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I think for my last meal in life, I’d like it to be at Patina in Los Angeles. Some might be intimidated to walk into one of the most high-end restaurants in Southern California, especially a restaurant that has received accolades from food critics of major magazines and newspapers.
Patina, located in the breathtaking Disney Concert Hall, raises food into an art form. The interior is pure, modern and non-intimidating with gorgeous walnut paneling, laser cut to look like a soft flowing curtain. It’s a restaurant where the servers dress in suits and ties. They smile often and enthusiastically share their knowledge of each menu item.
Last September, Chef and founder, Joachim Splichal, welcomed a new Executive Chef, Tony Esnault to Patina. Born and raised in the Loire Valley in France, he makes one’s heart beat faster with his handsome good looks and melodic French accent. As a young boy, he spent summers on his grandparent’s farm picking and tasting raw ingredients. As a young man, he enrolled in the Francois Rabelais culinary school to learn the classic French technique of cooking. His biggest inspiration as a chef was working alongside renowned Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monaco. Nine years later he reunited with Ducasse at the Essex House in New York and was named a “Rising Star.” Later he opened, with Ducasse, the restaurant, Adour, at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, earning stars from top reviewers and dining guides.
In today’s economy, the tasting menu at $120 and $95 for the vegetarian tasting menu is saved for a special birthday or anniversary celebration. We opted to try the a la carte side of the menu and asked Christian, the General Manager, for suggestions. He recommended that we start our dining crusade with a signature appetizer; the seasonal glazed vegetable mosaic with fifteen different vegetables combined in a jus de caisson (cooking juice of the vegetables) and lemon oil. Its beauty and taste nearly brought me to tears.
Next arrived marinated hamachi (yellowtail) with geoduck (large clam) lined in a perfect row with medallions of avocado, crostini and green apple drizzled with a cucumber vinegar and mustard dressing. It was divine.
Sylvestre, the knowledgeable sommelier, paired our dishes with small tastings. My favorite wine was the Vouvray Domaine Pichot. He described it as “a brush of sweetness, yet balance on the back of the palette.” It was an accurate description of what was happening inside my mouth.
The piece de resistance was the main course butter-poached Maine lobster with sugar snap peas, asparagus, fava beans, and English peas with a reduction of lobster with chives. It was heavenly.
Rolling carts appear at tables filled with caviar, or fish flown in from Greece and filleted at tableside. Milk-fed veal rack for two arrived on a cart with two servers. The perfect cuts of veal were plated with glazed carrot medallions, turnips and cipollini onions (a bittersweet bulb of the grape hyacinth). As one server poured the veal jus from a white carafe, another presented the veal bone and damp cloth with sliced lemon and lime to freshen our hands.
After our meal, a cheese cart was rolled to our table with over 20 different cheeses from around the world. We chose a slice of blue cheese with a plate of smoked almonds, sweet walnut purée, candied pecans and apricots with slices of sweet and French bread. Then a tea cart arrived with over 20 jars of tea leaves. A separate tea menu was handed to me to select a unique tea, prepared and steeped at our table.
If central casting came into the restaurant, they would cast Chef Tony as the leading man, General Manager Christian Philippo as Russell Crowe, and server Thibaud as Prince Charming. As we finished our meal, I wanted to take all of them home with me. Not only for their gourmet food, but their warmth and charm. Patina is a true dining adventure, where my taste buds were heightened to a new discriminating level, yet the staff touched my heart with their appreciation of beautifully crafted food. Patina will be closed for the first two weeks in September to refresh the interior and will reopen on September 14. For reservations, (213)972-3331, 141 S. Grand Ave.
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