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A lot of attention has recently been given to Executive Chef David Feau at Le Ka restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. Owners Michael and Marcus Kwan made an excellent choice on hiring the esteemed French chef. The word Le means “the” in French, and Ka is “family” in Mandarin. Chef Feau is happy to be part of the family.
Located on the corner of 6th and Flower, Le Ka is visually stunning with its wall of 20 foot tall windows bathing the room with light. Once a Cathay Bank, it took two years for the brothers to reconfigure and transform it into a restaurant.
Sitting at the bar area under soaring ceilings for a pre-dinner cocktail, we ordered the French Flip cocktail that offered a slight eggnog flavoring.
Our group was led into one of the two private dining rooms to sit at a table set for 16 guests. A glass partition separated our room for a slightly more intimate dining experience.
Diane Clemenhagen, the Wine and Beverage Director, introduced herself and poured the first of many
wine pairings to complement the multi-course meal. She is known to stay at Le Ka until 2 a.m. and come in the next day before 2 p.m.
“I love what I do,” she said. “When I have a day off, I visit other wine directors at restaurants to learn about their favorite wines.”
Clemenhagen poured us a glass of Pinot Noir from the Adelsheim Vineyard in Willamette Valley, Oregon. The wine displayed aromas of candied cherry and a touch of brown spice. She paired the wine with the three appetizers: Jidori wings bathed in buttermilk, duck rillettes with pickled Maui onions and a country paté that Chef Feau personally makes with cracked peppercorn.
Raised in France, Feau learned his craft by working with esteemed chef Guy Savoy. He came to Los Angeles and worked for Joachim Splichal at Café Pinot. Later, he opened The Royce at The Langham hotel in Pasadena and had a solid run for three years. Now, Chef Feau is happy to be back downtown at Le Ka.
I enjoyed the enhanced flavors of the Jidori chicken wings accompanied with Louisiana-style blue cheese dip. The chicken is deboned and bathed in buttermilk. We also tried the chopped kale salad with a sprinkling of goat cheese, chopped Medjool dates, tart grapefruit segments and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Another delightful summer salad is the tomato trio with heirloom tomatoes, a roasted confit of tomato and fried green tomatoes resting on whipped basil ricotta and drizzled with bacon vinaigrette. The confit tomato was cooked for hours to give it a jam-like consistency.
Clemenhagen paired this salad with an organic Evening Land Chardonnay from Edna Valley. Since tomatoes are acidic, the wine has a crisp and refreshing mouthfeel with a hint of cantaloupe and orange peel. It also complimented the mellow tasting beef tartare mixed with marinated feta and grilled scallions. Chef Feau served this dish with a quail egg and grilled focaccia.
A small pour of a pale golden Santa Barbara Viognier from Cold Heaven cellars was an exquisite choice with the seared octopus. It was pleasing to the palate with chickpeas, garlic chips and Treviso, which is similar to a radicchio. The wine offered the sweetness of a ripe nectarine.
The colorful pappardelle with squid, chorizo, saffron and squash was paired with a bottle of Bone-Jolly from the Witters Vineyard in El Dorado county. It’s a light scarlet Gamay Noir made from Beaujolais grapes with aromas of rose and red licorice.
Halibut cheeks with Boston clams, baby leeks and English peas paired with a nectarous German Reisling was an outstanding dish. The sweet and spicy wine with hints of peach and hints of black currant complemented the fish excellently.
Last we enjoyed a tender beef filet with delicate chanterelle mushrooms in a brandy sauce and truffle butter served with potato risotto. This entrée was exquisitely paired with a Medlock Ames Merlot from Alexander Valley.
For dessert, we were delighted when four different tastes arrived on a large white plate. My favorite was the elegant peach melba with thinly sliced fresh peaches and a pickled peach (with vinegar and wasabi powder), next to a vanilla semifreddo, with raspberries and almonds. It was served with a satisfying palate cleanser of a French Petit Manseng La Quintessence with essence of floral.
I thanked our hosts and servers, and departed Le Ka in a glow of happiness. As I reflected on the fine dining experience, it was a meal for “the last supper.” Le Ka is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. 800 W. 6th St. (213)688-3000.
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