Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pouring it on at PATINA in LA

I had been to Joachim Spiltal's gourmet star, PATINA (, several times before in its old location in West LA (where Providence now reigns), but this was my first visit to the new location which opened a couple of years ago in the magnificent new Walt Disney Hall designed by Frank Gehry in downtown LA. The magnificent aluminum/steel building slopes down to give way to the intimate Patina space as well as a front patio to dine outside. The colors and shapes outside are reflected inside with dark wavy wooden walls, putty carpets and leather chairs (and even the same color outfits for the servers!). I guess putty is "in" in LA! The slightly wavy ceiling is real cool with orange peachy backlighting coming through slats in the waves. There are stainless accents, crisp white linens and gorgeous orchids on every table. Cozy semi-circular banquettes on one wall make for cozy dining for two, three or four while viewing the crowd. Most of the crowd last night had come from the matinee of LA TRAVIATA which happily is being made into a DVD (starring my client Renee Fleming and her wonderful Alfredo, Rolando Villazon, who I pray will become a client!). Alas, Annette Benning, hubby Warren Beatty and their kids (who were at the opera and backstage afterwards) decided to dine elsewhere. Enough of the glitterati as the food starred last night.

I asked the sommelier about an Austrian varietal on the menu, SCHAFLERHOF 2001 ROTSIPFLER, which I had never heard of before and he instantly brought me a taste of the wine. Rotsipfler is usually used for blending he told me and it has an odd sweet nose but a herbaceous taste (think somewhat like viognier, but weirder). I opted to drink something else, as this wine did not suit my taste at all. I went for a magnificent 2002 Domaine Michel NIELLON CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET that was creamy and smooth, not fruit forward in the least, but a subtle chardonnay of excellence with the terroir easily found in the slight mineral taste.

An amuse of TUNA TARTARE with Cherry Tomatoes and Olive Tapenade was nice, but the action started with my tasting menu. MAINE SCALLOP CARPACCIO with YUZU SORBET was simple slices of the raw seafood and a dollop of the lemony sorbet which was perfect with each bit. Some greens underneath gave color, but I also liked the dried yuzu lemon dust around the plate. Next came a luscious (not creamy) LOBSTER & CHANTERELLES RAGOUT Gratineed with a Sabayon of Black Truffles and shavings of the same. These were less intense summer truffles and while the nose of truffle was there, the taste was mild; the sabayon was more foamy than creamy giving less weight to the dish and making it less filling--there was much to follow. TRUITE DE MER "a la Plancha" with MANILA CLAMS, Yukon Potato Cubes, Leek Emulsion and Sauteed Leeks was perhaps the best trout I have ever had; it came from the TASMANIAN SEA! This gets an A++ in my book. I was asked if I would like a palate cleanser before the meat, and obviously said yes. A grapefruit sorbet came, and I was so sad to turn it back due to my cholesterol drugs. A substitute of Vanilla Bean PANNA COTTA came out with MANGO SORBET, Pineapple and Pomegranate came out as fast as could be; it was a divine cleanser and treat.

About this point I met the charming manager Christian who spoke with me extensively. I found out that the only other Relais et Chateaux dining spot in LA, L'Orangerie, will be closing soon, leaving only PATINA. Lucky them! Sylvester, the sommelier, then came by to advise the couple across from me thought I looked so attractive and was having so much fun, that they offered me a glass of wine. He chose a superb MONTEBRUNA BARBERA d'ASTI "Braida" 2004 that was still young with a slight bite, smooth and tasty--think sexy. It was great with my meat, but I still had Montrachet left which was fine with the CRISPY SWEETBREADS, LENTILS de PUY "bottle poached", baby carrots and parsnips.

My meat was a magnificent MILLBROOK FARMS VENISON SADDLE with Polenta & Cranberry Strudel, a light Chocolate Sauce (think light mole) and Venison Jus. The meat was sublime, but I wasn't crazy about the polenta strudel, it needed something, but I was full-so no matter. I took the time to stroll over to the gracious couple and chat a bit. Oddly enough, she was an aspiring opera singer!

For dessert, I opted out of the Chocolate Symphony and choose the perfect ALMOND NOUGAT GLACE, Caramelized Banana "Encroute" with Almond Puree and Banana Ice Cream. It was a great combination of mini-desserts all assembled beautifully. I loved the crusted banana!

Sylvester brought over a complimentary glass of COTEAUX DU LAYON CHAUMES 1er CRU from Chateau Pierre Bise in the Loire that ended my meal and stay in LA perfectly.