Providence - Los Angeles, CA

Dinner - Saturday, June 23, 2012

Our most recent meal at Providence was once again with guests from out of town. For the first time, we were seated in the cellar room to the right of the main entrance. I liked it - more private than the main dining room, without the isolation of the chef's table. We'll have to remember to request this space in the future (although it is not necessarily conducive to photography due to the extreme mixed lighting in the room - thus, I apologize in advance for the photos).

The tasting menu was quite a departure from previous progressions (for the better, in my opinion). As I've given background ad nauseum about the restaurant in earlier posts, I'll get right to it and let the pictures tell the evening's story.

Amuse 1 - Mojito, Screwdriver
Amuse 2 - Oysters, real and imitation
A delectable duo of briny flavours. We were advised to begin with the Kumamoto oyster on the right, topped with pickled green tomato, jalapeno, lime and cucumber. We chased this with the oyster plant leaf topped with a classic mignonette.

Amuse 3 - Binchotan-grilled sword squid and chorizo, sake/miso-glazed Monterey Bay abalone 
Amuse 4 - Nasturtium leaf, scallop tartare, crumbled senbei
Amuse 5 - Nori focaccia, uni, lardo de bellota, black truffle
Leading into the larger courses, this was the weightiest amuse by far - a giant tongue of uni topped with a slice of lardo, accented with black truffle butter and a disc of Australian winter truffle. Fortunately, there was a large enough dose of salt in the focaccia and the lardo to offset the richness of the bite.

Shiso, soy salt, foie gras powder, sea beans, chive blossom
I'd always thought of tairagai (pen shell) as a Japanese winter mollusc, but this dish proves otherwise - I can't imagine Michael Cimarusti serving out-of-season products (perhaps it's sourced from the Southern hemisphere). The foie powder brought in some fat to complement the raw flesh, while the soy salt nicely counterbalanced the sweetness of the meat.

Fluke, geoduck
Yuzu kosho creme fraiche, oro blanco, sprouted mung beans
Santa Barbara spot prawn, white asparagus
Smoked butter, caviar, fava beans, green almonds, borage
Brilliant! First, I always enjoy the pairing of green almonds with seafood. Second, the barely-cooked prawn played beautifully with the asparagus and caviar (particularly with the smoked butter to tie all three together). Third, the foam was actually the frothed milk in which the asparagus had been cooked - it's flavour was surprisingly forward. Very strong dish.

Wild sierra mackerel
Artichoke, Nantes carrots, pearl onion, parsley-jalapeno pistou, fennel pollen
Foie gras
Hazelnuts, spring garlic confit, haricot vert, lardons, porcini
As it turns out, this dish proved to be our last legal bite of Californian foie gras - luckily for us, it did not disappoint in the least. It was a perfectly seared piece of liver, paired simply with earthy accoutrements. No surprises, none needed.

Unagi, grilled apricot
Bachelor's button, foie gras emulsion, arugula
Copper River King salmon, nasturtium, onion in various forms
The salmon was delicious when played against the peppery nasturtium, but I found that both were overpowered by the sweetness of all the onion forms - I recall (at least) a charred Maui onion vinaigrette, an onion fluid gel, onion dirt, a roasted cippolini onion, and a crispy shallot ring.

Australian wagyu, hibiscus syrup
Sunchoke puree, horseradish creme fraiche, glazed beets and pattypan squash, red-veined sorrel
Cheese plate
I think I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but the Rogue River Blue really is one of my favourite blue-veined cheeses. Tonight, however, I actually enjoyed the Reblochon (top left) most - it tasted at its peak, and I appreciated its funky nutty aftertaste more than ever.

Pickled green strawberries, yogurt
Verjus, pluots, micro celery
A great palate cleanser, with tight acidic notes from many components tempered by the creamy yogurt. The real standouts were the verjus and micro celery leaves, which produced an unexpectedly tantalizing combination.

Creme fraiche, sable breton, financier, chestnut jam, vanilla mousse
I believe our server jokingly referred to this dessert as "the Mont Blanc" - an appropriately self-evident description. It was quite successful, with the (almond) financier and vanilla mousse echoing similar notes in the sable breton. The hidden chestnut jam at the core of the dessert was well-calibrated (not too sweet!). My only issue with the dish was an unpleasant eggy aftertaste (from the sable?)

Brown butter custard, banana ice cream, banana cake
Jasmine, granola, wild flower honey gelee, peanuts
We finished with a few sweet treats - hazelnut creme caramels, chili-lime pate de fruits, and olallieberry macarons. David Rodriguez, the new executive pastry chef, has been channelling his former mentor, as Adrian Vasquez's imprint on the various desserts seemed quite strong to me. I for one am hoping that Chef Rodriguez breaks out further and shows more of what he was pulling off with Jordan Kahn over at Red Medicine (or better yet, a synthesis of the two styles).

Despite the restaurant running at capacity due to their June anniversary celebration, service was smoother than ever - I don't know if this was because our team was completely different from the servers we've had in the past. Regardless, another excellent meal that further burnishes Cimarusti's reputation with seafood.

5955 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Phone: (323) 460-4170