Rich Man, Pour Man

229051346_8251b9a91dMemorable dining experiences can usually be attributed to several factors, great company, amazing food and wine, or something intangible that makes the night unforgettable.  But when you get all three rolled into one, well, I have one word to describe it…magic.

I turned 44 yesterday and while not a milestone birthday for those who keep score, I did decide to go out to dinner with very close friends in Venice (aka Hipsterville, USA).  Ah, to be the aging father of two with an 8:00pm reservation on a Thursday night…

We dined at Gjelina, a dining establishment so trendy the need for a sign outside the door is rendered moot.  And given the off-spelling of the name (not to mention its unpronouncability), I can only assume the owner’s intentions were to force older people like me to navigate the world wide interweb, where we’d no doubt stumble with the odd letter arrangement and never even find the website, leaving only the beautiful and young to part with their spare recessionary change.

Lucky for me the guy who made our reservation is 34.  Had they known he was also bringing three 40-somethings, lets just say we’d still be waiting for a table right now some 12 hours later.

For all its velvet rope posturing, Gjelina is a dark paneled, small plates cornicopia of culinary wonder, from the Mozza-esque pizzas to the garlicky broccoli, the salt and pepper frites to a spinach salad so amazing I squirreled away a piece of the ruffage into Linda’s purse and have since planted it in my backyard (keep you posted).

The wine list is eclectic and reasonable, from the sparkling Vouvray we started the evening off with to the light but flavorful Burgundy we enjoyed through most of the meal.

The viticultural highlight of the night though was a half-bottle of 1999 Chateau d’Yquem brought by my partner and noted Bon Vivant, and was the perfect ending to an up till then perfect evening.

Our waiter, an impossibly good looking Adrian Grenier look alike, brought the bottle to the table with four dessert glasses and a smile on his face.  He recounted to us how excited everyone behind the bar was at this bottle and how the owner/sommelier would love to try some.

Now it’s good form, I believe, to share a special wine you’ve brought to a restaurant with either the chief wine geek or even ones server, but it’s usually something the customer initiates, not the other way around.  I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but of course we were happy to oblige.

“Adrian” comes back with another dessert glass and proceeds to pour himself a FULL glass – this mind you from our HALF bottle.  I didn’t say anything – no one did – but as soon as he thanked us and floated away we all looked at each other as if to say, “did you just see that?”  We were shocked – but in a friendly, incredulous way.

He returned to let us know that our corkage fee and dessert charges were waved because of our nice gesture.

Yeah, like, no shit, I’d gladly cut $30.00 off a bill to drink $80.00 worth of wine too…

In the establishment’s defense the owner did come over (with plenty of d’Yquem left in his glass) to thank us personally for sharing our bottle with him and frankly if the food wasn’t so spectacular and I didn’t plan on reminding him of who I am when I call to make another reservation with the expectation of a red carpet being rolled out for us next time, I might have railed more against the gall, whether knowing or not, to take so much of a customer’s wine.

But the restaurant is a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED destination.

One last note about the d’Yquem, specifically for the wine’s importer Liquid Link.  This is the sticker they’ve placed on the back of the bottle, “Liquid Link, the Wine Source imports French Bordeaux.  The Aromas and flavors of this wine are Bordeaux’s Magic.  Enjoy!”

I understand the excitement of being able to import one of the oldest, most prestigious wine brands the world has ever known and maybe I’m being presumptuous here, but it’s not as if you’re selling a wine like this at Ralph’s.  Thus the cheesy salesmenship on a wine as historic as d’Yquem makes them look as if they don’t know what they’re doing…

Am I being douchy here???

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 9:34 am  Comments (6)  

Making the Mozza out of Mozza

While the hip factor has perhaps been taken out of the “Mozza’s” these days, both places still remain stellar examples of restaurants doing it right.

Osteria not only serves up some seriously decadent food but their service is first rate, as is the wine list.

For my money though, in this economy or any other, it’s Pizzeria Mozza that I pine for.  So this past Thursday, after taking the kids to E!’s annual Halloween party, we snuck in for our famous 5:30 reservation.  The boys  love pizza as much as I do, though they seem to be just as happy with Geno’s than something more exotic.

Who am I kidding? Between Geno’s and no pizza, I choose Geno’s…

Still, I was excited to have them experience Mozza, building it up much to their disinterest as we struggled through traffic from Wilshire/La Brea to Melrose and Highland.

Note:  I highly discourage you from taking Wilshire, La Brea, Melrose, Highland or any streets in between in trying to make this journey.  The 2.43 mile trip took 30 minutes.

