Sotto – Sicily con Sardo

Restaurant: Sotto [1, 2]

Location:  9575 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035  310.277.0210

Date: April 16, 2011

Cuisine: Sicilian and Sardinian Italian

Rating: Bold flavors, off to a great start!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

This new venture into the crowded LA Italian scene is a welcome change of pace. Sotto offers very reasonably priced regional Italian dishes (southern, with a Sicilian and Sardinian slant) with an unabashed traditionalism of a sort. There is no real effort on this menu to cater to the long standing American Italian palette, as influences as it is by late 19th century Southern Italian cooking. This is no red sauce (restaurant with red and white checkered table cloths and chianti bottles).

Located in the rising lower Beverly Hills district we had to fight through crowds leaving shul to descend into the packed, loud, and hard surfaced interior.

The short but very reasonable menu.

James Suckling gives this 2004 Poggio Il Castellare Brunello 94 points. “A decadent and ultra-rich red, with plum tart, prunes, cooked meat and berries. Full bodied, with soft and silky tannins and a long, flavorful finish. An aromatically beautiful wine. Best after 2012.”

“Pittule pugliese (vincotto, ricotta).” These little fritters tasted like supreme funnel cake, and were delicious with the fresh ricotta and vincotto (which is a sweet grape must). The amusing thing, for me, about this dish is that it’s pretty much straight out of Apicius, the 1800+ year-old cookbook. Delicious any way you cut it, but very filling.

“Blistered little gems (anchovy garlic pestata, breadcrumbs, pecorino moliterno.” An interesting salad with a smoky grilled flavor.

“Shaved beet and mixed chicory salad (wheatberries, lemon vinaigrette, fiore sardo).”

Olives. There was a little wait between the first and second courses and they brought us these complementary olives.

“Bruschetta lardo.” And this gratis charred bread spread with lard and fennel pollen. Very wood fired (not to mention rich taste). I was in danger of extreme over eating before the entrees even came.

“Maharrones de pungiu (sugo semplice, fiore sardo).” A wonderful homemade take on a simple tomato and cheese pasta. The choice of fiore sardo (a Sardinian cheese) gave it a slightly different tang.

“Casarecce (braised lamb ragu, egg, pecorino).” This was one damn fine pasta. The pasta itself had exactly the right texture and firmness of good homemade egg pasta. The ragu was nicely flavorful and meaty. Yum! I love great ragu. Some of my other favorites are here at Drago or at Capo.

“Pizza Marherita (tomato, mozzerella, basil, EVOO).” Your basic Marherita, but well done. These pizzas have a VERY wood fired taste going on, much like those from Gjelina, they are a little over-fired to my taste. The dough is good, but they taste very strongly of the grill (char, smoky flavors). When I do them on the stones in my hot gas grill (see my Ultimate Pizza) they showcase the dough and toppings a bit more.

“Pizza Salsiccia e friarieli (sausage, broccoli di ciccio, mozzarella, chillies).” A very nice meaty sausage paired with the bitter tones of the Italian brocoli. Interesting, and good.

“Bittersweet chocolate crostata, hazelnuts, salted rosemary caramel.” This looked amazing, and the texture was fantastic and very chocolaty. There was a slightly odd flavor tone in here, which might have been the rosemary. I’m not sure it added, although certainly I enjoyed it.

After 11 and the place is beginning to thin out a bit. I really enjoyed Sotto and it BOLD take on Italian. This is heady stuff, and the homemade pastas were totally amazing.

For a second review of Sotto, click here.

Red Medicine the Relapse

Restaurant: Red Medicine [1, 2]

Location: 8400 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, Ca. 90211. 323-651-6500.

Date: February 19, 2011

Cuisine: Modernized Vietnamese

Summary: Really interesting food full of very bold flavors, and at very reasonable prices.

 

For my brother’s birthday we decided to head back to Red Medicine (first review HERE), the casual modernized Vietnamese place in mid-town. Tasty again! Even on a very rainy night it was hopping and we had to get a drink at the crowded bar to wait for our table.

The drink menu features a number of very interesting and extremely well executed specialty cocktails. Plus, these are very reasonably priced at $10. The PDF version is HERE.

