Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Guide To Divalicious Dining: Comme Ca, The Bazaar by Jose Andres & Lucques

The Bazaar's "Smoked" Salmon
For Mother's Day weekend, Kuzak and I had the pleasure of hosting his parents. From the moment they were fresh off the plane from Des Moines, the dining extravaganza began, kicking off at Il Pastaio, a lovely Italian eatery in Beverly Hills, where we feasted on delicious antipasto, including the Rillini di Melonze (eggplant wrapped with goat cheese) and the Bresaola (cured beef served with arugula and hearts of palm).

Following that lovely lunch, we reconvened at our house for a glass of wine. Thus, began the night of the humping incident. The Adorable Monster, flush after receiving a stuffed lamb as a gift from Kuzak's mother, decided that his father looked like the best humping post ever. At any opportunity, he'd wrap his paws around any available limb and begin to hump, much to Kuzak and my complete and total embarrassment. It led me to wonder if this was his guard dog strategy. First, bark at new intruders, then hump them to death. Way to go Monster!

Then, after prying the Monster off Kuzak's dad, we moved on to to Comme Ca that night for cocktails and dining. Now, I've been several times before, but the food keeps getting better. This was one of the best meals I've had in some time. We each began with a fun cocktail. Kuzak and my favorite is the Penicillin, a concoction of bourbon, ginger, lemon and honey, sweet and gingery and tart all at the same time. In fact, I'd say it's dangerously good! Then, after ordering a glass of a nice Loire Valley cabernet franc, we feasted on our starters. Kuzak stuck with his frisee salad while I ventured into oyster land, ordering up half a dozen. As always, they were succulent and delicious. I'm a big fan of oysters, and this is one of the few restaurants I frequent that has a great raw bar.

Comme Ca's Oysters
For entrees, we each ordered a different dish. Kuzak's father dined on coq au vin and his mother on the lamb shank. Both dishes looked beautifully executed with nice presentations. Kuzak went with the special New York strip steak with pommes frites while I ordered one of my favorite classic bistro dishes, Beef Bourguignon. My dish was so delicious, that I literally could not stop eating it. Served over buttery mashed potatoes and smothered in a thick sauce, the beef fell apart on my plate. It was seasoned perfectly, and while rich still well balanced.

Comme Ca's Lamb Shank

For dessert, we followed our waiter's suggestion and ordered the pot de creme and it was divine, with cream and chocolate all blending together. This was a fab meal - the food was excellent and the service was attentive. So far, the best experience I've had at Comme Ca and that's saying a lot.

Comme Ca's Beef Bourguignon
Our Saturday began with a brunch at BLD, one of my favorite spots in LA. The blueberry ricotta pancakes are so good they're practically orgasmic, especially when paired with their thick cut bacon. I'm also a huge fan of their House Cured Salmon Eggs Benedict. If only I didn't have to choose each time? Maybe they'll consider offering a breakfast special like Denny's only with both the blueberry pancakes and the eggs benedict. One can always dream.

For dinner, at the request of Kuzak's mom, I'd bravely made a reservation at The Bazaar by Jose Andres. This would be trip number 2 for Kuzak and me (click here to read my full review). The night did not begin smoothly. First, even though I made my reservation well in advance, they were only able to offer me a 9:15PM seating. Then, we were made to wait at least twenty minutes past our reservation time to be seated at our table, a big faux pas, especially at a nice restaurant. Also, the hostess was not especially friendly to our party. I'm headed back this Saturday night, and while I fully expect to be subjected to the same treatment again, I hope that they've corrected the problem. I promise to report back.

Because we were seated so late, everyone was starving, putting the pressure on me to order some food pronto from the complicated menu! Quickly, I scrawled out a list of requests on a receipt and handed it to our lovely waiter, who despite his thick Spanish accent was able to read it perfectly. On a purely food level, they've made improvements to several of the dishes, and it was better than on our first visit, though still uneven in terms of the pacing of the meal and escalation of the dishes. At times, a log jam of four would appear all at once, and then there would be down time with no dishes matriculating from the kitchen. Also, the server was not always to be found when needed, lending a certain clumsiness to the experience.

