The restaurant was Angelini (Osteria) and it remains one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. I was with someone that I was newly in love with and I was eating branzino that had been pulled from a sea salt crust like a rabbit from a hat to be delicately fileted and placed in moist, juicy, fork-sized pieces in a bath of the most delicious sauce I have tasted ever upon my plate.
It was so successful, it became a habit. I was overjoyed, because my ex-fiance was, well ... more of a Taco Bell/KFC Superstore kind of guy, and the one time I took him and his friends out to a really nice seafood restaurant for his birthday it was not quite met with enthusiasm. Oh well.
So this year, where would we go? Would it be something new, like Hatfield's? Something we've been waiting to try, like Grace? Or maybe an old favorite, like AOC or Angeli Caffe? What will it be? Where would we go? I tried for a while to get clues, but I couldn't even get a general clue. Not even a rhyming clue. So we got in the car and started driving toward La Cienega. Not Hatfield's, or Grace. But La Cienega could mean anything. We turned right on La Cienega. Oh my god, is he taking me to Republic or Koi? I would not have expected that ... no, we are passing them up ... wait, we are turning on Melrose. Bastide is closed. He had better not be taking me to Dolce. Maybe we are going back to Taste? Wait ... this is ... Are we going here? OMG. We are! Yay! It is ............
We walked in and here is what we saw:
Our cocktails I can barely describe. They are not listed on the menu on the website. And since this was a birthday dinner from my husband I did not: take pictures, ask for menus, take notes, etc. I am going off of memory and the Lucques website. My cocktail was called the Pisco Kid and was--obviously--made with Pisco, but beyond that I cannot recall. It was really good, though. J.'s was, I think, called Strawberry Fields and made with strawberry puree. I can't remember what else was in it but I had a taste and it was fantastic. I almost tried to make him switch.
Oh, hold on, thank you other blogger, who provides me with the relevant information: "Strawberry Fields — Beefeater Gin and Lime Juice with Fresh Strawberries and Mint; and The Pisco Kid — Pisco Capel with triple sec, lemon juice, and loquat." Loquat? No wonder I chose that. Who ever gets to have loquat?
Our table was also graced with some fresh bread, along with olives and almonds in fresh olive oil. There was also some salt, or perhaps fleur de sel that was so outrageously good that we were actually eating pieces of salt by itself.
Then we commenced with starters. J. got the spring onion soup, with fontina, thyme, and rye toast ($10) and I got the ragout of morels over grilled brioche with creme fraiche and herb salad ($18 - hey, it was my birthday!). I love the morels at AOC and it's not often I will pass up brioche, and of course Ms. Goin's homemade creme fraiche. This dish was excellent, earthy and tangy with the bread crunchy on the outside, soft inside.
For a main course, J. had the braised beef short ribs with sauteed greens, pearl onions, and horseradish cream ($27). This is a signature dish of the restaurant and it is pretty amazing. The short ribs were so tender that they would pretty much fall apart if you winked at them. There was also a hidden cache of creamy polenta underneath it all. I had lamb skewers with a potato-tomato gratin, black olives, anchovies and capers (?? don't know price). This dish was so beautiful that I actually did get out my camera and try to take a picture, but it was too dark for my night vision and I didn't want to use flash. The skewers were actual sticks form a rosemary bush and the meat was piled with rosemary and pepper and a little salt and perhaps some other herbs as well. I have to say, I almost never eat lamb, well ... I really never eat lamb. It's this thing I have after growing up on a sheep farm. The lambs are like my friends. I don't want to eat them. But I have to say, this particular lamb was mighty delicious. Suzanne Goin and her wood-fired oven are the only things that can overcome my sadness at chowing down on my little woolly friend.
Then came dessert. I looked at the menu and literally wanted everything on it. Equally. I was at a loss, I couldn't decide. And then, there was J., who was sick and wasn't going to get dessert. I have that awful evil black little knot of insecurity inside that tells me when I get dessert and no one else does, that I am fat and disgusting. I know that I'm not supposed to listen to that little monster, but it's inexplicably persuasive.
But I remembered taking a sidelong glance over to the table next door and seeing a mug of thick hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows and some almonds which made my neighbor ooh and aah. So I ordered that ($5) and it really turned out to be the best dessert choice for me anyway. It was rich, thick Valrhona hot chocolate with rectangular homemade marshmallows and a little bowl of almonds dusted with cocoa powder, cinnamon and cayenne pepper or some kind of chile powder. Beauty. I love spicy hot chocolate. I need my sweet to be hot and spicy, or salty for me to really fall in love in love with it. I was in love with those almonds. I ate them all and polished off the hot chocolate before it cooled.
Thank you, darling husband, for a fabulous birthday dinner. I want to go back for the bar menu sometime and sit in those luscious couches by the fireplace.
The photos above came from the Lucques website, by the way and were taken by Aaron Cook.
8474 Melrose Ave.