Sunday, February 26, 2006
How Sweet It Isn't: Dolce Enoteca, West Hollywood
I thought I was being Punk'd.
Yeah, any minute now, Ashton and a bunch of camera guys would be running out of the kitchen of Dolce Enoteca, a trendy West Hollywood Italian co-owned by himself and LA nightlife gurus Lonnie Moore and Mike Malin, et. al., and tell me that I'd had some dirty trick played on me. 'Cause people seem to love this place. And I didn't. So what the hell? C'mon, where are the cameras?
OK, so maybe I won't get to be on MTV after all. Instead of believing in the fact that a practical joke was being played on me, I had to come to the reality that this restaurant, a hot spot amongst the young (and even the not so young) Hollywood crowd, is popular because of the people and not really because of the food. Which I just don't get. And thus, with all those "I don't get it" question marks swimming in my head, I thought I was being Punk'd.
My girlfriend had not arrived yet, so the two skinny young hostesses directed me to the bar to wait which I totally hated. Not really so much because I minded sitting at the bar by myself, but because then I'm obligated to spend extra money that I don't want to spend. I mean, I do have some sympathy for the service industry, so I don't want to hog up some bartender's bar and not order anything. Eh, what the hell. I planted my ass on one of the leather cushioned barstools and ordered myself a vodka tonic...at least I'd be able to sit and observe the place while I waited sipping my $8 cocktail.
Fortunately, it was chilly out, else I would have burned to a crisp with the (literally) flaming bar. It was cool aesthetically, but I couldn't help but wonder how practical the fire really was. I mean, bottles of good liquor were displayed right in front of it--wouldn't the heat have negative freshness implications on their booze? I was also convinced that my bartender was made of heat resistent silicone as someone standing back there would undoubtedly melt after only 20 minutes. I sunk down further in the deceivingly-soft seat cushion and looked around the lofty, dimly-lit room which was pretty busy for 7:30 on a Tuesday. Hollywood (or wannabe Hollywood) was everywhere, from Paris Hilton-esque girls in their slinky knit dresses to the guy I saw in a table across the room wearing a suit and a fedora hat, a la Justin Timberlake or Usher. I just hoped I would fit in wearing my cubicle-chic jeans and sweater. Why not, right? It is L.A.; anything goes.
I'm melting, I'm melting....
After waiting a few minutes, my friend finally arrived and she sat with me at the bar as we waited for our hostess to escort to our table. Two minutes passed, three minutes passed, five minutes passed. Uh, did we not have a reservation and is my friend not here now meaning we can now be seated??? We were about to get up and remind Miss Hostess that we were ready to go to our table but she showed up a minute later and here's what she said:
"So are you guys all settled?"
(Pause) "So you're settled? Like, you're ready to go to your table?"
My friend and I exchanged funny looks. Yes you dumb ho, we are settled and ready to go to our table. What part of that didn't you understand??? "Uh yeah. We're ready to go to our table"
(Another pause) "OK."
As we grazed on bread and an amuse-bouche of salami and cubes of some sort of crumbly cheese, we looked over the menu which not only listed the restaurant's eats but also tried to entertain through food-related quotes written by everyone from Antheme Brillat-Savarin to Miss Piggy. I don't know if it's the Asian upbringing, but we always like to have variety in our meals and were therefore most attracted to the "Enoteca (Small plates for your table)" section of the menu from which we ordered three dishes. We also added a salad and one entree which was plenty.
Do I look amused?
In Italy, the term "enoteca" is used mainly to describe wine shops and is sometimes used to describe restaurants or wine bars. So the word enoteca used in say, Dolce "Enoteca" sounds OK, because it is indeed used to describe a restaurant. But I've never heard the word "enoteca" being used to describe small plates before. Was I being Punk'd again? Or is "Enoteca (Small plates for your table)" really a misrepresentation? I'll forgive that, but what I won't forgive is the "enoteca"--oh excuse me, I meant the small plates--themselves. The gnocchi in our gnocchi di patate al pesto was overcooked and the pesto sauce was watery. Ditto for the sauce in our penne arrabiata, which was of a slightly better consistency than that in the gnocchi, but nevertheless watered down and lacking the smoky spice that good arrabiata sauce should have. Our tartara di tonno, or spicy tuna tartare, was too mushy and tasted like they simply took minced tuna and mixed tabasco in it. With the exception of our tuna tartare which was presented as a tiny speck on an otherwise empty plate, the portion sizes on our "enoteca" were quite large. Normally, we would have squealed with joy, but in this case, it pissed us off because it forced us to waste food.
I'd like to dump these dumplings please
Are you trying to be cute? It's not working
No wonder it's angry
Our "piatto di burrata fresca con proscuitto San Daniele e pomodori alla griglia," or burrata cheese and proscuitto San Daniele with grilled tomatoes, was probably the best dish of the evening and that's not saying much. We ate the creamy, chewy burrata cheese, thin savory slices of proscuitto and basil dressed tomato slices with our table bread and were satisfied. But hey, did they even have to cook anything on this dish??? Says alot, doesn't it? OK, maybe they grilled the damn tomatoes. Big deal.
Less effort=better food
I don't remember the Italian name of the risotto with scallops and asparagus in a lobster reduction special that we ordered, but I do remember that it was way too salty. Well grilled scallops and good texture on the rice redeemed a dish that otherwise made us chug all of our water in seconds flat.
Would you like some risotto and scallops with your salt?
Though my friend and I were already past disappointment by the time our last dish came around, we were curious about the restaurant's dessert selection so we chose a "soffiato all'amaretto e cioccolato accompagnato con pesca al vino moscato." or amaretto souffle served with poached peach in moscato wine and hazelnut ice cream *catches breath.* The cupcake-sized souffle, drizzled with chocolate gananche and dusted with powdered sugar had a nice, subtle amaretto taste and wasn't as light and airy as I'd wanted it to be. The small scoop of hazelnut ice cream was good, though the poached peach halve seemed more canned to me than anything.
We were soooo done with this place and wanted to get the hell out of there, but Mr. Waiter was nowhere to be found. After a few minutes of head turning to spot him, we finally got our bill to pay for the subpar meal and service. Fortunately, my friend had a half off coupon so the damage came to only about sixty-some dollars after tax and tip, else our meal would have run into the triple digits which, for a good meal is fine by me, but for this, we would have been quite PO'ed. (And no, we had only presented our "coupon" after the meal, so it's not like they Punk'd us for being frugal!) To top it all off, we noticed a strange smell as we waited for our check and change. "Do you smell cigarette smoke???" I asked my friend. We looked around and lo and behold were two tables of it-girl looking girls that had lit up and were puffing away in a room that was obviously not alfresco. Restaurant employees were walking by yet no one said anything. Some of my friends smoke. I used to smoke. So it's not like I'm being a huge prude or anything because guess what? No smoking, bitches! But they were smoking. Amazing.
It was almost 10:30 by the time we left and it seemed the party was just getting started at Dolce. I kept waiting for the hidden cameras to come out, but they never did. I almost wish I had been Punk'd because then, at least things would have made more sense.
8284 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046