Empty restaurants sort of scare me. Last night I went with a friend to a new Italian restaurant in Los Angeles and it was empty, except for one other table. It made me uneasy.
Strange thoughts went through my mind. Is the food that bad? Is the service terrible? What's lurking behind the door to the kitchen? It was all sort of Hitchcock-like—I get sort of movie dramatic in La La. Or maybe it was because I was with a friend, James Orr, who is a movie director (and a wine collector).
Anyway, the service was pretty bad to say the least, and the decor had a sort of unfinished feel to it. The menu looked good, with lots of sophisticated and hearty Italian dishes, from starters of octopus carpaccio with tomatoes and tripe braised in a spicy tomato sauce with grilled polenta to main courses of roasted monkfish crusted with tomato and olives on a bed of sautéed eggplant and tomato to ricotta-, spinach- and black truffle-stuffed breast of guinea hen with glazed onion and winter vegetables.
We ate all those dishes and they were very, very good, as good as they might be at Valentino or many other high end Los Angeles Italian restaurants. But the food just didn’t taste right in an empty restaurant. It’s like going into an empty art gallery during an opening exhibition. It makes you wonder if you're the only fool in town.
Anyway, we weren’t that foolish going to this restaurant, which will remain unnamed since it has only been open for a week. Prices were too high for the neighborhood, with starters from $10 to $19 and mains from $25 to $36. The wine list is reasonable in price, and we did find a bottle of the 2006 Wine of the Year: 2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova.
It was $135 on the list, which isn’t cheap, but apparently some retailers are selling it for more now. And we were splitting the bill, so we ordered it. Orr hadn’t tried it before, and I told him that our friend James Laube had just blogged about it the same day—we couldn’t let Laube have all the fun.
The wine was as fantastic as ever. It started off very perfumed with aromas of crushed cherries, dried flowers, minerals and hints of wood. The palate was tight and firm, yet balanced and silky. It evolved quickly in the glass generating a rich, round silky and delicious palate. Orr was impressed, commenting, “This is some wine.”
I wasn’t going to disagree! It just would have been nice if some other people in the restaurant were around to overhear our conversation.
Totv — La Quinta, CA — February 6, 2007 8:43pm ET
Tom Benson — Bellevue, WA — February 6, 2007 10:58pm ET
John Lin — TW — February 7, 2007 6:54am ET
Dan Jaworek — Chicago — February 7, 2007 9:03am ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — February 7, 2007 10:53am ET
Andrew Schaufflervircsik — Clarkdale, AZ — February 7, 2007 11:26am ET
John Flaska — Laguna Niguel, CA — February 7, 2007 12:02pm ET
James Suckling — — February 7, 2007 4:44pm ET
James Suckling — — February 7, 2007 4:45pm ET
Tom Benson — Bellevue, WA — February 8, 2007 10:56am ET
James Peterson — San Antonio, Texas — February 8, 2007 3:41pm ET
Paul Murray — La Canada, CA — February 9, 2007 7:08pm ET
James Suckling — — February 9, 2007 7:18pm ET
B Vedaa — June 9, 2007 5:22pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions