My parents’ wedding anniversary is two days after Christmas, and in the last few years, we’ve started taking them to restaurants that normally aren’t on their radar. Last year, we took them to Osteria Mozza, and this year, after reading my French Laundry post, my mom said she wanted to experience something like that. Granted, it’s impossible to find something comparable to The French Laundry in Southern California, but L.A. is no slouch when it comes to great restaurants. I ended up choosing Providence because of its seafood-centric menu and more affordable five-course tasting option, but two Michelin stars didn’t hurt either.
My first exposure to Providence and Chef Michael Cimarusti was on the second season of After Hours with Daniel Boulud, the MOJO HD show where Boulud throws after hours dinners at prominent restaurants. Season two was set in LA, and admittedly, it was hard to keep track of which one-word restaurant was which. As I rewatched the episode on Hulu.com, I instantly remembered Providence while watching the episode where a lobster attacks a piece of Kobe beef. You can watch the episode in its entirety at Hulu.com.
One of the first things we noticed about the tasting menu was that the dessert course featured a kalamansi gelée. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that kalamansi is the citrus of choice in the Philippines, especially in one of my favorite dishes, bistek tagalog. My parents were especially excited to see this versatile Filipino citrus featured in a fine-dining setting. For us, it was the second time in a month we’ve seen Filipino ingredients on a high-end tasting menu. (The first was the Ilocano salt and Pili nuts at The French Laundry.) So while the rest of the tasting menu looked fabulous on paper, we already had our eyes on dessert.
We started with an inventive amuse bouche trio.
From left: Gin and Tonic Gelée with Lime Zest and Tonic Powder, Mojito Raviolo,
Celery Root Soup and Black Truffle Syrup
The Gin and Tonic Gelée had a little tonic powder on it that started fizzing once you squeezed the juice from a lime wedge on top so that when you put it in your mouth, it replicated the carbonation of the tonic water, while the gelée supplied the gin. The best way to describe the Mojito Raviolo is that it’s a mojito shot in a bubble. When you put it in your mouth, it bursts with all the flavor of a good mojito. The third amuse was a mug-shaped shot glass filled with celery root soup on top of black truffle syrup. Since the soup was lighter than the syrup, it took up the top half of the mug. You drink this like you would a shot of liquor so that the soup and syrup combine into a tasty mix of temperatures and viscosity.
Before we got to the tasting menu, we ordered another appetizer, just because it sounded good.
Soy Créme Fraîche, Crispy Soba, Mache, Black Truffle.
The Fatty Big Eye Tuna and Santa Barbara Sea Urchin was served with soy créme fraîche, crispy soba, mache, black truffle. This dish sounded interesting because of the contrast in textures between the tuna and sea urchin, as well as the addition of the crispy soba. It was delicious.
The first course of the tasting was Japanese Kanpachi with Satsuma tangerines, black olives and Piquillo Peppers. The combination of all the little elements of this dish were excellent together, but the Satsumas were especially impressive on their own.
Satsuma Tangerines, Black Olives and Piquillo Peppers.
Nancy’s Day Boat Scallops were perfect and served with a subtle truffle vinaigrette, Juilet tomatoes, and frisée.
Truffle Vinaigrette, Juilet Tomatoes, Frisée
The Norwegian halibut was the last fish course in the tasting menu and another perfect dish. It was served with fried burdock, which my wife wasn’t a fan of because it’s too woody, but I thought it was pretty good. The lemon butter sauce and shiso foam were great complements to the halibut.
Burdock, Shiso, Lemon
My parents and wife enjoyed their Veal Tenderloins served with chanterelle mushrooms, Weiser Farmers torpedo onion, celery root purée.
Chanterelle Mushrooms, Weiser Farmers Torpedo Onion, Celery Root Purée
Earlier in the evening, our waiter told me about the $50 Kobe ribeye supplement for the tasting menu, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was served tableside by Providence owner and General Manager Donato Poto.
The Kobe ribeye was cooked medium rare, had a nice salty crust and literally melted in my mouth. I liked the pieces of veal I got to try, but was even happier that I did upgraded to the Kobe. Plus, I got to share it with the table, so everyone got to try it. It was served with porcini mushrooms, pomme fondante, and spring onions…
Porcini Mushrooms, Pomme Fondante, Spring Onions
…and a really nice bacon parmesan risotto.
Providence is also the home of cutting-edge desserts, and pastry chef Adrian Vasquez is one of the best in the business. In fact, you can go to Providence strictly for their dessert tasting menu, which we are planning on trying on a future visit. The kalamansi gelée was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The kalamansi flavor was instantly recognizable and the texture was a perfect complement to the litchi-shiso sorbet and the tapioca balls in the white chocolate coconut soy milk soup.
White Chocolate Coconut Soy Milk Soup, Litchi-Shiso Sorbet
Our tasting service had ended, but the kalamansi gelée was so good that my wife and I looked at each other and knew we wanted to try some more desserts. She ordered the pumpkin “pie” and I ordered the “cheesecake.” Both of these desserts were “deconstructed” and while they tasted really good, the platings were a bit fussy.
Curry Ice Cream, Pecan Streusel
The beignets in the “cheesecake” were really good.
Passion Fruit, Guava Sorbet, Beignets.
Providence is regarded as one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles, and it’s hard to argue with that assertion. My parents had a good time, and my mom was glad to have had the experience. It’s definitely a place I want to return, but I think our next visit will be for the dessert tasting menu. If you’re looking for a world-class restaurant with fresh, modern cuisine, Providence should be at or near the top of your list.
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