Basically this post was just an excuse to upload the above picture. Isn’t that the fountain from StarTrek 3: The Search for Spock?
Search for Spock
Steve Lopez also ran a story on Obama’s Occidental years in today’s Times. Maybe now people will stop asking why I decided to attend dental school…
Ξ January 13th, 2009 | → Comments Off | ∇ Beyond Northeast, Food |
As good as our local Mexican scene is, we still find time to explore the outlying regions of Los Angeles on the off-chance that Tacos La Estrella isn’t the Alpha and Omega of dining out. A recent LA Times review caught my attention, and last Friday, my date and I enjoyed the back roads to East LA for some Oaxacan cooking at Moles La Tia. The sign out front actually advertises for “Tamales y Antojitos La Tia”, so maybe this would be a good spot for lunch. (I’m always so full after mole it effectively ends my day.)
The service was a bit slow, and they did ask us to change tables, but they were apologetic and offered us free desert, which we turned out to be too full to take advantage of. Once reseated, our meal continued smoothly. They don’t serve beer, but the waiter simply suggested we run around the corner to the liquor store, and a six-pack of Pacificos later, we were ready to dig into our appetizer.
The Botana Mestiza consisted of Oaxacan quesadillas stuffed with calabacitas and quesillo and topped with cream and guacamole. They were excellent and reminded me how much I miss that quesadilla cart in Echo Park. The entrees were equally delicious. I had the Gambas al Cafe, shrimp with a coffee mole and just a slight kick of spice, and she ordered the Mole Poblano over chicken, which was a little smokey and not too sweet. After using the tortillas for mopping up the remaining sauce on both of our plates, I was too full to consider the desert menu. The price surprised me a bit, about $45 for the two of us after tip, but the food was good and I’ll be heading back to start chipping away at the 143 mole and meat combinations they offer.
Moles la Tia
4619 E. Cesar E. Chavez
Ξ January 12th, 2009 | → Comments Off | ∇ Beyond Northeast, Food |
Los Angeles makes a business out of hiding the truth. In Hollywood, huge cities are constructed in sound stages and people actually make a living here pretending they are someone else. What I love about our neighborhood is how far removed we are from that here. On our side of town it’s a safe bet that your waiter isn’t a wannabe actor and your gardener isn’t writing a screenplay. Here Hollywood is the exception to the rule. Then Palate came along.
Sitting deep in the middle of “auto row” on Brand Blvd in Glendale is an old warehouse that looks woefully out of place. Stranger still, however, is what it houses. Once upon a time it held a great little restaurant called Cinnabar (which, by the way, is a shade of red—and is not to be confused with the ever tasty Cinnabun). But Cinnabar disappeared long ago, and the warehouse sat empty for years.
Recently it opened its doors once again, as “Palate Food+Wine.” The space is open and colorful, bursting with pink neon light, shelves of wine behind the bar, and giant grapes hanging above the tables. Getting a reservation was hard, but then again we only tried for same-day reservations, just an hour or two away. Obviously I have grown used to this neighborhood and lost my L.A. instincts of calling 3 months in advance. I felt like I was trying to get a table at Mozza. Anyhow, the night we decided to go we were told we would have to settle for a spot at the bar, but not to worry, the full menu is served.
We skillfully avoided the valet and instead took one of the many spots across the street by the Ford dealership. A quick bout of jaywalking and we were in the door and ready for food + wine.
As I registered a quick glance of the bar it was clear it would not be an ideal place for a dinner for two. Small and crowded, the bar looked uncomfortable and full of swinging elbows as patrons sniffed their wines and ate their meals. I was worried. Fortunately the hostess actually had a table available and sat us right away.
The menu at Palate is simple, and a far contrast from their wine list. Appetizers consisted almost entirely of either cured or pickled foods, and only a couple salads. The duck rillettes were tasty, rich and fatty as one would expect. We avoided all the pickled goods. Though these selections make perfect sense on a winter menu, one of the many things I love about California is year-round availability of fresh vegetables, and have come to expect chefs to make the most of them. We don’t live in 19th century England, and don’t need to eat like we do.
Menu wise, the Entrées are a bit more impressive. The options range from ricotta gnocchi to game hen to octopus to pork belly. Again, the theme was heavy on “winter,” with everything paired with root vegetables and stews. We tried the sturgeon with fennel, meyer lemon and olives, as well as the rib eye with fingerling potatoes. The sturgeon was delicious—smooth, rich and soft, as good fish should be. The fennel and lemon balanced nicely, while the olives added a little tang to the dish. The rib eye, on the other hand, was uninspired to say the least. The two small rounds of steak were presented on the plate with a mere dribble of sauce, a few potatoes and two dried leaves of Swiss chard on top. The sauce ran out early, leaving behind bland and flavorless meat and dry roasted potatoes. I carefully divided up the greenery to add some to each bite, hoping it would imbibe some flavor. It was truly just meat and potatoes, and little else. Merely the simple essence of winter cooking. Of course it is technically winter, but when it’s 80° out and sunny, I have a hard time getting ready to sit down to comfort food—bland and insipid comfort food especially. This maybe isn’t a fair complaint, but it seems something to consider. Besides, on the whole the style of dishes is not where we found Palate lacking.
The wine list is robust for sure, yet it was also here that we found Palate most deficient. Overwhelming to the non-oenophile, the wait staff had no advice to give or knowledge to demonstrate when it came to the wine. When the couple next to us asked for information about their selected wine, the waitress could offer no more than what was on the bottle. I can clearly see if a wine is red or white, and where it is from is already written on the menu, thank you very much. Palate clearly sees itself as a sophisticated offering, yet lacks the actual sophistication. The servers are very diligent and always say “excellent choice, sir” or “delightful” as you order, but you quickly realize they were merely taught to say that and have no idea if it’s actually an excellent choice or a delightful wine. Like so much in L.A., it is all a front. The valet parking, the precision temperature wine fridges placed conspicuously behind the bar, the intentionally overwhelming wine list, the hostess who says “we are fully committed for this evening” instead of “we have nothing available” are all counterfeit. Palate seems more fit to a soundstage, or at least Melrose, than to Glendale or anywhere near North East L.A. Palate is simply not what it pretends to be, and truly doesn’t belong on “auto row.”
Palate Food + Wine
933 S. Brand Blvd.