Looking for a romantic spot which also offers some fantastic food? Look no further than the Patina Group’s Cafe Pinot in downtown Los Angeles. In between the offices and business towers sits an unassuming restaurant which you would easily drive right past if you weren’t looking for it.
We had reservations at 7.30pm and were already running a few minutes late. Valet parking was right there and for $7, it was a no-brainer. Plus, I was wearing heels which makes me very reluctant to walk several blocks, especially if I decide to have a glass of wine or two (or three!) with my meal and then have to make the trek back to the car later. Yes, valet parking is definitely highly necessary!
We were led to a really lovely table in the back and from this vantage, I could see the entire restaurant including the kitchen which was visible through a large window. Our vivacious server, Guillermo, a charming Spaniard was chatty and friendly and I immediately took a huge liking to him. Throughout our meal he would become not only a great wealth of knowledge, but also, a welcomed source of entertainment.
Chef Kevin Meehan stopped by the table and asked if we’d like to order off the menu or just have him cook for us. We agreed to allow the maestro to work his magic and left everything in his hands. Guillermo then took charge of pairing our meal with his wine selections and that was how our marvelous culinary journey began.
Our first course was “Duo of Sea” which arrived on a plate with two compartments. One side was sliced octopus with vanilla, grapefruit slices and a nice flavored oil.
The other was a tuna tartare with avocado puree and crispy shallots.
I love octopus so I favored this over the other while my dining companion loved the tartare. It worked out well because we swapped half way and each of us devoured the other’s. I liked how the flavors lifted our palates and tantalized our palates for the next dish to arrive.
Wild mushroom risotto was the second course and I’d heard about this dish from Marian the Foodie and my heart skipped a beat when I saw Chef Meehan standing there with a basket of black Perigord truffles and his handy truffle shaver in hand. As he deftly ran the truffle over the instrument, thin slices of aromatic truffles dropped onto the risotto like leaves falling off a tree and my mind was suddenly left drifting into an olfactory cyclone of pure ecstasy.
When I took a mouthful of this creamy, heady, fragrant delight, I found myself at a loss for words. Neither of us spoke or looked at one another as we spooned this sheer decadence into our gullets and only when we had finished did we look up, me, letting out a sigh of indescribable satisfaction. It was then we ate the parmesan tuille which adorned the plate — and I’m glad I ate it at the end because its intense flavor would’ve masked my tastebuds before I’d even experienced the risotto.
After two courses, I was certain nothing could top what had just passed but I was wrong. When Guillermo brought us the crispy skin salmon, I was at first worried. I am, after all, not a fan of cooked salmon, finding it usually overcooked and terribly dry.
However, the flaky, moist and very tender salmon was exquisite and the crispy skin contrasted the texture of its flesh making it one of THE best cooked salmon dishes I’ve had in my life (and that’s saying a lot). Accroutrements included baby carrots, grilled scallions, and if I’m not mistaken, puy lentils.
Our fourth course was a tenderloin of filet mignon, again, a cut of meat I ordinarily would not order. I was floored by how tender and flavorful the meat was. Chef Meehan’s technique of using filet mignon sous vide, then seared, gave it a texture which would’ve been lost had it just been grilled.
Served with broccolini and fingerling potatoes, an accompanying au jus and chive oil not only decorated the plate, but also, added another flavor dimension to the dish.
We ended on a high note, a dessert of chocolat gateaux with a hazelnut crust and caramel ice cream. The gateaux had a sea salt finish which completely appealed to my senses. I love the salty sweet combination in desserts and finding it in this sinful, yet not-too-heavy chocolate symphony was a perfect end to a perfect evening.
I always suggest allocating at least two hours when planning a dinner out, especially if it’s a meal you want to savor and remember. I never believe in rushing excellence whether it be the Chef creating your meal, or you, as a diner experiencing it.Of course, a great meal paired with great wine also requires great service and great company to make it all the more memorable. My dinner at Cafe Pinot encompassed all of that — and much, much more!!
700 W 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071