Ronald Tutor Campus Center at USC
3607 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles, CA 90089
When I first heard that Bradley Ogden’s restaurant group, Lark Creek, would be opening up a restaurant on the USC campus, I did a double-take. It seemed a little random that Lark Creek, based in the SF Bay Area, would make its first foray into Los Angeles within a college campus. Alas, it was true, and I eagerly awaited its opening.
Nevermind that this opening reinforces the reputation that USC students are rich, spoiled kids (it’s not true!), I was glad to see a legitimate fine dining option come to USC. When I was in undergrad a few years back, campus dining was limited to a variety of fast-food options and only one sit-down restaurant (Upstairs Commons). When we wanted a “nice” meal, we often found ourselves going to the nearest CPK in downtown…which got very tiring. Since then, the entire USC Campus Center has been remodeled and the dining options have been upgraded big time. In my mind, Moreton Fig is the highlight.
Tonight was the first night of dinner service, though the restaurant has been open a little while for lunch. We started with an assortment of breads.
Monterey calamari with squid ink linguine, jalapeno pesto, extra virgin olive oil
We started very strong with this dish. The pasta had a good al dente texture, but the squid was the star. Tender and flavorful, these were exceptional. A little bit of heat heightened the dish as well.
Yankee Pier New England clam chowder with dill drop biscuits
This chowder was rich, but not overly thick – a nice consistency. I really enjoyed the flavor and the chewy bites of clams dispersed throughout.
BBQ chicken tamale, cilantro cream sauce
This was an interesting interpretation of a tamale. A corn “pancake” was topped with barbecue chicken and a sort of guacamole. The barbecue sauce was not overly rich or overwhelming, though I would have appreciated a little more corn flavor out of the tamale/pancake.
Ahi tuna “crudo” with black olive, fennel pollen, orange powder, chili
This dish didn’t really work for me. I thought the black olives overpowered the thin slices of tuna..and everything else really.
Seared Pacific sturgeon, beluga lentils, cippolini onions, salsa verde
The sturgeon had an almost spongy texture and was very moist. Good flavor. The beluga lentils (get it?) were a welcome touch, adding some body and more depth of flavor.
Roasted steelhead salmon, sauteed rapini, shallots, meyer lemon
I thought the salmon was a little undercooked for my tastes, but it was very moist. The rapini was a good accompaniment. Flavors were definitely there.
Pan roasted duck breast, onion soubise, cavalo nero, Medjool dates, verjus
I really liked the presentation of this half-duck with its crispy skin on top. I thought the duck was a little undercooked for me though, yielding meat that was a little chewy. However, it was still a tasty dish – it just took a little more chewing.
Lark Creek classic Yankee Pot Roast with young turnips, red chard and grated horseradish
Next was this pot roast. Very tender and with good flavor, though not unlike a typical pot roast.
We ordered a couple of sides to eat with our entrees.
Big duck fat fries
These fat fries remind me of the fries my grandmother used to make. These were confited in duck fat then flash fried. They were fluffy and tender on the inside, but I thought they could’ve been a tad bit crispier on the outside. Still very good.
Roasted brussel sprouts
Simple brussel sprouts roasted and brushed with butter. Tasty.
Lark Creek butterscotch pudding, creme chantilly, pecan wedding cookie
Onto dessert! The butterscotch pudding was really nice – not overly sweet nor rich, with a good butterscotch flavor. I liked the chantilly creme, as it added a pleasant lightness and sweetness.
Valrhona chocolate cake, pistachio gelato, pistachio dust
This chocolate cake was very much like a chocolate muffin. I wanted this to be a little more moist, and not so crumbly. The pistachio ice cream was good though.
My impression of Moreton Fig is of a restaurant that serves upscale food within a comfort zone. Perhaps not as dynamic or imaginative as other Lark Creek/Bradley Ogden restaurants, but I understand that it also needs to serve a college student clientele. The food is solid and well thought-out, and definitely fits a niche among the dining options on campus. This has to be some of the best food ever offered at USC, and I expect Moreton Fig to soon attract diners from around the city.