The Cute Gardener has been extolling the virtues of Patina Restaurant and its alumni chefs ever since I’ve known him and we’ve had the pleasure of tasting dishes by many of these exquisite masters over the course of the last two years amongst the Southern California culinary landscape. Last night I had the pleasure of trying the restaurant out before a concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall (which Patina is conveniently connected to) and feel equally entranced by the truly class act presented by the whole experience.
There’s something special about getting dressed up for a world-class performance and being fed a world-class dinner beforehand. Walking into the understated and minimalist dining room past an old school elegant cheese tray I knew I was in for a treat. We were given a great booth and then proceeded to be pampered by a bevy of special touches that elevate a great restaurant from a sea of wannabes starting with the fact that the soft-spoken and sharply professional waitress came carrying both black and white napkins to the table to see which was more appropriate for our attire. We settled in with perfectly mixed cocktails: a Le Voyageur made with pisco, campari and lemons juice for me and a Printemps Precosse of Tanqueray, spiced kumquat syrup, Champagne and lime for the CG and watched the artistry begin.
An amuse was offered of creamy carrot puree soup floating with an oval of toast. The CG informed me that the amuse is given to everyone no matter what even if a person merely stops in for a cheese course or a bowl of balsamic reduction strawberries at the end of a performance. This was followed by a bread course of which a large wooden box was presented with a choice of freshly baked plain baguette, whole-wheat roll or green olive ciabatta.
Based on their reputation for good soups, I had to try the asparagus veloute. A bowl arrived with a few curls of the vegetable alongside strands of pink pickled allume and a large crispy, breaded farm egg over which was poured a vibrant green and thick broth. A spoon sliced through the egg revealed gloriously runny yolk that swirled lusciously into the dish adding a luxurious heft to the dish.
The crispy veal sweetbreads came in a generous trio, perfectly accented by a touch of black truffle and a creative display of caramelized miniature cipollini onions, tiny polenta log and pencil asparagus. The sweetbreads were smoky meat treasures that I had to eat in small, delicate bites not wanting the pleasure to end.
I am obsessed with pork belly and enjoy the fact that it can be presented in so many different ways but this was my favorite so far. Only a thin layer of the skin was kept on and the belly was rolled up like a roulade so that with each forkful I received a crunch of crispy skin, a soft layer of buttery fat and another more densely textured sliver of meat. The spinach laden with golden raisins and translucent radish disks gave the meat a nice kick. The sweet and sour sauce was poured over the dish steaming tableside.
Finally, as full as we were, we couldn’t resist a handcrafted passion fruit chiboust which was a circular disk of extremely light custard with a brulee topcoat surrounded by a sea of teeny diced exotic fruits like kiwi and mango. A wafer roll filled with carbonate mango sorbet provided a nice bitter twist to the otherwise super sweet dish.
To top off the elite performance, our waitress delivered a final plate of candies, a special send off to seal the memory of this unforgettable place.
One nice point about Patina is the fact that our server asked us if we were going to a concert and when we replied yes and told her what time it was, she made sure our meal was perfectly timed to meet our curtain call. Our receipt actually showed timing notes and we were there for close to two and a half hours and the expediting turned out wonderfully.
Utterly charmed by the flawless dinner, we made our way into the concert hall high on the good feelings that come from being catered to in such a professional way with the realization that we had absolutely not one critical thing to say about the whole experience. That’s a rare feat to encounter and was worth every penny – making Patina my favorite restaurant of the moment, and one I will return to on special occasions in the future.