Bestia – Los Angeles

For our anniversary, E took me to eat at Bestia, this hipster Italian restaurant located in downtown LA.  It was a rare treat to be able to eat by ourselves in a nice restaurant without the kids, thanks to my lil sis and brother in law for watching our kids.

It was so hipster that I couldn’t really understand the menu.  You know when the ingredients listed are so complicated that your brain just can’t process what it actually is? We had to look up pictures on yelp to figure out what we were ordering.

Here are my “layman’s” descriptions of what we ate.  The waiter suggested that 4 plates, 2 appetizers, a pasta and a main would fill us up and he was exactly right.

Below is the “little gems” salad.  Their name, not mine.  I have to say that this might be one of my favorite salads of all time and possibly my favorite dish at this restaurant.  A salad!  It may have been because we were seated at the counter in front of the salad chefs, watching them carefully make each individual salad, rubbing each leaf to make sure that it was covered with the right amount of dressing.  They had a bucket of tasting spoons used for tasting each salad dish to ensure it was seasoned to perfection.  Sometimes they were unsure (there were three of them) and had another re-taste for a second opinion.  I suggested to E offering my tasting services to them so that I can try some of the other salad creations we did not get a chance to savor.  The whole scene reminded us of being in Japan where culturally they value the perfect presentation of everything they create.  It was fascinating to watch.  One of the salads had three perfectly shaped green leaves laid on at the end like lily pads with a few drops of oil drizzled on to look like dew.  We came up with so many SNL skit ideas from watching them.

Anyway, I digress.  Back to our salad:  each leaf was then individually laid carefully piece by piece onto the plate to create this salad pyramid, with interlocking pieces of lettuce, radish, ricotta cheese, and nuts, herbs, seasoning for the perfect bite each time.  Even the tasters never just tasted one leaf.  They had to taste a perfect mix to ensure it was correct.

The result is the best salad I ever had.  It was the dressing that made it.  But the flavors were just a perfect balance of salty, peppery, tart/sour.. I ate every last bite and wouldn’t have minded another plate.

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Next we ordered the bone marrow gnoccetti.  We scooped the bone marrow off of the bone and mixed it in thoroughly with the gnoccetti.  This was a very hearty savory dish, with very well flavored pasta.   The taste of each piece just felt like it had a lot of depth.  Not just salty, but meaty, like it was well cooked in broth.  This was my second favorite dish of the night but you can’t eat too much of it, and they didn’t give much.

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We had asked if ordering two pasta dishes was too much but the waiter told us that the portion of the bone marrow one was a small appetizer while the next pasta dish was a full sized pasta.  Well, even the full sized pasta was tiny.  Here we started doubting the waiter’s recommendation of four dishes.  E ordered bread just in case we were still hungry and also asked for the menu in case we  needed to add more.  This pasta was like little dumplings with oxtail stuffed inside.  The pasta skin was really perfect, just the right thickness, chewiness, consistency.  The flavor was a bit too strong.  It wasn’t just salty, it had a flavor that I think was from wine?  I don’t have the food vocabulary to describe it but with first bite, it tasted good.  However, by the time I ate three or four of these things, it was enough.  E ate it together with some bread to tone it down.  It wasn’t bad or anything.  Just something overwhelming about it.

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To finish off our main meal, we had a whole Branzino and the waiter was right, this was all we needed, and nothing more.  This fish was delicious and probably tied for second with the bone marrow.  It was covered with herbs and lemon on top.

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The bones were removed and the middle stuffed with watercress.  The fish was tender and perfectly cooked, still juicy and salty with the flavor of herbs.  I like watercress and it was a nice light surprise in the middle.   The crust was a bit salty by itself but when mixed together with the meat inside, it was delicious.  E and I gobbled up the whole thing and declared ourselves wholly satisfied with room for one dessert each.

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I ordered for the both of us.  E is not a big dessert person so he usually lets me pick.  I have been ordering a lot of Panna Cotta at restaurants recently and have never been disappointed.  This one is with blood orange, grapefruit (I think) and honey.  It was refreshing, light, and the perfect sweetness.  The three thin wafers were some sort of lemon meyer cookie that wasn’t very memorable.  I think I ate half of one.

For E, I ordered this persimmon tart with ice cream and a berry compote.  It looked interesting to me and our waiter also recommended it.  I thought it tasted good, not too sweet, but also, not amazing.  I wouldn’t order this again.  For our anniversary, the restaurant gave us a scoop of pomegranate sorbet that really hit the spot.  The cold tartness  was refreshing after a heavy meal.  We finished all three desserts.

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What a nice dinner date.  Good job, E!  We should do this more than once a year.

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