5955 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA
8.10.06 - Wednesday, 6:00 PM
Moi, Val, his parents, and Christopher
If you read me with any frequency, you know I'm rather obsessed with Providence. She's LA's top restaurant, the only one nominated for a James Beard award this year, and it's the kind of place that can bring back your faith in humanity. Beautifully decorated, exquisitely staffed, and the food - unparalleled. The best seafood dishes imaginable. I life just a quick jaunt away from this gem and it's one of the reasons I won't soon be moving to a different neighborhood - although I now live life on a writer's budget, I will always find a way to splurge at Providence.
This last Thursday, I had the outstanding opportunity to dine with my angels Christopher and Val, plus Val's delightful, married for forty-eight years parents. These folks have traveled the world, and I wanted them to know LA had food that could rival the best of 'em. I trusted Michael Cimarusti's tasting menu could prove just that.
As usual, the staff started spoiling me the moment I walked through the door. This place knows how to make a regular feel special, and to entice us into coming back again and again. That's one thing I must admit about our fair city - service is not an easy blessing to come by. Tis why I'm even more smitten with Prov. They have a marvelous groove, and one needs ask for nothing, It's taken care of.
All but one of us ordered the 5 course tasting menu, but thanks to the generosity of Michael and Adrian, the pastry chef, we walked away with 12 courses of heavenly creations, including the amuse and other side courses. Let's see if I do the rundown justice - it's a new market menu, so I won't remember that majority of the ingredients, but I'll do my bestest!
We had wine pairings with most of the courses - those I recall I will list with each dish. SUCH a great wine list here, though, and the best sommelier in the business - Drew Langley. He's amazing.
A large, crusty roll with butter and (yay!) rock salt - see, it's the little things!
Israeli Melon soup with Muscat foam and a salmon tartar
* The salmon tartar was very subtle, but the melon goodness, served in a tiny mug-like shot glass, absolutely jolted our taste buds into a gleeful state. So refreshing and phenomenal!
Paired with a Nicolas Feuillatte champagne.
Big Eye Tuna Sashimi
* Val declared this the best tuna sashimi he's ever had, and we eat a lot o' sushi. Cubes of the reddest fish you'll ever spy, with an assortment of subtle condiments that drew out the soft textures and salty undertones. Heaven. Seriously, I can't say enough - this was probably my favorite savory dish.
Paired with a magnificent, smooth and dry sake.
Kumamato Oysters, Fried, with accompaniments
* These little morsels melted on tongue-contact. Not at all greasy, with little scallions and a phenomenal light sauce - I seriously could have devoured ten more of these. Perhaps it's the aphrodisiac effect?
Satueed Day Boat Scallop
* One large, succulent, perfectly cooked scallop was served with vegetable goodies, and I can't for the life of me remember the specifics - all I recall is the texture of that scallop. Fresh-caught, soft and silky, with a tad bit of carmelized yumminess on the top and bottom.
Paired with a Vino Verde Portuguese wine. Light, citrusy, refreshing with a tangy punch.
Cod with celery root, onions, vegetables, and a miso-style sauce
* Unlike any cod I've ever had - this had a crispy skin, incredible flaky texture, but a peppery finish I wasn't overly fond of (I rather loathe black pepper, so it's easy to offend me in this respect).
Paired with a Napa Valley Rose - can't recall the producer, but it was a standard, mild, yet fruity glass.
King salmon with crispy skin, onions, what I believe where pistashios, and the most complex, mind-blowing sauce you've EVER EVER HAD
* This was so intense, with the fishy flavor of the skin and the dense yet buttery salmon - a very strong flavor. Nothing shy about this dish. Several folks at the table thought it was too strong, but I loved it.
Paired with an Austrian red - super bold and spicy.
Red pepper ice cream, with a Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato granita
* I can't begin to describe the experience of eating this dish. I don't like watermelon. I'm not into red peppers. And in my dessert? Hmm. Hmm I say. This was served with THE coolest utensil I've ever used as well - a small, long-handled spoon that doubled as a straw. I kid you not. I tried the tomato/watermelon slushy thing first. Freaking FANtastic. These two flavors are the perfect marriage. The acidity of the tomato keeps the sweet watermelon in check, and the icy goodness made this so refreshing. Then, with a few bites of the red pepper ice cream, I was in texture and flavor heaven. I was shocked at how good this was - and the whole table agreed. We loved every bite.
Raspberry with aged vinegar and micro-mint
* One beautiful raspberry was served on a tiny spoon, bursting with uber-strong aged balsalmic vinegar. Talk about a one-two flavor punch - so intense! I loved it, others did not - it's not a taste sensation for everyone, but it really worked for me.
Blackberries and Corn Polenta with a Corn Tortilla Ice Cream
* One of my favorite all-time desserts; I've had this one before and would finish every meal with this flavor combo if I could. The corn ice cream is one of the most delicious things you'll ever taste, and with the crunchy sweet polenta and juicy blackberries, it's what a dessert should be; an array of textures, a bit of velvety ice cream, fabulously fresh fruit, and a balance of sweetness and savory.
Paired with a Loire Valley fortified Muscat - sweet, but with an intense acidity, so it's the kind of dessert wine I can really fall in love with.
Chocolate Mousse, Horchata Ice Cream, Avocado-Banana puree
* Yes, folks, avocado and chocolate should be paired a-plenty - a decadent chocolate mousse is made less intensified by the horchata ice cream and milky-tasty puree. This is top-shelf, ultra-luscious chocolate, and although I couldn't finish it after the hardcore spoiling session we enjoyed, it provided the perfect fond finish. Proof that Adrian is still at the top of his game.
Chocolate Lollipops - Pictured above, with the Providence logo - so cute and melty-fab!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups - Eat your heart out Reese's - woah god are these rich.
Lychee Gelee - Little squares of sugary goodness.
Chocolate Nut Ball - Tasted like a little toffee nut chocolate gem - great texture.
Vanilla Caramels - While Adrian's best gift is ice creaming creation, caramels are right behind.
Black Olive Caramels - As a caramel expert, I declare this an absolute home run - love them so much!
The damage for one beer, one 'rita, two salads, two entrees, and one side of corn was $60, including tax and tip. Yup, you're right - more than it ought to be.
Yee gawds, I think that covers it!
I didn't sleep a wink the night following this feast - so many flavors and wines to digest, my body was in a whirlwind. A really happy, roller-coaster type toss around. I am so incredibly lucky to experience such a feast. And, because Val's lovely parents insisted on pairing, I can't tell you what the finally tally was - my guess is, for the five of us, it was about $800. Which is a dinner for two at Urasawa, so I call it a bargain :)