French Perfection | by Jesse Stirling
Patina restaurant is an exquisite masterpiece, setting the standard for fine dining in Los Angeles. Nestled within the undulating metallic shell of the renowned Walt Disney Concert Hall, Chef Joachim Splichal has created a true destination restaurant. This is sophistication at its best, a dining room of quiet care. From the impeccably manicured tablescape to the culinary genius of Executive Chef Tony Esnault, every detail falls into place for a perfect five-star meal.
Chef Esnault learned to cook back in France, when he was eight years old, spending time on his grandparents’ farm. “On a daily basis, I find my inspiration for cooking at the local Santa Monica farmers market, looking at produce and other fresh ingredients. My favorite thing to cook is fresh vegetable.” Esnault continues in his heavy French accent, “I try to have an airplane view, to look from the top at all the dishes. Everything should be very different and unique. Diversity in colors of sauces, a variety of cooking techniques, to deliver a different experience with each plate.” Above all else, Chef Esnault prides himself on consistency. “My menu is unique because it is light. I don’t use cream at all. I use olive oil. Everything is light in general. You will sleep good tonight.”
We kick things off with the seasonal cocktail menu. Locally sourced ingredients result in outstanding libations such as the Coco and Lemon Berry Drop Martini. Sommelier Silvestre Fernandesalso knows his craft, as Italian, French and domestic wines are perfectly paired. The tasting menu unfolds with just the right portion sizes, leaving you full but not overstuffed. Sauces steal the show, some created overnight with up to sixteen hours of preparation time.
Meal highlights are many. The vegetable mosaic, crafted of tiny vegetables to mimic the LA skyline, is sprinkled with sherry vinaigrette and a touch of lemonoil. The pieces are all cooked separately, as to not mix flavors, and the presentation is a work of art.
The butternut squash soup, with hazelnut truffle parmesean cheese emulsion and crostini, started as an amuse bouche but was so frequently requested by customers that it became a permanent fixture on the menu. The cheese cart “perfume” entices you with an array of more than twenty varieties. The Marinated Hamachi appetizer showcases rings of apple, cucumber, avacado and crostini flavored with green apple mustard, a daring and winning taste and texture combination. A side of roasted miniature brussel sprouts with polenta and carmelized onions are like bites of heaven. Dorado is carved tableside with much aplomb. Duck foie gras with quince marmalade is the best I’ve tasted.
The black truffle risotto is the best thing I’ve ever eaten anywhere, period. White gloves are donned, and the world’s second most expensive mushroom (second only to white truffle) is gently removed from a big mahogany box and generously shaved onto the risotto. The box also curiously contains eggs, which I later learn absorb the flavor and aroma of the truffle and hence become valuable ingredients. Roasted pork loin, braised pork belly, butter poached lobster, and loin of veal are all served with a sauce that echoes the robust flavor, yet is understated enough to let the true taste of each meat stand out. Even the teacart is impressive, featuring no less than a dozen varieties from around the world. For dessert, green apple ice and meringue compression cake is airy and unusual, the chocolate mousse is topped with 24 carat gold, and the caramel beignets are overthe-top delicious.
Patina creates an ambiance that is friendly yet suave, attentive yet never intrusive. General Manager Christian Philippo and his team have mastered the art of exceptional service. The weight of the silver, the shape of the glass, every tactile experience is thought through, right down to the interior architecture where a rippling ceiling mimics the curvaceous and modern exterior. Patina is not just a place to eat before a concert. The packed house filled with happy diners is a testament to the resurgence of downtown LA. Go expecting the best, and you will still be pleasantly surprised. One thing is certain. You’ll want to eat your veggies.