“#18 Krome Vodka, Chili-Anise Shrub, Lime, Grapefruit, Peychaud’s Bitters, Basil(s),  Ginger Beer.   Shaken and rolled into a tall glass.   Inspired by Scott Beattie’s ‘Irian Jaya’.” This was one yummy drink. The ingredients were all clearly very fresh, and you could taste each and every element. The sour of the grapefruit in the front, the basil in the middle, the bitters and ginger on the finish. I sucked it down in like 2 minutes.

The main menu. Slightly changed up from when we were here in December. The PDF version HERE. Everything is family style with approximately 3 savory dishes needed per adult.

And the wine-list, PDF HERE. They have a rather odd corkage policy. During the week it’s $25, but they will waive one corkage for each bottle you buy, which is very reasonable. Friday and Saturday, no corkage! I don’t like no corkage, but the list is very reasonable, with many fine sweetish whites (which I like and go with the food) in the $55 category.

Like this favorite of mine, Parker gives it 91. “Extremely bright in aroma as well as palate impression, the Prums’ 2008 Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett is dominated by lemon and grapefruit, with village typical cherry and cassis manifesting themselves as an invigorating chew of fruit skin that is delightfully complimented by estate-typical impingement of CO2. Lush yet light, this finishes with not only blazing brightness but a cress-like pungency and strikingly intense salinity and suggestions of wet stone, making your palate stand to attention, wide awake! Plan on following it for a couple of decades, although, unlike many Joh. Jos. Prum wines, I find it (and many of the estate’s 2008s) downright irresistible already.”

“hokkaido scallop cured with lime sugar,  green strawberries, coriander, wood sorrel.” This replaces the excellent “Fluke cured with lime” dish from last time. It wasn’t quite as good, but was still wonderful. The scallop was subtle and soft, the white radish crunchy and bitter, and my favorite part the “lime sugar” floating on the vinegar sauce.

SOFT RICE PAPER / rock shrimp, jackfruit,  black garlic, bean sprouts.” A varient on the typical soft spring roll. Nice textures, and the shrimp were good, but could have used a bit more flavor, or just some sweet and sour sauce.

“DUCK / 5-spice, charred frisee, chicory, tamarind syrup,  grains of paradise.” A repeat, but worth it. This duck has a wonderful charred and sweet BBQ flavor, and it just falls apart. Really succulent.

“BANH MI / foie gras, pate de campagne.” Another irresistible repeat. The rich foie, the crunch of the pickles and crust, and the considerable heat of the seranno peppers all blend to perfection. Similar yet different from the other Banh Mi I had recently at Saam (REVIEW HERE).

“LAMB BELLY / hoisin, hibiscus-onion, sunflower seeds,  salsify, lady apple.” A brand new dish, and a stunner. The dark stuff is the lamb, and the sunflower crusted stuff the salsify. There is a unique blend of flavors and textures here, but the lamb was the stand out. Crispy fried in hoisin it most closely resembled an awesome interpretation of crispy Schezuan beef.

“BEEF TARTARE / water lettuce, water chestnut, spicy herbs, nuoc leo, chlorophyll.” Another goodie. The meat and greens are placed on a shrimp chip. Fabulous interplay of texture and flavor.

“PORK / caramelized black vinegar and honey, prunes, sorrel, dried almond.” Again one of my favorites. This pork is like the perfect sweet BBQ. It just falls apart.

The dessert menu, PDF HERE. We ordered the two we didn’t have last time.

“RHUBARB / mahlab cremeux, hibiscus, gentian,  aromatic willow.” This, I guess, is supposed to be a reinterpretation of a strawberry shortcake. The net effect to me was perhaps a bit more like cheesecake. It was very creamy and pleasant, with the rhubarb itself understated and adding only a subtle sourness to the dish. It certainly looks pretty too!

“LIME SABAYON / cucumber ice cream, cashew macaroons, white chocolate, jasmine.” This dish had strong taste resemblances to Key Lime Pie. Particularly if you got all the elements except for the cucumber ice-cream. This last was good, but through off the key lime thing. The butter colored disk below is the lime I think, and the macaroons had an awesome perfect chewy texture. Overall a really good dish.

 

Overall Red Medicine continued to impress. It offers really interesting and cutting edge food with bold and unique flavors at a very reasonable price point. I love the small dish only format. I’ve become so spoiled by that or long prix fixe meals that I can hardly eat at normal appetizer/entree restaurants anymore :-) If you haven’t been here, go!

To the Chefs and Owners, I thank you, and just hope that you keep mixing up the menu so it continues to offer variety and new flavors!