Patina Restaurant Group recently welcomed Phillip Martin from their flagship restaurant Patina as the new executive chef leading the kitchen at Café Pinot. This talented chef was raised in East Los Angeles and honed his skills in the kitchens of Drago in Los Angeles, Bouley in New York City, and Red Medicine and The Bazaar by José Andrés in Beverly Hills, among others. At Café Pinot, Martin has unveiled a new menu highlighting fall flavors and a selection of comforting house-made pastas, vegetable-forward small plates and savory proteins.
Basking under heaters and twinkle lights in the restaurant’s beautiful garden patio, my friends and I started our evening at Café Pinot with cocktails, choosing from a list that included fun names like Double Back Manhattan, Heart of the Piña and Lavender Night. I selected the Sorbet Beret made with Absolut Elyx vodka, hibiscus flower tea and the French wine-based apéritif Lillet. A tall glass arived filled with ice and a raspberry and orange slice garnished this refreshing pink drink.
For our starters, we tried the bright pink hamachi crudo plated with compressed watermelon cubes and mint. Sliced red Fresno peppers and tomatoes added color and contrasted nicely against the green mint leaves. The kalamansi citrus broth rounded out this bold small plate with a winning combination of sweet, acidic and bitter flavors.
Our next serving of Little Gem lettuce leaves on a wooden board had a savory surprise of Australian beef tartare mixed with jicama, mushroom confit, tarragon and a slightly burnt tangerine aioli.
A fennel salad arrived with slices of ripe pear, crushed hazelnuts, crumbled Humboldt Fog cheese and crushed black pepper. It was a favorite around the table with its nutty and sweet flavors. Another table pleaser was the crispy lamb sweetbreads with their fresh Greek-inspired flavors with goat milk yogurt, sliced cucumber, leeks, mint and cumin.
The real star at Café Pinot, however, is the pasta. We tried the cilantro chitarra, a thin, green pasta with a sprinkling of salty cotija cheese. Next to the noodles, the dish arrived with an array of perfectly cooked vegetables, including sliced yellow and green squash, red bell pepper and corn.
“I could eat this daily,” Martin said. I could too. It was heavenly.
For another stellar pasta, try Martin’s tomato agnolotti stuffed with fresh ricotta and tomato water infused with basil. Heirloom cherry tomatoes crème fraîche top this dish. Agrumato oil is also drizzled on top, giving the fresh flavors a spike of citrus.
There’s also the unique squid ink fettuccine, with bread crumbs, garlic and chili flakes giving the smooth pasta a bit of texture. It’s finished with a row of shrimp on the side, adding delightful scampi flavors.
My favorite entrée was the steak au poivre with creamy confit fingerling potatoes, bite-sized heirloom pearl onions and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. What made this dish spectacular were the spicy shishito peppers soaked in the glorious steak sauce. I also enjoyed the seared salmon served with creamy buttermilk nasturtium sauce, crisp fingerling potatoes and shimeji mushrooms, which offered a slightly nutty flavor.
The most visually appealing entrée was the sliced duck breast served on a bed of crunchy quinoa, sliced figs, charred fig jam and five-spice pho broth. An egg cooked at 64.5 degrees adds richness as the yolk blends with the flavorful pho broth.
For dessert, frozen foie gras topped a caramelized banana brûlée with chopped hazelnut and maple sable. It was beautifully presented, however, it was not quite my cup of tea. Next time, I plan to order instead the devil’s food cake with glazed cherries, almond and spiced caramel Chantilly cream. I’m sure it will delight like the many other dishes on Martin’s fall menu.
During theater season, Café Pinot offers a two-course, pre-show meal for $42 per person. The menu features the hamachi crudo, crispy lamb sweetbreads, or fennel salad that I enjoyed as a first course. Entrées include the rotisserie Jidori chicken, beef tenderloin, market fish or the vegetarian arborio rice porridge with foraged mushrooms, cauliflower, corn and shaved black truffle. They offer complimentary parking for theater guests. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. $$ 700 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles, (213)239-6500.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.