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What I Ate: March 26, 2010 (Providence Restaurant, Los Angeles)

Posted 27 March, 2010 at 2:11am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

After lunch at Din Tai Fung (see previous post), we had dinner at Providence (5955 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA‎ - (323) 460-4170‎). Providence serves seafood in what I would call New American or Modern California cuisine and they do it quite well. We ordered the providence market menu which is a nine course (including cheese and intermezzo) for $110 per person.
Providence - Exterior

We were brought an amuse bouche of three cocktails - greyhound (grapefruit with vodka), gin & tonic, and margarita. All three were served in a solid form with the greyhound and margarita both in the form of gelatinous bubbles filled with delicious versions of the cocktail. The greyhound was my favorite with excellent grapefruit flavor and just enough vodka taste to tease the palate. My mother's favorite was the margarita.
Providence - Amuse Bouche (Greyhound)
Providence - Amuse Bouche (Gin & Tonic)
Providence - Amuse Bouche (Margarita)

Japanese Kanpachi crispy rice crackers, coriander, soy crème fraîche. This first course was simple and yet incredible. The few slices of amberjack that we had were extremely fresh - firm yet tender with a clean but savory taste. It worked really well with the crispy rice crackers, coriander flowers (which pack a flavorful punch), and seasoned creme fraiche. This starting course showcased Providence's attention to fresh ingredients and their artful combination of flavors and textures.
Providence - Japanese Kanpachi

Sea Urchin served in a farm fresh egg, champagne beurre blanc, fines herbes. This wasn't really an uni course - the sea urchin roe was lightly cooked and inserted in an egg shell above a cooked farm egg yolk and then topped with a beurre blanc and toasted brioche crumbs. When uni is extremely fresh and of high quality, it has many subtle flavors that taste like nothing else. This was definitely the case tonight, but those subtle flavors blended right into the egg yolk and beurre blanc so it was difficult to separate them out once they all hit the tongue. The texture of the uni and flavor strength matched the egg yolk so well, that the two blended together so you couldn't tell if you were eating an ultra-complex egg yolk or a rich eggy piece of melt-in-your-mouth uni. This is a great example of how very distinct ingredients that are often eaten separately can be combined masterfully to form a new flavor with a new texture that isn't one or the other.
Providence - Sea Urchin

Santa Barbara Spot Prawns english peas, extra virgin olive oil. These prawns are naturally sweet and often served raw or undercooked. Tonight's presentation was just underdone which provided maximum sweetness while maintaining an extremely delicate texture. The peas served with them were phenomenal - fresh, bright, and sweet - perfectly matched with the prawns. Sometimes the simplest ingredients (when properly sourced and properly prepared) make the most wonderful combinations. I certainly felt this was true of the spot prawn and the English peas (I couldn't decide which of the ingredients I liked more). Tina, whose palate tends to shy away from sweet savory dishes, didn't like this course nearly as much as I did since both the prawn and the peas were at their sweetest.
Providence - Santa Barbara Spot Prawn

wild striped bass (virginia) smoked paprika, weiser farms potatoes, grilled squid. This was probably the only course I could have done without during my meal at Providence. The striped bass was cooked to the correct doneness - being both tender and just beginning to flake, but it lacked flavor. The grill octopus that was served on it was a bit fishy, which I thought actually helped introduce some flavor to the fish - but, once I had some tomato sauce, it was game over. The tomato sauce was very full flavored - tasting strongly of tomatoes - but brought with it a heightened acidity that overpowered any flavor the bass had. If the bass had been smoked or heavily seared, perhaps it could have met the sauce and held it's own alongside it, but in tonight's preparation only the tomato prevailed. I did enjoy the finely diced potatoes which were cooked just right.
Providence - Wild Striped Bass (Virginia)

arctic char (iceland) fava beans, french breakfast radish, dutch white asparagus. The char was served with crispy and strongly flavored skin and the most amazingly tender flesh. It was like the most wonderful piece of salmon belly, but better. The baby fava beans were both sweeter and more tender than fava beans normally are but still held the fava bean taste. Eating the fish with the fava beans and a piece of kumquat was incredible. This was the best course of the meal. Simply unbelievable in taste and texture.
Providence - Arctic Char (Iceland)

