445 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Dining date: 2/8/12
Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger opened City Cafe in 1981, at the time a relatively nouveau restaurant serving food with accents around the globe. The success of that restaurant led to a much larger CITY restaurant and eventually Border Grill. As a tribute to their first restaurant, the downtown Border Grill will be hosting a one-night throwback meal on Feb. 29th (they’ve been doing it every Feb. 29th since 2000). Like the original City Cafe, the menu highlights flavors from around the world – France, Italy, India, Portugal, Thailand are some of the countries represented on the menu. I was invited to a preview dinner to try a few of the dishes on the upcoming menu.
Lemon Ginger Tea fresh lemon, ginger, honey
Yogi Tea milk, ginger, clove, cardamom, black pepper, honey
We tried a couple of the non-alcoholic drinks. The tea tasted as expected, with a balance of ginger and lemon flavors. A little bit of honey ensured it wasn’t too tart. The yogi tea was very interesting, with strong savory spice flavors and ginger coming through strongly.
Supremo Mojito 12 year old rum, fresh mint, lime, sugar, hand muddled
I also went with a cocktail – this rather large mojito. Not too sweet at all, with the lime and mint flavors upfront.
Our first dish was a sampling of a trio of appetizers.
Potato Bhujia spiced potato fritters, cilantro, mint chutney, yogurt sauce
Fried Sage Leaves tomato salsa, tomatillo salsa
Chinese Sausage Salad grilled chinese sausage, red onion, celery leaves, chiles, garlic, kaffir lime leaves
The potato bhujia (a potato fritter) was lightly crisped on the outside and creamy on the inside. Cilantro and mint yogurt added a cool acidity to counter the fried bhujia. The fried sage leaves were quite nice too, with a mild sage flavor and crispy texture. However, I may have been looking for a lighter batter. The tomato salsa added much of the depth of flavor. Finally, the highlight of the trio was the Chinese sausage salad – served in a red onion bowl. The richness of the sausage was well-balanced by the cool vinaigrette and kaffir lime, while the sausage’s chewy, waxy texture made for some nice bites. Refreshing and delicious.
Sautéed Halibut Cheeks with Tomato and Pernod tomato concasse, snow peas, pernod, homemade fettuccine
The halibut cheeks were perfectly cooked – dense, meaty and still moist. Crispy snow peas and sweet tomatoes provided more flavor with the fresh fettucine. The sauce had a little more butter than I would’ve liked, but I appreciated the richness.
Braised Duck with Red Curry grilled japanese eggplant, scallion, basmati rice
This was a pretty flavorful Thai curry with a mild heat; chunks of duck were in the sauce as well as slices of the seared breast. I thought both duck preparations were good. The eggplant was very tender, though I’m not sure it added too much to the overall dish.
Chewy Date Bar golden oat crumble, caramel ice cream
A sweet, slightly chewy date puree was sandwiched in between a layers of granola. I thought this was done pretty well, with the date flavor being front-and-center, along with earthy oat notes. Lemon and caramel ice creams completed the dish.
The CITY dinner was a completely different experience from the typical Border Grill menu, and I quite enjoyed myself. The menu was pretty varied in its influences, but I thought the team executed them pretty well. Perhaps some of the worldly knowledge behind Susan Feniger’s STREET has also been shared at CITY. Catch CITY on February 29th in downtown.
Mary Sue Milliken, new-ish executive chef Monique King, and Susan Feniger.
Note: This was a sponsored meal.