5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 1/16/14
I’ve generally considered Providence one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles since it opened in 2005. I first had chef Michael Cimarusti’s food at downtown’s Water Grill in college and followed him here. This was my fifth visit overall, but my first in about 3.5 years. I’m not totally sure what took me so long to return, but part of it was the fact that my last two visits didn’t live up to the high expectations created by the first two. Providence is consistently in the conversation of top special occasion fine dining restaurants in the city, so it’s a place I like to stop in every so often.
Cimarusti has been a busy man since my last visit and has presumably spent progressively less time in this kitchen, especially with the opening of Connie & Ted’s last year.
A number of menu options are available. A three course a la carte is $95, while 5-course and 9-course market tasting menus are $105 and $140, respectively. At the highest end, a chef’s tasting menu is available at $195 per person. We stuck to middle ground, ordering the 9 course market menu.
the resolution chamomile infused vodka, amaro nonino, grapefruit, orange blossom water, prosecco
Four amuse-bouches came in quick succession to begin the meal.
dark & stormy
As usual, the meal began with a unique take on a cocktail. This was a fun starter with a strong fresh ginger flavor to wake the tastebuds.
taco hokkaido sea scallop, sushi rice, nasturtium
The nasturtium was very aromatic, a vehicle for the sweet scallop and sticky sushi rice. Puffed rice provided the texture in this fun play on taco and sushi.
soymilk cream, puffed buckwheat, shiitake, nori
This dish was utterly savory with a lot of umami depth, while buckwheat added an earthy crunch.
chips and dip
Loved this dish. Salmon skin was fried up perfectly acting as the ‘chips’ in this course; salmon roe was an ideal way to add a fresh pop. Creative and well-executed.
wild fluke (virginia) pickled vegetables, coriander, pickled ginger
The first proper course of this meal featured tender fluke with acid from the pickled accompaniments. The vegetables provided a delicate crunch, though I found the flavors overall to be relatively muted following the amuse-bouches.
santa barbara sea urchin hiding beneath soft scrambled eggs, brioche, champagne beurre blanc
We rebounded with this dish, a very popular one at the restaurant. Rich egg and sea urchin flavors worked together as well as expected in the shell, while the champagne beurre blanc provided a subtle acid and added richness. Small bites of toasted brioche added a little crunch
wild spanish mackerel favas, arugula, artichoke, radish
The mackerel was a pretty rich and fatty fish cooked a delicate rare. The fattiness of the fish called for acid, though I found almost too much here. Accompanying flavor profiles were very similar to the fluke dish.
paper crane taketsuru 12yr japanese single malt, genmaicha tea, caramelized honey, yuzu
nancy’s day boat sea scallop (maine) beets, spiced hazelnut, ras el hanout
The scallop was cooked well with a nice sear; beet and hazelnut was an interesting flavor combination…though maybe not really my thing.
wild local halibut (california) turnip, jalapeño, puffed rice
The halibut was moist and cooked beautifully; delicious on its own, the turnip was a nice counterpoint. Unfortunately, a small halibut bone did catch a diner’s throat.
tenderloin of veal (holland, illinois) smoked cauliflower, di cecco broccoli, cippolini
The veal was as tender and delicious as I remembered – it’s been a mainstay on the menu for a long time now. The cauliflower and broccoli duo added a smoke accent and fresh bite, respectively.
libre homestead bourbon, cynar, cassis, chocolate chili, bitters, orange twist
citrus lemon curd, satsuma, carrot sorbet, angel food cake powder
Instead of the cheese course, I opted for a dessert substitution. The flavors were as bright and vibrant as the colors, with a sharp acidity balanced by a mellow lemon curd and angel food cake.
lemon cloud, marshmallow bavarois, oro blanco, raspberry, perilla
Tart accents were featured in this dessert countered by the creamy marshmallow. This moreso acted as a palate cleanser into our main dessert.
chocolate marquise chocolate sorbet, candied nibs, creme chantilly
A dense, moist cake was topped with a tasty chantilly cream. More chocolate flavor came in the form of a sorbet and I really liked the candied nibs for the textural contrast.
mignardises pear spiced rum gelee, vanilla creme fraiche macaron, caramel with cardamom
The meal at Providence was generally strong, though fell short of what I would generally expect from a two-star Michelin restaurant (not that LA’s had a guide since 2009). Execution was mostly strong (except for the halibut bone) and the service top-notch, but the tasting menu lacked much of the the creative flair found in the amuse-bouches. Flavor profiles were refined, but not all of them came together as well as I would’ve liked. I really do want to get the Chef’s Tasting next time since it’s substantially different from the 5/9 course I’ve gotten in my last three visits. Providence is still one of the better fine dining restaurants in LA in my opinion, but that’s also due to the fact that there’s been less and less competition in the space in the last few years.