Saturday we visited Bestia in the Los Angeles arts/warehouse district, near the LA River. It was everything I'd hoped for and more. It is rated no. 30 out of 8,863 restaurants in Los Angeles on Trip Advisor. I don't understand why it is not rated higher. It is rated as the no. 1 Italian restaurant in Los Angeles on Yelp. I'm not a big Italian food fan, but this is not any regular Italian food, not by any stretch.
We tried to go months ago and could not get reservations three weeks ahead. I was informed that the next available time for a late Saturday afternoon was in 2 1/2 months. I ended up making reservations four months ahead. Bestia opens at 5:00 p.m. We were there at 4:45 and there was a line of about 20 people. I guess the bar is open to the first 13 people without reservations. Some of the people ahead of us were turned away. We parked at the side of the next warehouse over. Valet parking was $7.00 which we were able to avoid.
While we waited a racket was coming out of the restaurant. We assumed they were having a private luncheon of some sort. The racket continued when we got inside. The staff had the equivalent of a pep rally while we were there. They gathered in the kitchen in a group and raised their arms and shouted. It was like a football team getting ready to battle. Careful of those knives when you do a high-five.
The inside looks very much like a converted warehouse, which it is. The three of us we were seated at a booth/table for four and pretty much at the beginning the noise started and it only got gradually louder. I read that it is noisy. It was as advertised. Music is pretty loud in the background and all of the speaking, clanging of silverware, laughing, etc. just reverberates off the walls. Judy and Andrew were on the other side of the table. I could only hear them when I bent over toward them and when they were leaning toward me. When they sat back in their seats it was hopeless.
I started to order and our waiter's eyes got wide and he said, "I think you are getting too much." We were able to finish everything and with only minor discomfort. We shared everything. They brought out the dishes one or two at a time.
First was butter poached lobster with celery root puree, fava beans, pea tendrils, cocoa powder, squash blossom and basil. I'm not sure what the salty, leafy greens were, a little too tough to be spinach, perhaps mustard greens(?), but a nice taste. It is the second time I've had squash blossom and it is great. The lobster was nice, tender and buttery. A great start.
Next they brought out the beet & citrus salad, with pea tendrils, nasturtium, taggiasche olives, housemade yogurt and crispy farro. Nasturtiums are related to garden cress and mustard and have a peppery, pungent flavor. Taggiasche olives are also known as Nicoise, which signifies the curing method, and are grown in the Alpes-Maritimes region of France, near Nice. Pea tendrils are the early stems of the pea plant. The citrus was beautiful pink grapefruit and the yogurt had a slightly sweet flavor. The beets were cooked and had a nice beety flavor. The farro was very crisp, kind of like candy cane shards, but without the highly sweet flavor. The grapefruit and beet dominated the flavor and the yogurt provided a nice wetness.
Vegetables roasted in olive oil and sea salt came next, in a small iron pot. It included yellow carrots, fennel, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Judy was not thrilled with this dish - I loved it. The vegetables were still quite crisp, but had a nice oily, charred flavor. The fennel was particularly good. I could eat those kinds of vegetables at every meal.
The next dish was perhaps the most unusual. It was pan-roasted chicken gizzards, roasted beets, Belgian endive, and aged Capra Sarda. Capra sarda is a goat milk cheese from Sardinia. To be honest, I don't even remember eating any of the cheese, perhaps Judy and Andrew got it all. The chicken gizzards were amazing. None of the chewiness or gristle I associate with gizzards. They tasted like little sausage pieces and they blended wonderfully with the warm beet pieces. The endive was great, soaked in the gizzard and beet juices. That is a great dish. I'd love to know how they tame those gizzards.
Farro salad with shaved heirloom cauliflower, pine nuts, avocado puree, pickled chili, mint and Montasio (a cow's milk cheese made in northeastern Italy). We had a farro dish at Meddlesome Moth in Dallas and Judy has been on a farro kick ever since. We just recently had a dish with it at home. So this was one of Judy's requests for dinner and it was a nice variation. I particularly enjoyed the avocado puree with it.
Toasted brioche with smoked foie gras, seascape strawberries, Robiola, sea salt and wild fennel was next and the only dish I did not feel was up to par. Robiola is an Italian soft-ripened cow, goat and sheep milk cheese. Foie gras is made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened, often by forced-feeding corn with a feeding tube. Foie gras became illegal in California as of July 1, 2012, and so I was surprised to see it on the menu. I've since learned that on January 7, 2015, a federal district court judge enjoined California from enforcing the law and that decision is currently on appeal. This dish was expensive and all I could really taste were the strawberries, which dominated. This was the only dish we had that I did not feel was well above average or fantastic.
Judy got the next dish at the recommendation of our waiter. Agnolotti alla Vaccinara is cacao-flavored pasta parcels with braised oxtail, burro fuso (melted butter mixed with a small amount of stock or wine), Grana Padano (an Italian hard cheese), pine nuts and currants. There was only small serving of this, but it was very flavorful and good. I'm not normally a pasta fan, but this pasta seemed non-existent - very thin and pliable.
Grilled branzino (a Mediterranean seabass, also known as sea dace) with an herb salad, castelvetrano olives (a large green Sicilian olive), marjoram and shaved carrots. The backbone had been removed and the result was very few bones. It was quite lemony and cooked nicely. A nice fish dish. The olives were large, light green with a flavor not as strong as regular green olives.
|Note that the backbone has been removed from the fish.|
The best dish of the night was the slow roasted lamb neck with pea tendrils, pickled chilies, marcona almonds, mint and salsa verde. It was large, the meat pulled away easily with a spoon or fork and it had outstanding lamby flavor. If you like lamb, you cannot miss this dish. If you don't like lamb, you need to try this and maybe you will come to like it. It had a side salad of spinach that was good and significant.
The roasted marrow bone with spinach gnocchetti, crispy breadcrumbs and aged balsamic was another of the favorites. The waiter recommended that we scoop the marrow into the gnocchetti and stir it in before eating. We did that and enjoyed it, especially the bits with a heavy dose of the bone marrow. I love bone marrow and this was a nice variation on it.
Our first dessert was maple ricotta fritters with maple butter ganache, and sour cream and huckleberry jam ice cream. The ganache was not particularly strong and the fritters were okay. Nothing to get too excited about. I quite liked the ice cream which was very different, and better than the fritters.
The best dessert was Valrhona Fair Trade bittersweet chocolate budino tort, with salted caramel, cacao crust, olive oil and sea salt. I was concerned about the bittersweet chocolate tag, I'm a milk chocolate person, but I liked this a lot. Very rich. Judy was over the moon about - she's our chocolate lover.
Overall, I put Bestia right up there with some of the best restaurants I've been to. The menu is creative and the small dishes are perfect for sharing lots of different dishes. This would have to be considered for my top-ten best meal list.