Big White Booths are the new hard wooden chair. At least two of the newest, hippest eateries in Los Angeles think so. Is there any reason to dine austere when you can fold yourself into yards and yards of upholstered white leathery booths? We think not, as we luxuriated in two of the biggest, whitest booths this town has to offer.

8338 West Third Street
Los Angeles, Ca.
323 651 3300

Simply spectacular! Everything. Every detail of the décor in this fabulous space (formerly Linq) will take your breath away. It’s impossible not to feel your heart accelerate—maybe even skip a beat—when you walk into Ortolan (the name comes from a type of bird, in French), and view the magnificence and originality of the interior design that awaits you hidden from Third Street. The only thing prettier than the surroundings is Shaw, one of LA’s most handsome (and sorry, NOT eligible) general managers. Jeri Ryan (the glamorous knock-out television star who played “7 or 9” on Star trek, and who is currently the bad girl you love to hate in “The O.C.”) and Christophe Eme are partners in the restaurant and in life, and both continue the theme of “gorgeous”.

When entering, if you look to your left, suddenly you are in a cave, or wine cellar typical of the myriad wineries of the Loire valley in France (Christophe, our chef extraordinaire, formerly of L’Orangerie fame, hailed from this region). A step up leads you to old brick, a wooden logged ceiling, and a table a mile long that seats private parties or multiple small parties who enjoy meeting new people. The table has a resin top that encapsulates the owner’s personal china collection. If you look to the right, you enter a sea of crystal chandeliers that catapult you into the interior of a royal palace; each proudly highlights soft creamy leather booths surrounded by creamy drapes; and of course, there are those four GIANT white leather booths that scream privacy, while allowing you to see and be seen by the entire restaurant. Walk to the end of the restaurant, and the bar room is dark and cozy, surrounded by a wall of hanging herbs, used in the kitchen for the ultimate in fresh picked taste. And a bit further, a step up to a private lounge that now transports you to the sumptuous clean lines of a New York penthouse. Where in one restaurant can you ever experience such visual excitement but at Ortolon…and we haven’t even gotten to the food, which is both unique and exciting. In fact, Ortolan was just honored by being named one of Esquire’s best new restaurants of 2005.

For appetizers, if you are a caviar lover, like Michael (Scott says “yuk”), try the eggs and caviar which is encased in ashes. This idea originates from France after WWII, when heating was limited, so eggs were cooked in the fireplace. The dish has egg yolk, vanilla whipped cream and is then topped with caviar. For non-caviar lovers, don’t miss the
Foie Gras Terrine with apple and pear chutney and pistachios and hazelnuts with toasted, homemade brioche on the side; it’s close to perfection. If you ask (it’s not on the menu), Christophe might make you his pumpkin ravioli served in a carved out pumpkin; it’s a euphoric cross between light potato chips and a little bit of heaven.

There are items at Ortolan that should not be missed. We especially love their Lamb Pastilla for two; even Michael who is not a lamb lover cannot help but to indulge in this sumptuous dish wrapped in Phylo, with beans and mint salad. Words cannot define this taste sensation. Another favorite is the Lobster en Cocotte - served in a cast iron pot - summer vegetables, star anise and Jus de Carapace, one of our favorite lobster dishes anywhere. The dashing sommelier, Frederic (with encyclopedic knowledge of wines), can pair just the right libation taste with each course.

With any prospect of retaining your cut-up abs being totally shot at this point, why not go all the way with dessert. Of course there are a unique variety of choices, but we particularly loved the Chocolate Souffle tart with raspberries and perfect vanilla ice cream and the best part is that after it’s all over, you can sink into the depths of one of L.A.’s most exciting big white booths!

5955 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, Ca.
323 460 4170

Michael wanted to celebrate his most recent 39th (again) birthday at Providence, located in the old Patina building on Melrose, just east of Wilcox. One first notices the beautiful updating of architect Belzberg’s gorgeous décor as Providence has successfully brought it to the next level. Boasting a cuisine title they created, “new American seafood”, Chef and Co-owner Michael Ciramusti (formerly of Le Cirque in New York and The Water Grill in Los Angeles), has received much deserved attention. This unique space, updated from the former Patina years, is under the watchful eye of Co-owner Donato Poto, the former general manager of our still favorite and incomparable, Bastide. The service at Providence nearly parallels Bastide, which is as great a compliment that a restaurant in Los Angeles can receive. Our waiter, Martin, was extremely accommodating without being obtrusive, and tall, dark and handsome, which seemed to somehow elevate the service.

We both agreed that the blue crab heirloom tomato soup, served cold, was beautifully presented and one the best soups we have tasted in long time, and that you shouldn’t miss the Risotto with chanterelle mushrooms, chives and crispy bone marrow, a combination of tastes almost indefinable. The foie gras torchon was a sensational interpretation of compote of black mission figs, pistachio and Muscat gelee.

But, alas, the “Dining Duo” doesn’t necessarily agree on everything! While Michael thought the menu to be unique and exciting, Scott found the portions so small you had to double up on ordering just to stave off the hunger. With a bill pushing $600 for four people, Scott felt that a post-dinner excursion to an all night coffee shop might fill him up. While Michael thought the service to be exemplary, Scott wondered why the food runners were asking, “who had the coffee” and how they thought reaching across the table was acceptable at a restaurant of this caliber.

While Michael thought the décor was dazzling (including ceiling lighting treatments that resembled fish scales), Scott felt that the explosion of mushroom-like ceramic chotchkees covering the walls and ceiling constantly reminded him throughout the dinner that somewhere water had leaked in from the recent rains and now mold was everywhere. Although Scott did concede that the amuse bouche—a small mug of chilled pumpkin soup with pumpkin seed oil floating on top, with a crescendo of Tasmanian trout—was pretty spectacular, the table bread they served up was uneventful and unmemorable. But alas, we both unanimously agree, however, that the desert entitled, “Pain Perdue” (“lost bread” in French, which is where French toast originated from) is absolutely divine and not to be missed. Although the Dining Duo also agree that they’d go back to Providence, Scott feels that for this price tag there are other places he’d rather return to first.

While Michael felt his Lobster with beans, pear, hazelnuts and lobster nage was superb and should not be missed; Scott felt that the Salmon, although expertly prepared, was most unremarkable. Scott’s a big salmon aficionado and can recite a dozen restaurants with Salmon dishes that tasted more exceptional, along with a much lower price tag. But then again, those establishments don’t have Big White Booths.

Posted by The Dining Duo | 2:22 PM | , , , | 0 comments »

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