Providence (Los Angeles, CA)

Providence
5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 1/16/14

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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.

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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.

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Evan Funke @ this is not a pop-up (Los Angeles, CA)

this is not a pop-up: Evan Funke
Square One
4854 Fountain Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Dining date: 2/6/13

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this is not a pop-up, housed in Hollywood’s Square One Dining space, follows a similar concept to the now-defunct Test Kitchen, housing chefs for a short period of time to cook whatever they want. It’s a concept that I really liked then, and enjoy just as much now as it keeps things new and interesting. Evan Funke, of Rustic Canyon fame (and developed one of LA’s most notable burgers) stepped into the restaurant for one night to preview his menu for upcoming Bucato.

Bucato, developed in the old Beacon restaurant in the Helms Bakery complex (with Father’s Office and Lukshon), has faced a number of delays (first rumored to open in December). While working on the opening of his Italian restaurant and “pasta laboratorio,” Funke started up a food truck serving only one thing – porchetta sandwiches. I recently tried it and, while not exactly a traditional porchetta, it was delicious.

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It convinced us to try more of Funke’s food, bringing us to his pop-up menu of eight courses priced at $65.

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Lexington Social House (Hollywood, CA)

Lexington Social House
1718 Vine St
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Dining date: 1/8/12

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I first took notice of Lexington Social House during last year’s Taste of the Nation, where their fried chicken was one of my favorites of the afternoon. My second encounter with the restaurant was at The Taste where, again, the fried chicken was one of my favorites of the event. In both instances, white meat was served and it was full of juicy flavor with a crunchy batter. Addicting. It quickly became a restaurant I wanted to visit.

Located at the intersection of Hollywood & Vine, it definitely fits into the lounge/bar “nightlife” category where I always seem to be skeptical of the food. However, who says a trendy Hollywood restaurant can’t also be serious about the food?

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My skepticism peaked when we were the only ones in the restaurant at 6:30. For a restaurant with a sizeable dining room and expansive lounge, I was a bit surprised. “It’s early” we told ourselves; actually, we were one of only two parties in the restaurant throughout the duration of our meal. For shame; the restaurant was better than that.

We ordered some cocktails to start.

THE HONEYVINE pisco porton, st germain elderflower, honey syrup, lime juice, fresh cucumber, lavender bitters

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MAPLE HILL blended scotch whisky, maple syrup, angostura bitters, orange bitters, islay scotch rinse

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THE LEXINGTON earl-grey infused woodford reserve bourbon, honey, lemon juice, orange bitters

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LA CURA casa noble tequila, mescal rinse, lemon juice, ginger syrup, agave nectar

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I was just coming down with a cold so I didn’t try anything other than my cocktail – the Maple Hill. Flavors of maple and citrus were the main flavors I got from this one, balancing the bite of the scotch.

FENNEL CURED SALMON TARTARE dill aioli, cucumbers, capers, red onions

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The salmon was good, albeit a little fishy. The dill aioli was a nice touch for the classic dill-salmon pairing, while fried onions added some delicate texture.

CELERY ROOT RAVIOLI black truffles

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This was one of the appetizer specials – the pasta was cooked well with a warm, creamy filling from the celery root. A light butter sauce complemented the pasta, but the black truffle flavor was fairly muted.

SONOMA PORK BELLY honey chipotle glaze, local apples, fennel, orange vinaigrette

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Fatty and meaty, the pork belly had a welcome crispiness to it and was quite flavorful. The accompanying slaw of apples, fennel and vinaigrette were cool and refreshing, and I thought they did a nice job of cutting through the richness of the belly.

HAMACHI COLLAR grapefruit, pomegranate, shishito peppers, cilantro, soy

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Given the relatively straightforward (safe?) nature of the menu, I was a little surprised to see this on the menu. I liked the presentation with everything stacked on the hamachi collar.  Lightly grilled, the smoky flavor definitely came through, while pomegranate and grapefruit helped to counter the smokiness and complement the fish.

SHORT RIBS creamy polenta, sauteed wild mushrooms

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The big hunk of short rib was rich, beefy and tender while the polenta was nice and creamy. Nothing particularly special, but this was a homey and satisfying dish.

FRIED CHICKEN smashed potatoes, bacon braised kale, mustard sauce

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Ah, what brought us in. I found the chicken to be good…but not as good as I remembered/expected. It wasn’t that moist (though not dry) but did have pretty good chicken flavor. The crust was flaky, but I thought there was more batter than I recalled from my prior tastes – slightly higher batter:meat ratio than I would’ve liked. The smashed potatoes were too thick for me, having an almost sticky consistency.

NY STRIP crispy potatoes, sprouting broccoli

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A couple of my favorite comfort foods on a plate – a hunk of crusty-seared steak cooked a perfect medium rare and some crispy, fluffy potatoes. This was probably my favorite entree as the steak was juicy and beefy, while the potatoes gave the texture and starch that I was looking for. Not unlike the spuds from Short Order, these potatoes appeared to have been baked/par-boiled, smashed and finally deep fried. Quite nice.

On to desserts; we ordered four.

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE almond milk cream

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The server raved about this chocolate souffle, but I found it to be fairly standard. It was rich, fudgy and served hot, just not particularly memorable.

VANILLA BEAN PANNA COTTA pomegranate, aged balsamic

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The panna cotta was light, creamy and sweet with a present vanilla flavor. I thought the pomegranate added some fresh fruit flavor, as well as texture from the seeds. However, I’m personally not big on the seeds and I didn’t think they paired well with the delicate custard, texturally.

BEIGNETS strawberry rhubarb jam, strawberry powder

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I was expecting these to be light and airy, but rather these were very dense and slightly chewy. Totally unexpected. Raspberry sauce added some sweetness and acidity.

MONKEY BREAD brown sugar, pecans, banana ice cream

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This may have been the best of the desserts with a double dose of banana flavor from the bread/cake and the ice cream. Served warm and soft, the bread exuded a buttery banana flavor, while the pecans and banana ice cream fit it well.

Lexington Social House exceeded expectations – the food was flavorful and fairly well-executed. There was nothing particularly standout in the menu full of hearty, comforting dishes but it was a very satisfying meal. In a scene full of restaurants/lounges where food takes a backseat, Lexington presents a legitimate food option when in the area.