veal tenderloin almond, morels, roasted baby carrots, port wine. This tenderloin was prepared sous vide so it was tender throughout. There are a lot of restaurants which serve tenderloin only to mess it up by overcooking it (just a little over cooking can ruin a tenderloin) or over saucing it (tenderloin is one of the mildest beef cuts and heavily saucing it deflects the attention from the protein to the sauce). This tenderloin didn't have either problem and was one of the best cooked pieces of beef that I've had in a restaurant. The mild but extremely tender cut worked exceptionally well with the earthy morels (I like the morels in this dish more than I like black truffles - I felt this was a better balance between earth, muskiness, and animal) and the port wine reduction. There is no fault in this veal course.
Providence - Veal Tenderloin

market cheeses. They brought out a large cheese cart and allowed us to select our cheeses.
Providence - Cheese Cart

After several minutes of discussing our likes and dislikes with the fromager, we selected (from top left, counterclockwise) Olivet (a cow's milk from the Loire valley), Lourey (a French sheep's milk from the Pyrenees), Gruyère de Comté (a cow's milk cheese), Fleur de Marquis (a Corsican sheep's milk cheese encrusted in juniper and rosemary), and Sofia (a goat's milk cheese with a vegetable ash rind). These were served with apricot preserve, apple jam, dried figs, candied walnuts, and housemade rye bread with fig, hazelnut and raisin. I really enjoyed the Sofia with the bread and candied walnuts. The Fleur de Marquis was too mild - in the presence of the the other cheeses it was down right bland. The Lourey was probably everyone else's favorite (and my second favorite).
Providence - Market Cheeses (Olivet, Lourey, Gruyere de Comte, Fleur de Marquis, and Sofia)

blood orange tarragon sorbet with yogurt. This was a great take on the typical sorbet intermezzo. The sorbet itself was unusual because of the inclusion of a strong herb flavor along with the sweet citrus of blood orange. In addition, it was served on a slightly tangy yogurt which really brought the sorbet to a new level. In fact, the two together can't really be considered an intermezzo but a true dessert in it's own right. Delicious combination.
Providence - Blood Orange Tarragon Sorbet with Yogurt

yuzu curd, meringue vanilla white chocolate sorbet, pineapple & mint. I loved this dessert. The yuzu curd was tart but pleasantly blended with the shortbread crumbs and smooth white chocolate sorbet. Tina found the curd too sour for her palate.
Providence - Yuzu Curd, Meringue

We ended with a few petits fours of sarsaparilla gelee, black pepper caramel, and chocolate green tea. Each one was a small mouthful of wonderful flavor.
Providence - Petits Fours (Sarsaparilla gelee, black pepper caramel, and chocolate green tea)
Providence - Petits Fours (Chocolate Green Tea, Black Pepper Caramel, and Sarsaparilla Gelee)

Providence - Interior

Providence - Kitchen

Based on this tasting menu, I'd give Providence a 9.8 out of 10 (on the Fearless Critic scale).

5 comments to What I Ate: March 26, 2010 (Providence Restaurant, Los Angeles)

Nate @ House of Annie, March 27th, 2010 at 4:19 am:

  • Incredible meal, and I'd say a pretty good bargain at $110 per head for that kind of tasting menu.

Optimista, March 27th, 2010 at 8:17 pm:

  • That. Looks. AMAZING.

    Must find a way to go there.

Angie, February 8th, 2012 at 9:17 pm:

  • I haven't tried a tasting menu before. Will the server take away used silverware after each dish?

Michael Chu, February 9th, 2012 at 4:33 am:

  • It depends on the place. In fine dining restaurants (especially those influenced by French cuisine), it is generally expected that flatware/silverware will be removed and replenished between each course. In addition, only the necessary utensils for the following course will be brought (spoon if soup, knife if needed, etc.). Casual restaurants can also have tasting menus and sometimes they might not replace the dining utensils.

    I usually don't bother asking if utensils will be replaced or if I'm expected to keep them. If the restaurant provides a tool for placing utensils (such as a stone used to rest chopsticks), then it is expected that you place your utensil there between courses. Otherwise, I place my utensil across my plate and let the server take it away or place it on the side for the next course. If they place it on the side, then I keep the utensils for future courses. If they want to replace them at a later time, the server will pick it up from the table.

Angie, February 9th, 2012 at 11:06 pm:

  • Thanks for the tips. After reading your review, I want to experience tasting menu at Providence.