Sunday, March 8, 2020

Bestia - Los Angeles

Last year, in early November, we went to Bestia in Los Angeles with some friends. Judy, Andrew and I had been once before, three and a half years earlier in 2015, and loved it. 

This experience was even better, one of the best meals I've ever had. With four of us we were able to order lots of dishes and have a little bit of many different items, which also created a substantial tab which was also shared. Each dish was at least good, most were outstanding, and several were incredible.

Dishes were brought to the table in bunches and so we each sampled things in a little different order. I'm presenting the dishes in the order I photographed them.

First is the pan-roasted chicken gizzards with roasted beets, endive and aged goat cheese. This is an outrageously amazing cooking achievement. Chicken gizzards are rubbery and have a slight offal taste. These gizzards are melt in the mouth soft and savory with absolutely no registry on the offal spectrum. The large thin goat cheese slices are a nice diversion and the beets, though good, kind of got lost because of the wonder of the gizzards. Our friends are not adventurous eaters and this was a push for them, but they each tried and enjoyed them. However, the cognitive dissonance of eating gizzards impacted their ability to relish them. I believe this is one of Bestia's best-sellers and it is a 5+ dish. 
The second dish was veal tartare crostino with shallots, parsley, lemon and tonnato sauce. Tonnato sauce is Italian and made from mayonnaise, olive oil, tuna, anchovies and lemon juice. The tonnato sauce was dominating in quantity, although not taste, it was quite mild, but it eclipsed the tartare which disappointed me a bit. But it was a unique preparation. One of our friends is a gut doctor and was very reluctant to eat the tartare. He he had a tiny taste, but that was it. 
The squid ink Caesar with baby romaine, tarragon, meyer lemon and parmigiano-reggiano was one of the requests of a friend. I think she was seeking something familiar in a sea of unknowns. The squid ink added some color, but not much taste which was provided by the lemon and cheese. Very good. 
Shishito peppers with a pimiento cheese dip. I've had shishito peppers quite a few times locally, nothing too unusual about it, but what made these standout was the pimiento dip which was great. I think I ate three-fourths of this one by myself. 
The next dish was my favorite of the night. It looked amazing and tasted even better. It was mussels and claims with spicy 'nduga, saffron, preserved meyer lemon, fennel pollen and grilled bread. 'Nduga is a spicy spreadable pork salume from Italy made from roasted peppers, spices and parts of a pig, including the shoulder, belly and tripe. My photo is not showing much juice, but I recall ordering extra bread to soak up more juice and I recall the juice having a nice spice to it. 
Next was a salsicchia pizza, or sausage pizza. It was okay, also a nod to our friends with a more conventional palate. Good, but nothing too unusual that stood out about it. 
The next dish was tiny, but incredible: chestnut and mushroom raviolette stuffed with mascarpone, fried sage and fennel pollen. It is unimpressive looking and I was quite astounded when I saw it. However, one ravioletti, which is a smaller version of ravioli, and I was a believer. It is the best pasta I've ever eaten, and not even close. I don't normally like pasta. I never order pasta. But this was scrumptious. One of our friends also commented about it being his favorite pasta ever. At $23.00 for the dish, it cost a lot per ravioletti, but there is a lot of goodness packed into each one. 
Next was lobster spaghetti. Several of us commented that the spaghetti was spaghetti, but the lobster was also lobster and that part of it was good. Probably my least favorite of all the dishes. 
Roasted marrow bone with spinach gnocchetti, crispy breadcrumbs and aged balsamic. One marrow bone arrived at the table, then the waiter scooped the marrow out of the bone and mixed it up in the gnocchetti. It was an interesting variation of marrow bone I've not had before. Marrow bone our first visit was one of my favorite dishes. This was one of my least favorite. The gnocchetti sucked up much of the marrow flavor and I preferred the marrow flavor to the gnocchetti flavor. 
Next was grilled whole branzino, the Italian name for Mediterranean sea bass, with charred lemon, anchovy vinaigrette, sun dried tomatoes. Every time I've had branzino, including our last time at Bestia, I've loved it. This was no exception. Chowhound describes branzino as having a buttery flavor and a silky texture and that is about right. 
Slow roasted lamb neck with smoked anchovy creme fraiche sauce, little gem lettuce and soft herbs. I've loved lamb neck the few times I've tried it. Our friends who are not lamb eaters commented on how tender it was. It was good and tender, but not as good as other lamb neck we've tried. The best was at Incanto in San Francisco. I did like the sauce. It reminded me of the sauce on the turkey leg at Animal Restaurant in LA.  
Despite talking about least favorite, etc., every one of the dishes was good. There was not a bad dish in the lot. Some just suffered by comparison. 

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