Finally, after weeks of coveting, and a fair amount of drooling, I was able to finally get my rear over to Culver City on a Monday night with my usual partner in crime, The Catty Critic, her hubby and another fab friend Jean. Upon arriving, we saw several friends of ours enjoying the happy hour fare, and at $5 cocktails, who could blame them. I was rather surprised at the crowd on a Monday night, but at the time, I neglected to take into account that it was the MLK holiday, so that would help explain it. We were sat quickly thanks to reservations made on Open Table (be warned, parties larger that 4 persons requires a credit card hold), and the young, and dare I say, hot, chef came over to say hello. He informed us that the soupe du jour was a mushroom hazelnut soup, which sent Rosa into joyous hysterics. I wish I could say that I was exaggerating, but I'm being entirely truthful there.
A quick perusal of the menu and we were set to order. First, Ben had the first of many kind surprises as he had sent over flutes of a very nice cuvée rosé (label, unknown). I had intended to order a signature cocktail, but as I was driving had limited myself to one drink. This was to be it, apparently. I suppose that will induce me to go back for HH. As we sat back to enjoy our drinks and chit chat, the onslaught, and I mean that in the kindest sense, began:
Fois Gras Terrine - frissee/rhubarb/pomegranate ($18) - I love foie. Foie, foie, foie. I rarely find fault with foie gras, in any of its incarnations, and I found none here. I really enjoyed the rhubarb gelee it came with. The combination of savory and sweet was indescribably pleasant.
Piquillo Cheese Spread and Smoked Trout Rillettes - chorizo/manchego and lemon/chives/creme fraîche (respectively) ($9/each) - I'll be honest here, the cheese spread tasted like upscale nacho cheese dip. I would serve this at a superbowl party. And if Ben is willing to part with the recipe, I just might. It was good, but the smoked trout rillette was right up this fish lover's alley. I loved the smoky creaminess, and it was amazing on the house made bread.
Taglierini Neri - maine lobster/cherry tomatoes/basil ($24) - House made squid ink pasta. So long that even as I kept twirling, it never seemed to end. Twirl and slurp, twirl and slurp. Be sure to pause long enough to gorge on the HUGE pieces of lobster. This was decidedly my favorite dish of the evening. I loved the mild brininess to the pasta. The fact that it was fraîche only adds to the appeal.
Bucatini Carbonara - poached egg/pancetta/pecorino romano ($18) - I didn't try this one. It's Rosa's husband's favorite and as he had none of the previous dishes (picky), I didn't want to deny him the one thing he was eating.
Crispy Loup de Mer - sunchokes/wild mushrooms/salsifi/bordelaise ($28) - This was one that I maybe could have done without. I really liked the sunchokes and the crispy skin on the fish, but I was more entranced with my pasta. I may be being unfair, but I really liked the pasta.
House Made Agnolotti - wild mushroom/mascarpone/truffle butter ($16) - You had me at mushroom, but won me at truffle butter. Ever flavor played off each other nicely in this one, and though I only had one bite that night, it was a good one. It also happened to make delightful leftovers for lunch the next day.
Mangos/Panna Cotta/Passion Fruit Gelee and, wait for it, POP ROCKS! ($8) - Not yet on the menu, this was creamy, refreshing and fun all in one jar. The pop rocks had the whole table laughing as they popped and sizzled between our ears. A lovely throwback to days gone by. Though I would have loved this even without the candy.
Strawberries/Pistachios/creme/Balsamic Gelee ($8) - Again, not on the menu, yet. You would think the balsamic gelee sounds gross, but it was really really nice. I love strawberries on salad with balsamic vinaigrette, so it would make sense that these would go together. This reminds me of a summer day. I hope he keeps it around, or at least brings it back when strawberries are more in season.
Chocolate Coulant - toffee/peanut butter ice cream ($12) - MMMMMMMMmmmmm. Warm, chocolate, rich... you know...
Pistachio Crème Brûlée - apricot sorbet/rosemary crumble ($9) - I loved this. LOVED. I'm a huge fan of anything pistachio and this rocked my socks. I will say this, if you are iffy on this particular nut, then it's not for you. But that's fine, because that would mean there's more for me.
Palate - TOTALLY rocked!
9411 Culver Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232