Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Gift Of Grub (Or, Better Late Than Never): Providence, Los Angeles

(Yes, I know that i haven't written anything in awhile and that this post is taking place nearly two months after Christmas. I've been busy, so if you have a problem with that, go home. If not, read on...)
Christmas is quite lame in my household.

That is, until this year.

Because when asked by my husband what I wanted for Christmas this year, I responded not with a material object to be opened at a rather anti-climactic gift exchange, but rather with "I want to do the tasting menu at Providence." Still pretty anti-climactic since I knew in advance what I was getting, but so much better than Isaac hunting around for a pair of
True Religion Bobby's in Rigid Whiskey Creek in a size 27 and then me squealing Oh Baby, thank you!!! I totally wanted these!!! *smooooooooch* as I finish unwrapping the gift that I asked for in the first place. I can buy the jeans myself, thank you. But dinner at one of L.A.'s most highly acclaimed restaurants? Now that's not as easy to pick up at the mall on a Saturday afternoon, is it?

I got to "open" my gift on a Saturday night at 6:30 pm. It was located on Melrose in the old Patina space and wrapped up in shades of off-white, khaki, and dark brown, all tied together with orangey-red accents. I looked up as we were lead to our table that was located along a wall lined with one long off-white leather banquette; small white disks that either were or resembled shells seemed to dance up the corner of the wall and up the ceiling toward the graceful curves of softly glowing light fixtures. Beaded candleholders in the likeness of sea anemones gave each table some elegant mood lighting in shades of red, orange and gold. The restaurant's decor projects a calm coastal vibe, reminding one of chef Michael Cimarusti's seafood creations, without trying too hard either. Based on what we've experienced with other restaurants around town, we expected the service to be more on the pretentious, fake-accent side, but were pleasantly surprised that everyone at our service that night--from the maitre'd to our server to the sommelier--were attentive and knowledgeable, yet laid-back at the same time.

Then one by one, my Christmas gifts arrived:

An amuse-bouche consisting of a miniature glass mug of a cool and foamy fennel soup and a gelatinous saffron petit-four the size of a sugar cube helped to awaken our palates prior to our feast.

Course No. 1: Japanese Kanpachi with celery, satsuma tangerine, and American caviar. The cool and refreshing properties of the slightly foamy cucumber broth and satsuma wedges actually enhanced the ultra-tender fleshy texture of the thinly sliced kanpachi. Little black pearls of American caviar gave each bite a tiny burst of briny flavor.

Course No. 2: Jumbo Blue Lump Crab with Truffle, Fresh Egg Sabayon, and Aromatics and Course No. 3: Parsnip Soup with Sweetbreads, Maine Lobster, and Truffle Fondue. These two courses were probably my favorite courses of the evening. And it wasn't because of the meat factor, although I must say, the lump blue crab and lobster & sweetbreads were excellent. Rather, the stars of the show in these two courses were the liquids, one being an egg sabayon with wonderfully earthy black truffle undertones and the other being a naughty little parmesan and parsnip soup. As each liquid swished lightly between my upper palate and tongue, they evoked feelings of sensuality, of happiness and of comfort, their aromas making me glad that our senses of smell and taste are intertwined.

Course No. 4: Japanese Freshwater Eel with Crushed Potato Pancake, Truffle and Quail Egg. Because of too many bad, overly sauced sushi preparations, I'm not usually a big fan of the eel, but when prepared right, I absolutely love it. In this particular preparation, a small chunk of Japanese freshwater eel sat atop a potato pancake whose crispiness, along with the frilliness of a piece of frisee and the velvety goodness of a quail egg, complimented the striated flesh of the eel perfectly.

Course No. 5: Dorade Royale with Bacon, Lamb's Quarter, Cinnamon, and Sauce Vin Rouge. I'd never heard of the fish in Course #5, which with the word "Royale" attached to it, sounded either very regal or like a French translation of McDonald's Quarter Pounder (a la
Pulp Fiction). Whatever the case, this ultra fresh white-fleshed sea bream was cooked to form a perfectly seared outer crust. As for its accoutrements, the lamb's quarter tasted like spinach to me, and the carrots, cauliflower and bacon chunks seemed more obligatory than necessary although the cinnamon foam which garnished the plate did provide an interesting spicy/sweet element to the dish.

Course No. 6: New Zealand King Salmon with Morroccan Squash, Duck Confit, Baby Red Kale and Chantarelle Mushrooms. I have to admit that as much as I was loving this dinner, that I was in need of a little substance at this point, which is why I was so grateful for this course and Course #5. The New Zealand King Salmon was as fresh as could be and the duck confit and chantarelles added a hearty touch. But the star of this show was the "wall" of paper thin salmon skin that stood tall behind the two pieces of salmon. It was crisp. It was salty. It was good. Someone should fry some more of those bad boys up and package it as a product just like potato chips. I'd buy it for sure.

Course No. 7: Market Cheeses. One reason we opted for the nine-course tasting menu instead of the five is because the five-course menu does not include the cheese course and I just had to have the cheese course. Now I can't remember the names of the cheeses for the life of me, nor can I remember which countries they came from; all I can tell you is that there was one goat's milk cheese, one sheep's milk cheese and one cow's milk cheese and as my friend Sam
put it once, "I died and went to cheese heaven." Good gawd, I mean, the goat's milk cheese alone was so fucking good that made me wanna go out and do bad stuff, like not bad-bad stuff but good-bad stuff and that says alot about one cheese, right?

Course No. 8: Mojito Sorbet with Avocado-Banana Puree. The ultra-refreshing mojito sorbet sitting atop a very calm, cool, and collected avocado-banana puree, in just four words, was The Perfect Palate Cleanser.

