Patina (Los Angeles, CA)
141 South Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 10/10/13
Patina’s been a fixture in the Los Angeles fine dining scene for decades, celebrating its 10-year anniversary at the Walt Disney Concert Hall this month. To celebrate, the restaurant offered a special menu of 10 courses for $10 each on October 10th.
I first dined at Patina relatively “early-on” in 2006; this would be my third visit. While I’ve found many of the Patina Group restaurants to be a little boring and overpriced for what they are, I’ve felt that the flagship Patina bucked that trend with its strong execution grounded in classical French and modern American cuisine. It’s been just over a year since my last visit; new Executive Chef Charles Olalia had just taken over the kitchen from the exiting Tony Esnault. At the time, the menu still had much of Esnault’s touches – this would be my first meal with Olalia fully at the helm crafting the menu.
We began the meal with a bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial.
Oyster Vichyssoise, Leek Oil, American Caviar
The oyster was good, but the caviar didn’t add a whole lot, sharing a similar flavor profile. I liked the idea of adding the creamy Vichyssoise for a bit more depth.
Scallop and Potato Sandwich, Black Truffle, Chervil
I really liked the flavors here with the scallop and potato, but the potato “chip” overwhelmed texturally. I’m not sure if it was just made too thick, but it had an almost chewy stale consistency that took away from the overall bite. The truffle flavor was easy to miss, but I still liked the overall flavors.
Big Eye Tuna Tower, Soya Onion, Avocado, Yuzu Granite
This was cool and refreshing with its layers of tuna, avocado and tomato under a yuzu ice. The flavors were good, feeling very familiar.
Santa Barbara Spot Prawns, Carrot Mousse, Celery Hearts, Lemon Vinaigrette
The spot prawns were cooked rare leaving them sweet and spongy. The sweet carrot puree had a bit of curry-like flavor (vadouvan?) while a touch of lemon provided some acidity. A nice plate.
Butternut Squash Risotto, Sage Powder, Parmesan, lberico Ham
This was a very strong dish, with al dente rice bathed in a rich butternut squash sauce. I liked the hearty, sweet flavor accented by the crispy iberico ham.
Wild Striped Bass, Vegetable a la Greque, Barigoule
The bass was moist, cooked well, with what I think was some Szechuan peppercorns – their distinctive mouth-numbing properties couldn’t be missed. A few bones were hidden within the thin piece of fish; unfortunately, one of them found the back of a throat.
Squab en Crepinette, Savoy Cabbage, Perigord Sauce
Called medium-rare, I found the squab to be underdone. The crepinette didn’t add much in terms of texture or flavor, but the sauce added nice depth. I was kind of surprised to find a squab leg, complete with foot, presented on the plate – I don’t mind seeing poultry feet but it felt out of place.
Filet of Beef, Tarbais Beans, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Sauce Bordelaise
One of the simpler dishes, this might’ve been my favorite of the evening. The beef was excellent, tender as a typical filet, but rather well-marbled for a tenderloin cut. The beans and vegetables didn’t add a whole lot, but the bordelaise added some additional flavor.
Green Apple and Coconut Battera, French Meringue
This was a lighter, refreshing dessert with a tart green apple flavor complemented by a richer, sweet coconut. The bottom layer was a bit overly frozen though, being somewhat difficult to get through with the spoon.
Dark Chocolate Torte, Feuilletine, Chicory Ice Cream
Deep chocolate and coffee flavors were prominent in this dessert, while thin, crispy feuilletine flakes provided some nice texture.
Service was warm and polite but inattentive at times. Some dishes were described as they came to the table, some weren’t described at all. Water and wine glasses were slow to be refilled and bread had to be requested multiple times. We weren’t intentionally slowly savoring our bottle of wine, but slow refills allowed it to last all the way through to the mignardises.
In terms of the food, there were a few highlights but I found this meal to be marred by sloppiness. I definitely wasn’t expecting to be ‘wowed’ by the menu’s creativity, but I expected some stronger execution throughout the meal (the overpowering potato crisps, undercooked squab, and still-frozen coconut come to mind). However, the bones in the striped bass kind of ruined the meal. I know that it can happen at any restaurant (I’ve even come across shells and bones in two- and three-Michelin starred restaurants) and it’s more common than I’d like. The vast majority of times it’s noted and avoided without incident, but on the rare occurrence that it cuts/scratches the back of a diner’s throat it immediately impacts the whole experience. Outside of that, I can’t say the food was strong enough to return anytime soon either, especially at its regular price-point.