To contradict Randy Newman, I (don’t) Love LA (during rush hour).

We arrived at PM around 5:50pm with out table still waiting for us – thank you – and I was happily surprised to see that they even had kids stuff to color before we ordered.  This said, Bennett was more impressed with the paper place mats, which showed various hand gestures that one can use to “speak” Italian.  He proceeded to spend the rest of the evening telling the wait and bus staff to “buzz off.”

Sorry, Mozza wait and bus staff…

One of my favorite things about the Mozza restaurants are their quartinos.  These small carafes of about four small glasses (see: quartinos) of wine are a great, cost effective way to enjoy a few different wines.  This night I ordered the Dolcetto a’ Alba from Guiseppe Marcarello and though a bit dry, there was plenty of fruit.  And at $13.00, could you really complain?

We started with the tri-colore salad, which is comprised of several kinds of leafy things I could not name with a botany textbook in hand but the ruffage is dusted with a nice layer of cheese, which the boys chose to simply lick off without eating it.  I recommend this salad with their lemon dressing, instead of the anchovy – you just have to ask.

The pizzas came next, a margherita, that’s quite simply the best one you’ll ever eat – sorry John’s on Bleeker in NYC, Lacocos in San Rafael, CA and too many places in Italy to name – because I could not name them – the crust is thin, as is the cheese but the flavors from the oven, the tomato sauce, the everything, is something everyone must experience.

Linda ordered the clam pizza, with a typhoon of garlic and Italian spices throughout.  Wow.

But no meal at PM is complete without the best dessert I’ve ever had – the Butterscotch Budino.  Simply put, a butterscotch pudding that is so out of this world I fully expect some alien civilization to rain down on earth to reclaim it from us one day.

If you live in LA, or are coming here, this is a must dining choice.

Me, I’m almost embarrassed to say that I just happen to be going back there…tonight!

Please don’t hate on me…

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 9:21 am  Leave a Comment  

To Live and Di(n)e in LA

I’m such an LA foodie hipster,  I had a reservation at Osteria Mozza this past Saturday night and cancelled on them.

Now, I’ve no doubt they were able to fill our coveted 5:30pm slot.  You know, the one normally reserved for those over 65 and usually found at a deli in Boca.  Still, it felt good.

I’m surely not the first person to write about this phenomenon, the two choice reservation.  Go ahead, try this.  Pick up the phone and call (insert hot restaurant here) to reserve a table.  In the case of either Mozza option, this of course must be done a month in advance, and only after 10am.  For those fond of radio station contests this will feel familiar.

Lets say you get through and even manage to make one of the people answering the phone (those with personality need not apply) check the book for your choice night in question.  And lets also say, for the sake of fantasy that you are able to make a reservation for said month hence (because really, who doesn’t like planning that far ahead?).  If the planets have aligned, I guarantee you will be given two options, 5:30pm or 9:30pm.

Cue: Muffled, snickering laughter from the corner of Highland & Melrose.

What Robot #1 doesn’t know is that my preferred reservation time is 5:30 (I have kids and often times want to go to a movie afterwards – a la Vicky Cristina Barcelona).  So what if my wife and I, along with a few friends, have to dine before the valets come on duty (there’s plenty of street parking on Melrose), or while our table is still being set around us? As long as the lights are on and the ovens are lit, we’re happy.

But this does prompt the question, who does get to eat at these places at 8pm?  Do us little people come in for the early bird mugging (see: your bill), only to be swept out back while the limos and Bentley’s pull up curbside, where (insert celebrity couple here) are whisked to their tables to eat at a normal hour.  And once they finish their meals and exit, I’m thinking three guys with metal detectors comb the room for loose diamonds and gold dubloons, while the staff gets ready for the starving class to crawl in at 9:30, who’s only sustenance prior to dining was four red vines.

Who’s with me on this conspiracy?

The real moral of this story though is that Saturday night, with no fanfare whatsoever, I logged onto Open Table at 4:30 *that* day  and secured a 7:00pm reservation at one of the best, most romantic places in town, Locanda Veneta.  I’d link them but they’re so hip, I don’t think they have a website anymore.  They don’t need one.

Those in the know (maybe I really am an LA Foodie hipster) already eat there regularly, and now you can too…

P.S.  In case the staff at Mozza is reading this (Cue: Snickering laughter from the entire world), the food at both places is truly special and I will continue dining there at 5:30 any chance I get.

Published in: on August 12, 2008 at 4:34 pm  Comments (2)