad was an absolute dud. However, I really enjoyed the milk bread foccacia, rice with uni/geoduck, braised beef and rosemary butterscotch ice cream. The 5-courser, with a bunch of extras, was a relatively good deal at $60 for downtown pricing. There were just enough positives for me to return for the 9-course sometime (combined with the fact that it’s close to where I live and work), but the “super omakase” definitely isn’t on my radar.