18
Jan

ORSA&WINSTON

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ORSA&WINSTON

BECAUSE WE INVESTED IN MOST OF JOSEF CENTENO’S RESTAURANTS, I HAVE BEEN RELUCTANT TO GIVE BÄCO MERCAT, BAR AMÁ AND ORSA & WINSTON THE PRAISE THEY GARNERED FROM JONATHAN GOLD AND PATRICK KUH.  AMONG OTHERS.

BUT OUR MOST RECENT DINNER AT ORSA & WINSTON COMPELS ME TO BREAK RADIO SILENCE. JOSEF’S CURRENT FALL/WINTER TASTING MENU NOT ONLY SURPASSES HIS PREVIOUS EFFORTS, BUT ANY TASTING MENU I’VE HAD IN THIS CITY BY A COUNTRY MILE.

AS JONATHAN GOLD WROTE IN HIS 2014 REVIEW FOR THE L.A. TIMES, “JOSEPH CENTENO MAY BE THE PRIME MOVER BEHIND WHAT WE’VE COME TO THINK OF AS MODERN LOS ANGELES COOKING; THE SMALL PLATES, MULTICULTURAL INFLUENCES, MODEST PRICES AND EXQUISITELY SOURCED PRODUCE THAT HAVE ONCE AGAIN NUDGED THE CITY INTO THE FRONT RANKS OF WORLD CUISINE.”

WHEN JOSEF FIRST DESCRIBED THE CONCEPT BEHIND HIS NEW VENTURE, HE SAID HE WANTED TO CREATE DISHES THAT COMBINED THE HOMEY ROBUSTNESS OF ITALIAN COOKING WITH THE ZEN-LIKE REFINEMENT OF JAPANESE CUISINE.  AT THE TIME, IT OCCURRED TO ME THAT HE COULDN’T HAVE PICKED TWO MORE INCOMPATIBLE FOOD CULTURES.  JOSEF PROVED ME WRONG.  ERGO: RISOTTO OF SUSHI RICE WITH PARMESAN BROTH AND UNI.

BUT IF ITALIAN AND JAPANESE WEREN’T ENOUGH, BY OUR FIFTH MEAL AT O&W JOSEF HAD INCORPORATED A VERITABLE U.N.’S-WORTH OF INGREDIENTS AND TECHNIQUES IN THE DISHES.  TAKE, FOR EXAMPLE, A SINGLE SEARED SCALLOP IN A BOWL OF TOMATO BROTH, WITH MOTHER STALLARD (SAY WHAT?) BEANS, AND SPIKED WITH TINY ROUNDS OF BIRD CHILI.  OR THE LUXURIOUS WINTER SQUASH SOUP, AFLOAT WITH WAGYU BEEF LARDONS, SEASONED WITH YUZU KOSHO, AND CRISP ASIAN PEAR.  FEARING WE MIGHT GO HOME HUNGRY, I SUPPOSE, JOSEF SENT OUT COMPLIMENTARY MINI OMELETTES WITH DOTS OF CRUNCHY PANCETTA AND SWATHED IN WHITE TRUFFLES.  THAT DISH WAS PURE ALBI.  BUT HOW TO DECONSTRUCT FRY-AGED DUCK MAGRET SERVED WITH SWEET GARNET YAM, PICKLED GOOSEBERRY, AND SPIGARELLO, A TYPE OF ITALIAN BROCCOLI.  HOW ABOUT SKIN-ON FILLETS OF SAYORI, A JAPANESE PIKE, PAN-COOKED AND OFFSET WITH BOK CHOY RELISH AND CHARRED LEMON?

IF YOU ARE SATISFIED WITH THE SIX-COURSE TASTING MENU FOR $85 (AND WE WERE), FINE.  BUT YOU MIGHT BE TEMPTED (AND WE WERE) TO ORDER “IN PIU” (EXTRAS) SUCH AS JOSEF’S TORCHON OF FOIE GRAS WITH DATE SYRUP, OR DONADE (?!) OF BRAISED LAMB NECK, OR CAVATELLI WITH BURRATA AND PRESERVED BABY TOMATOES.  WOULD YOU FANCY BINCHOTAN (ALSO !?) WITH FENNEL AND GARLIC RADISH VINAIGRETTE?  I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT BINCHOTAN IS, BUT I HOPE TO FIND OUT ON OUR NEXT VISIT.

SERVICE, AS IS THE CASE THROUGHOUT THE CENTENO EMPIRE, IS ATTENTIVE AND WARM, HELPFUL WITHOUT BEING INTRUSIVE.  THE WINE LIST IS ECLECTIC AND REASONABLE WITH BOTTLES FROM SLOVENIA, GREECE, PORTUGAL , AND HUNGARY AS WELL AS FRANCE, ITALY, GERMANY AND ALL OVER THE U.S. OF A.

I WISH THE ROOM WAS A BIT COSIER.  JOSEF, WHO DESIGNED AND HELP BUILD BACO AND AMO, HAS OPTED FOR A MINIMALISTIC, FORM-FOLLOWS- FUNCTION DECOR.  I THINK THE FOOD AND THE SERVICE WARRANTS A MORE LUXURIOUS ENVIRONMENT.  I URGE HIM TO SPEND OUR MONEY ON CUSHIER CHAIRS, TABLECLOTHS AND LINEN NAPKINS.  I WISH HE’D PAINT IT RED.

IF HE DOESN’T, WILL I COME BACK?  WHEN IS THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING?

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