Bastide – Chef Number Six

Restaurant: Bastide

Location: 8475 Melrose Pl, West Hollywood, CA 90069   323.651.5950

Date: April 14, 2011

Cuisine: Cal French

Rating: Good, but a little uneven.


For the April Foodie Club meeting, following hot on the heels of the March one, we decided to tackle Bastide. This has always been a curious restaurant. It’s about half outside in a courtyard with a lovely olive tree(s). But this place has gone through more chefs in a few short years, and more good ones, than pretty much any I can think of. I’ve eaten here perhaps seven times, and certainly under at least four, maybe all, of the previous chefs.

I had a spot on ethereal Alain Giraud meal here in 2003, a whacky but great one with Lefebvre (I will never forget “chocolate spaghetti al carbonara,” a dessert with parmesan ice cream and pancetta chunks!), a phenomenal chef table tasting with Manzke, and another great meal with Shoemaker. I wasn’t so impressed with Mahon’s “simpler” (I don’t like simple when it comes to food) menu.

So back I came to try out number six: Sydney Hunter, who has worked at many a LA restaurant, including at least two stints at Bastide under other chefs.

The signature entrance and the courtyard beyond.

The current savory menu. We asked for the “nine course tasting menu.” The dishes were more or less on the menu.

Bastide is one of those rare restaurants that doesn’t allow corkage. Normally I hate this, but they had this gem on the menu at a stunningly low $159. The rest of the list was good and pretty reasonable too.

The 1985 Domaine Leroy Beaune les Pertuisots. I’d gladly paid this at retail. I’d buy two cases. Parker gives it an 88, but he’s so wrong. This wine was drinking at a 96 point level, and in impecable shape — impressive for a 26 year-old burgundy.

“Much has been written about the dynamic Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy. Some of it has been malicious and motivated strictly by insidious jealousy. From time to time I have complained of her pricing structure. Yet there should never be any criticism of her philosophy of what burgundy should be. Her wines are among the noblest and purest expressions of Pinot Noir in Burgundy. They are treated with the care of a pampered child, never filtered, and bottled barrel by barrel. Given the size of her wines and their power and structure, in a cool damp cellar they will last 20 to 25 years. Bize-Leroy thinks 1985 is one of the two best burgundy vintages in the last twenty years, the other being 1978. Given the range of wines I tasted, 44 in all, 16 were exceptional, 21 very good to excellent. Thirty-seven very good to exceptional wines out of 44 is an amazingly high percentage, and I would be proud to own any of them.”

A page on the list, includes our wine.

They have good bread.  I think it used to be more interesting, but the onion focaccia-style bread was very good.

“Asparagus, spring truffles, peas, parmesan, lemon jus, olive oil.”  And over on the side a single seared scallop, and two types of citrus. This was a delicious salad. The citrus and scallop were delightful together, and the main salad itself complex and wonderful. Plus, yummy white truffles.

“Albacore, white turnip soup, fried shallots, ponzu cubes, daikon sprouts.” This was wonderful also, with a very interesting and complex flavor and texture profile. The soup was really good too and the tuna itself sushi grade.

“Hamachi, pickled carrot, orange, sherry vinegar, watercress, cocoa nibs.” This was also amazing. The interplay of citrus, fish, dusted flavors etc was fantastic. The blob in the front was some kind of savory ice cream — also spectacular. The pickled carrots had a nice crunch.

“Spicy octopus salad, cherry tomatoes, chickpea panisse, sardinian pasta, cucumbers, chorizo oil, pineapple.” Another top top dish, arguably the best. The octopus was really tender, and the mix of vegetables really tasty with a very nice textural component.

“Seabream, romesco, baby zucchini, artichokes, tomato confit, lemon sauce.” The fish itself was just fish — good fish, but still fish. The Romesco had a very fine texture, much finer than my own homemade version (SEE HERE), but didn’t have as much of a punch. The artichokes were wonderful and the lemon sauce pretty intense.

EP joked: “The only way to make seabream exciting is to drown it in a strong curry.”

“Steelhead salmon trout, manila clams, parisian potatoes, haricot vert, fennel pollon.” The fish was medium rare, and very soft and flavorful. But the buttery sauce with the little potatoes the real winner.

“Jidori Chicken, potato & celery root gratin, pickled peppers, pea tendrils, Baby corn, pimenton hollandaise sauce.” The chicken was good, but it was after all, chicken. The star of this dish was the potato gratin, which had a bit of a curry flavor (they must have heard EP’s seabream comment). Like potatoes Lyonnaise gone south-east-asian. The little corns made me think of the Tom Hanks movie Big.

“Beef tenderloin, pont neuf potatoes, baby spinach, mushrooms, and beef marrow.” The tenderloin was very good. I didn’t care so much for the potatoes, I like my french fries thinner 🙂 The marrow was tasty, but too gooey fatty for me (not that it wasn’t good marrow, but I was starting to get full and a whole segment of fat…).

“Blood orange sorbet.” Very nice refresher.

After killing 3 bottles of the Burgundy (with 4 people) we ordered this fantastic Sauternes. Parker gave it 95 points, and this time I agree. “The 1990 continues to develop exceptionally well (better than I thought), and now looks to be a worthy rival of the dazzling 1988. The superb aromatics (pineapple, acacia, vanilla, and honey) are followed by a rich, full-bodied, atypically powerful Climens that possesses adequate acidity, high alcohol, and even higher levels of extract and fruit. Anticipated maturity: 2000-2030.”

Just a wonderful wine.

The desdert menu.

“Ricotta fritters, hot chocolate milk, cinnamon ice cream.” The fritter itself was very nicely chewy, and the fruit sauce made it like a little jelly donut. The tiny blog of cinnamon ice cream was tasty too, but tiny. The little milk thing reminded me of the chilled rather than frozen milk shakes I used to get as a kid in the Pennsylvania mountains.

The four of us got this very dinky selection of petit fours to split. They were quite miniature, and we each only got to taste one. I had the macaroon, which was good (for more about macaroons, see here). While tasty, we were disappointed in the number and variety of the desserts. They could have brought more and mixed it up more.

Overall Bastide “take six” got off to a strong start. The wine was fantastic, and the first four courses equally so. But by the time we reached the entrees things slipped from amazing to merely very good. I wanted to be more blown away by the mains — but where was the cheese? — plus while the dessert was yummy they could have done more (at least giving one petit four of each type per person).

Service, by the way, was excellent, no problems there.

Perhaps it’s also that we felt the the tasting menu was just an serial assembly of dishes from the menu. There was something a bit missing from the overall progression. And the cheese. Never forget the cheese.

For other Foodie Club meals, click here.