After several weeks of budget living (i.e., shopping at Fresh and Easy with $5 off coupons
, using points at ArcLight Cinemas
for free movies and hitting a friend's free DJ party in Little Tokyo
) Miguelito wanted to take me out in style. We dressed to the nines last Saturday night. He knotted a burro-themed Hermes
tie around his DDCLab
shirt under a Hugo Boss suit, while I clasped a white ribbon around a Chloe-knockoff H&M frock with a black leather flower pin. Of course, the details were in my accessories: a Victorian-era silk cape, chain-link Mary Jane pumps from Society for Rational Dress
, a purse by Trina Turk
and a spritz of Fracas
behind my neck. The first place where we unveiled our fancy pants was The Edison
, an Art Deco-style bar set in a former power plant in downtown L.A. Though I didn't veer from my favored Champagne, Miguelito experimented with a cocktail called a Bourbon Swizzle, concocted from apricot brandy, bourbon and ginger ale. Delish!
Our next stop was Providence
, a seafood restaurant that last year earned one Michelin star. We were seated in a private room behind the bar, though we didn't know anyone at the other three tables tucked in the nook. In homage to the fish that were being transformed into our savory meal, someone fashioned strands of amber-colored glass beads into a candle holder resembling sea grass.
In an adventurous mood, Miguelito and I went all out for the five-course tasting menu with the wine pairing. Before our very first dish arrived, we were treated to an amuse bouche. Translated loosely from French as "entertain the mouth," our amuse bouche included a gin and tonic-themed gelatin on which we were instructed to squeeze a lime, a clear ravioli that burst a warm broth into the mouth and a shot of creamy soup made with lobster stock. Miguelito wanted to throw his hands up in the air and scream: "Wheeee!" It was a rollercoaster of flavors in his mouth.
The timing for the wine and five courses was impeccable. The server always poured the wine at least five minutes before each course arrived so that our table would never be empty of experience. Our first wine was a vinho verde, or green wine, from Portugal. Its dryness accompanied kanpachi sashimi chilled on shaved ice flavored with ume, or plum, sauce. The cucumber cubes sitting atop the raw fish were compressed with shiso leaves. I thought the dish was an innovative twist to the traditional pairing of tart ume and minty shiso in Japanese cuisine. It's no surprise, then, that Michael Cimarusti, Providence's chef and owner, beat Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America
Our taste buds went for a detour in the second course. The wine was a muscat from Tokaj, Hungary, that started like a fruity dessert wine but dissipated in a dry wisp. It provided an ethereal essence to a seared scallop surrounded by chanterelle mushrooms, pistachios and green tendrils. The scallop's sweetness was enhanced by the Balsamic vinegar reduction. But I thought the chanterelles could have been evicted from the plate because they were a little too tart and mushy. Miguelito begged to differ. He loved it.
The flavors thickened in the third course: halibut in a cream sauce with jalapeno mousse and grilled zucchini squash. Miguelito and I joked that Chef Cimarusti was playing sound games by mixing halibut with jalapeno. The joke was on us. The pureed jalapeno provided a bite to the smooth flavor of the fish.
The fourth course, and what basically amounted to the second entree after the halibut, was veal with sweet corn and mushrooms. I thought the funghi went better with this course than it did with the scallop. No matter how politically incorrect some people might consider veal, the meat was without parallels. Tender and perfectly cooked, it had a luxurious blandness. This was the only time we were served a red wine. It was such a prize of a libation that even the sommelier didn't know what went into winemaker Sean Thackrey's
Miguelito wanted to mug for the camera. The red, green and yellow hues on the plate coordinated well with his snazzy outfit.
For the last course -- but not the finale! -- we cleansed our palates with stone fruit and gelato. Stone fruit is a lump phrase for any fruit with a pit. We had peaches, apricots and cherries. A crunch came from the brown sugar crumb, which offset the velvety gelato and cooked fruits. We were offered a port to wash down the dessert, but the drink was a tad too heavy and strong to end our meal.
That's why I decided to have mint tea after the six dishes and five wines. Like any classy restaurant, Providence offered a tray of small sweets to nibble on with the tea. Chef Cimarusti also greeted the patrons at each table. Even though he forgot that I photographed him last year for a story on summer picnics, he was gracious and friendly. With the tea, we had a sugar-coated gelatin, caramel flavored with jalapeno and chocolate merengue cookies. The gelatin was neither here nor there, and the chocolate merengue was a classic treat. The caramel, however, was the piece de resistance. I was tempted to squirrel one away in my purse for later, but Miguelito stopped me when he yelped, "Whoa!" After the burnt sugar teased our tongue, the jalapeno gave it a big kick.