The highlights of the meal included the Not Your Everday Caprese. We also sampled the tomato and mozzarella pippettes as I'm always curious to try anything that comes with instruction. They were tasty, but paled in comparison to the caprese, leading me to wonder why both appeared on the menu at all. Their menu use some editing down if you ask The Diva. The "new take" on tortilla espanola was still fab, served this time in a painted egg shell, a better presentation than the first time we went. The lamb loin was also still completely delicious and the philly cheese steak tasted better this time with the beef melting in your mouth.

The Bazzar's Tomato and Mozzarella Pippettes

My favorite new dish we sampled was the smoked salmon. It arrives with a smoke-filled glass dome encasing it, and when the waiter lifts it, smoke filters out. The fish itself was beautifully cured - light, creamy - and served over an airy potato latke and with cream cheese and dill, a take on the classic lox combination. So while The Bazaar is a unique experience and worth trying, they still have a lot to work out before they can reach the true heights of fine dining of which they are capable. Check back next week to hear how Trip No. 3 with my family goes!

As Sunday rolled around, I made a lovely Mother's Day brunch at my place (recipes coming soon) and then we went for a hike with the Monster, who behaved himself beautifully thanks to stringent coaching on Kuzak and my parts. We instructed his parents to completely ignore the puppy when they came in the house. "Don't even look at him!" Kuzak ordered. It worked perfectly and he was a model citizen the whole day. For dinner, we sauntered over to Lucques, Suzanne Goin's flagship restaurant. While I've dined at AOC, her tapas bar, regularly, this was first trip to Lucques. On Sunday nights, they offer a three course fixe prix menu for $45, a steal based on the caliber of restaurant. I'd been wanting to check it out for a long time, and Mother's Day offered the perfect opportunity. First off, as we walked into the restaurant, we were all blown away by the space. It felt cozy, with warm brick walls and a fireplace. The patio looked romantic and comfortable. The service was also impeccable, leading me to think that The Bazaar could take some lessons from the Lucques staff. The manager even came over to personally check on Kuzak's mother due to her fish allergy, making us feel totally safe in their hands.

Lucques' Salmon & Butter Lettuce Salad

The menu began with a salmon and butter lettuce salad with green goddess dressing which tasted like a puree of herbs and anchovies. The salad, while simple, was divine. The salmon was perfectly cured and the herbs added great flavor. For entrees we had a choice of either halibut with succotash or Niman Ranch steak with white beans and a tomato and feta salsa. The table split evenly with the ladies ordering the steak and the fellas going for the halibut. All I can say is that both dishes were beautifully executed with fresh flavors that meshed together perfectly. I especially loved the feta cheese and tomato salsa on my steak - I may have to try to make it at home. Even though Kuzak insisted that he ordered the better dish, I maintain that they were both divine. The menu finished with a light, cleansing dessert of fresh strawberries, sorbet and mascarpone.

Lucques' Halibut with Succotash

All said and done, the weekend was full of great food and family. The highlight was Sunday Night Supper at Lucques. I know I will be going back beyond the shadow of a doubt. Stay tuned to hear how my weekend with my mother, The Original Diva, my father, the Wine Lover, and my Top Chef Brother goes. We have trips planned to Osteria Mozza and The Bazaar (again!), and tonight I'm making dinner at home for us!

Restaurants Mentioned in This Post:
Il Pastaio
400 N Canon Dr.

Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 205-5444

Diva Rating: 3 stars (out of 5 stars)

Notes: Loved the antipasto more than the entrees.

Comme Ca
8479 Melrose Ave.

West Hollywood, CA 90069

(323) 782-1104

Diva Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Notes: Loved the food and service. Because the menu is fairly traditional, it holds this restaurant back from a 4 star rating.

7450 Beverly Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 930-9744

Diva Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Notes: The blueberry rictotta pancakes are to die for! They also have great cheese and cured meat selection. I prefer them for breakfast and lunch rather than dinner.

The Bazaar by Jose Andres
465 S. La Cienega Blvd.

Beverly Hills, CA

(310) 246-5555

Diva Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Notes: I had previously given this restaurant a 4 star rating, but knocked them down this time because of the poor service. They're still working out some flaws, but the food is unlike anything else you'll try stateside! I'll report back on my third trip next week.

8474 Melrose Ave.
West Hollywood, CA 90069

(323) 655-6277

Diva Rating: 4 stars (for Sunday Night Supper)

Notes: I LOVED this place and will return. I haven't yet tried their regular menu, so this rating applies only to their regular Sunday Night Suppers. A real bargain for $45!

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