Course No. 9: Chocolate Cremeaux with Blood Orange Curd and Basil Meringue. Hmm, chocolate, basil, and orange--whodathunkit? Apparently, these guys did, and the combination of the silky-smooth rich chocolate cream canelle, a slightly spicy basil meringue and a tart blood orange curd really worked.

And as if nine courses plus an amuse-bouche of pure degustation was not enough, the kind people at Providence gave us a bonus treat of homemade candies to feast our senses on: red, sugar coated cubes of some sort of fruit jelly, peanut butter cups with sea salt (move over Reese's) and the softest, most luscious caramels I'd ever tasted.

With two glasses each of a fruity white Bourgogne from Maison Lerox and a '98 Chambolle-Musigny from Regnard, my gift came out to a little over three
Benjamins after tax and tip. OK, maybe a little more than any pair of designer jeans I would have asked for, but a better Christmas gift in more ways than anyone could ever imagine.

5955 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 460-4170


Chubbypanda said...

Such a smart gift choice. I wonder if I can get Cat to spring for Urusawa...

One Food Guy said...

So it's 9:30am on the east coast, and I'm ready for dinner! Great review. I'm hungry.

"Honey, what's for dinner?!" Just kidding, I do the cooking at my house, and tonight, it's pizza!

elmomonster said...

Loved this line: "they evoked feelings of sensuality, of happiness and of comfort, their aromas making me glad that our senses of smell and taste are intertwined."

Beautifully worded. Perfect.

I don't venture into LA much, unless there's a good reason. I think you just gave me that reason. Next special occasion, I'm making reservations.

Can I ask how much the tasting menu is per person (without wine)?

Food Marathon said...

Looks fantastic. I need to find a wife that can buy me a Christmas present.

Daily Gluttony said...


That's what I'm trying to get the hubs to spring for next time too. Let's keep our fingers crossed! haha

One Food Guy,

Thanks! Wouldn't that be great if it was "Honey, what's for dinner?" followed by "I know! Let's go to Providence!"


Thanks so much! You should really give it a try next time you're up here. I believe the 5 course is $75pp w/o wine pairings and $105 with, and the 9 course is $95pp w/o wine pairings and $140 with.

Food Marathon,

Yeah I guess "willingness to take spouse to tasting menu" is essential to a healthy relationship. =)

Anonymous said...

Hey DG,

Epic post. You are an excellent writer with an easy, flowing style. Posts like these make me strive to up my game to this level. This was worth the wait.


Anne said...

Yum. WE tried the smaller tasting at Providence and wasn't floored. We also left sort of hungry...but maybe it's coz we're oinksters! Anyway, I'll have to try Providence again- that salmon looks awesome, especially the crispy skin. Maybe Trader Joe's will bag it and sell it as a snack. Salmon Crisps.....?

TasteTV said...

Wow, I feel like I just ate the entire course. We're in SF, but it sounds like it could be interesting, though this statement could kind of go either way:

"An amuse-bouche consisting of a miniature glass mug of a cool and foamy fennel soup and a gelatinous saffron petit-four the size of a sugar cube helped to awaken our palates prior to our feast."

KirkK said...

Hey DG - Nice to have you posting again, we've missed you.

Anonymous said...

This is why I love this blog! Great post! I would love to be able to cook like that--to create one dish that leads to another in such perfection.

Hmmmm....gonna be getting a nice check for a retroactive raise, soon. Think I know just where to spend it.

Unknown said...

Yay! Finally saved enough to go early March -- guess I'll be a poser food blogger for this one ;) (after PoetKitty & you)

Oishii Eats said...

I love the jellylookingfish on the wall. Would tissue on my wall have the same effect? Probably not.

Finish packing...I wanna hang out!

Anonymous said...

This pastry chef at Providence basically copied his desserts from the pastry chef at Patina. I have been to Providence for the dessert tasting menu and it does not even compare to the ones at Patina. I work in the industry and i know for a fact that this guy is copying him. Come into Patina to try the desserts..10 times better. Although, I do have to say that the food at Providence isnt that bad...great blog:)

Passionate Eater said...


Does Isaac have a brother? His gift idea is rico, suave!

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a joke. Extremely overpriced for eating someone's experiments and all four of us still hungry or just not satisfied after the $650.00 ! They seem to try way too hard to create something to be different, like why not have a desert with banana, taste like a banana and not have "the avocado take on the essence of the banana" that's quoted from the waiter. I could go on about the cold pea frothy throw-up. Just go to The Ivy for much better food less pretence and more substance and much less money!

Anonymous said...

you must be asian...and what qualify's you to have good tast in food? i suspect not

Aubrey said...

I'm Aubrey over at What's To Eat LA and have a blog business question for you. When you get this if you could shoot me over an email at to let me know your thoughts on something. Feel free to delete this when you get it.

joanh said...

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. i think my favorite is the mojito sorbet.

Anne said...

DG DG, come back to us. Need. New. Post. We miss you !

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, it must be hard to avoid gluttony with so much delicious foods!

Anonymous said...

Providence is a joke! The food is ok but the desserts - are you kidding me? I have to agree with that one anonymous post. If you are going to have a dessert taste a certain way - it should taste like it's supposed to. Never again will I order dessert from them. Big waste of time and money! Stay away from Providence!

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Anonymous said...

Oh My! Another one of these jaw dropping stomach hunger craving pages! Whether its the pics or the wording that was put together oh so well just to explain the juicyness of the food, It Sounded Gooood To Me :) and with that in mind I think we should all have a moment of silence and really think when we can take a trip down the best place to eat in your town or at a vacation getaway!
Well, let me know what you guys think because I am surely ready to enjoy a national tour of foods:)!

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Posts like these make me strive to up my game to this level. This was worth the wait.
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