Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Recession Fine Dining Tapas @ Ortolan (Mid City)

Feeling the pinch?

With the economy being on the downturn with no relief in sight, many fine dining restaurants are also feeling that same pinch. Plenty of available tables on any given night, staff outnumbering patrons, and the food is left being uncooked. This was a hard time for many restaurateur as well as for many of the diners.

With that in mind, Christopher Eme, forefront in the Haute French cuisine in L.A. decided to embed a tapas menu in their bar area and in the fine elegant lounge area that included a beautiful fireplace behind the sophisticated modern dining room. From Tuesday through Thursday from 6pm to 9pm, they will offer up to 12 different tapas dishes that is carefully presented without any pretensions (so said in their website).

The Bar behind the dining room

Elaborate, but without being snobby? That is quite a handful for a man that had worked with some of the legends in the world of French cuisine. Having worked under Philippe Braun and Michel Rostang, it will be a treat to get a tasting of these innovative small dishes for $6-10 in most items on the menu.

One of the first we have ordered was the Burrata Cheese. I actually enjoyed this little treat. It has a nice little balsamic reduction to bring up the nice little flavor to the burrata cheese that I don't come across too often. The tomato and eggplant accompanies it gave it a pretty good touch. This item I noticed also is part of their newly formed $45 Sunday brunch. So to get a snippet of it makes me wondered what else is in store for us.

Burratta Cheese -Tomato Parfait, Eggplant Caviar and Balsamic Reduction -$7

The Braised short ribs was the most anticipated item of the night for me because it was widely raved by my cohorts who had frequented the place before and told me it was out of this world. I liked the tenderness of the rib and the stuffed potato that accompanies it. To me, it was a little hard to tell since it's a small tapas dish. I wondered if this would have been better left as part of the main course, but I like to be teased just for a bite of this savory dish. The short ribs would be a better main course than a bite size tapas dish.

The other dish we got was the Crispy Langoustines that is in a shot of Minestrone soup. The immature nature of me thought it was a espresso shot, then a deep sip revealed a nice little simple texture of light soup. Upon digging further was a crispy nugget of a lobster (Langoustines). I thought the soup was nice and simple, but to get a little nugget of the Langoustines was a pleasant surprise.

Braised Short Rib with Winter Vegetable and Pomme Soufflée - $14

Crispy Langoustines (buried deep inside) with a shot of Minestrone - $9

The next three courses reflect some of Chef Eme's expression of his Haute cuisine while not being too pretentious. The first dish up was a scallop that was plated with a clam and some chorizo mixed in with a small batch of paella. I find this dish to be one of his more accomplished dish of the night. The sauce that comes with the scallop and clam was a nice mixture to raise the flavor profile.

The organic chicken in a consomme was a bizarre choice that we had ordered. I think it didn't have the same bold flavor that ribs or the scallops had. What made it a confusing for me was that the consomme is a soup made from from grounded meat. To add a whole chicken on top of it was a nice interpretation from the chef which I did enjoyed it and the Shitake mushroom did become a completed dish with the consomme with a little help from the organic chicken.

The Cuttlefish with the truffle also did displayed plenty of the flair that Chef Eme have on its dishes. Beautifully presented dish with sophisticated flavors, but without being overly done in with too many ingredients. It was simple and yet refined. One of my favorite dish of the night.

Scallop with Paella/Chorizo/Clams - $9

Organic Farm Raised Chicken in consomme with Farfallina Pasta and Shitake Mushrooms - $12

Cuttlefish “Tagliatelle” Style / Black Truffle / Basil - $10

Truthfully, we would have been happy to end our tapas night right there, but we were talked into ordering a quiche because of a big kudos from our dining mates from the next table. The Quiche had a nice touch of truffle in it, but we could have ended it a little sooner.

While we waited for dessert, we noticed a nice little garden hanging on the wall along the dining tables next to the bar. It seemed to be homegrown organic herbs that will be used in the kitchen.

Quiche Lorraine with Truffle, Asparagus and Heart of Lettuce - $12

The Homegrown Herbs on the wall

The highlight of the night was to see two beautifully decorated and delicious desserts presented to us. My dining companion had a honey parfait that had kumquat, lemon cream and a scrumptious chestnut ice cream. I had a taste of the ice cream and it was something I wish I can find in my local market.

My part of the dessert was a panna cotta encased in a caviar can. The pearls on top of of the panna cotta looked like pearls or caviar, but it's a form of a tapioca pearls nicely decorated a very creamy panna cotta. If there was one dessert that I can live without, it's the panna cotta (sorry chocolate souflee, next time!).

Honey Parfait - Kumquat, Chestnut Ice Cream, Lemon Cream ($12)

Quince and Cinnamon Panna Cotta - Apple Caviar ($12)

Overall, I thought the service was professional and on its game. I have a very favorable impressions on how the tapas were being treated with some resemblance of a Haute French cuisine. It does give me some inklings on what are being offered here as I will definitely try out their 8 course tasting menu. Their best dishes are supposedly not in the tapas, so you will be wanting to come back to try their main menu courses.

As in for the depression era themed "lower priced" menu items, it's worth checking out a few dishes and hang out at their bar for some smooth mixology cocktail drinks.

8338 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 653-3300


Ortolan on Urbanspoon


kevinEats said...

Nice job. I was curious about the new "tapas" menu here, as I'd had a pretty decent meal at Ortolan a while back.

Right Way to Eat said...

Hey Kevin,

If you have the tasting menu, I think only one of the items was there. I noticed that some of the Ala Carte 1 or 2 menu dishes are on the tapas.

The tapas obviously is a small tasting dish and would give you a good idea what those dishes are before you make the splurge on ordering from the ala carte menu.

I'm dying to try out their tasting menu because he kept all of his best dishes on that tasting menu.

Diana said...

I'm sad I missed the tapas night -- those short ribs look divine! Though I think I might have wanted to horde the whole plate to myself!

Right Way to Eat said...

Hey D,

Sorry you missed that. Here's the thing, even though it looked like you can eat that all by yourself. I think you probably will be full after eating one or two tapas plate. It's better to share so that you can get to try more plates.

I quit after 6 dishes and one dessert. LOL

Kat said...

Wow sign me up! I have been wanting to try Ortolan's tasting menu ever since Chef Crenn, Best New Chef of 2008 by Esquire, talked about it with me. Now I am torn! If I go... do I try out the tapas first before their tasting menu? I just might have to come up next weekend to try this... do they have it every day?

Right Way to Eat said...

Hi Kat,

It's really depends on you. However if you are going on a weekend, I suggest trying out their tasting menu. After reading KevinEats, it seemed like a good deal. Right it's only $80 for an eight course meal (dropping from $110). LA Times said that tapas are Tuesday to Saturday, but someone told me it was only Tues to Thursday.

And if you go on Sunday, they have a $45 Brunch prefix meal. Either way, I think you will enjoy it. Bon Appetite!