Location: 1810 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, Ca. 310-394-5550
Date: February 14, 2011
Cuisine: Italian with Cal influences
Rating: Well done, particularly for a special night.
Valentines is tricky restaurant-wise, and rarely shows off a place at it’s best. The economics of the situation tend to force them toward set menus (at high prices) and to rush the service so they can get 2-3 seatings in. We decided to try Capo, which I have reviewed on a normal night HERE.
Normally, Capo boasts of being a “slow food” restaurant. Tonight they hustled a bit, although the food was very good. We had a 7:15 reservation and they had us out of there (7 courses later!) at 9! Actually, we didn’t really mind, but that certainly wouldn’t be the case here on a normal night.
The have good bread. I particularly like the flatbread.
And this probably chickpea based dip.
For Valentines there were two menu choices, the regular on the right, and the truffle on the left. Both had two choices per course (more or less). Click to embiggen.
The amuse, a cone of tomatoes. Essentially like a tomato bruschetta — in a crispy cone.
To start we got two glasses of white. A muscat on the left and a Sancerre on the right. Other than having a rather hefty per glass price tag they were very nice wines.
“Baby red beet, ricotta ravioli.” The first of many Beurre blanc type pasta sauces. They have very nice fresh pasta here, and well the butter sauce is hard to go wrong with.
“Russian Beluga caviar, linguini.” Again with the butter. A very simple dish of pasta, butter, and caviar. It worked. The sauce was bread dipping good. This might not be the BEST venue to show off the caviar, although it certainly wasn’t overwhelmed, lending a briny note to the whole thing.
I love Amarone, as it is very grapy, and that’s one of the things I like in a red.
Parker gives this 92. “The 2004 Amarone is beautiful and understated in its wild cherries, sweet herbs and flowers, all of which come together with unusual finesse and clarity. Silky, ripe tannins frame the exquisite finish. The 2004 is already approachable and should continue to drink nicely for another decade or so. This is a very representative vintage for Allegrini. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020.”
“Bluefin tuna tartar, caviali.” This is a very nice sushi grade tuna, essentially chopped like you might find in a tuna handroll. The bread is very toasted.
“Gnocchi lobster, truffles.” Again with the Beurre blanc! The gnocchi were perfectly pillow-like, the lobster tender, and the truffles do go spectacularly with the butter — really one of the best ways to show them off. Everyone but my arteries thought this was a fantastic dish. Again, I lapped up the butter with yet another piece of bread.
“Heirloom tomato vegetable, burrata.” No faulting this combination. Capo always has a lot of burrata, and you know I love it (HERE FOR MORE ON THE BEST FRESH CHEESE!).
“Jamon Iberico de Bellota.” Spain’s best ham (see leg below). My biggest beef with this dish is that the bread is too toasted. It has a nice charred flavor, but that overwhelms the subtle salty-nutty taste of this very fine pig product.
Oink! How did my leg get from Iberia to American?
“”BBQ Wild King Salmon.” My wife, a salmon aficionado, loved this salmon. It had nice accompanying veggies too.
“Cote de Boeuf, truffle potato puree.” This was my least favorite dish of the evening, but this is just because I’m not really a steak guy. It was very rare, more than medium closer to rare. That was good. But I’m just not that into simple meat. I like things jazzy. If one were a steak lover, I’m sure this would be awesome. As it was for me it was good, but not mind blowing or anything. The mashers were really good though, and went particularly nicely with the black truffles.
“Fruit Crostata, zabaglione.” They described this as a pear tart. It tasted like apple pie. I wonder if they mixed it up and gave us “Hot apple tart, truffle honey ice cream” except that’s whipped cream (zabaglione?) and not ice cream. In any case, it was good apple pie, although it tended to fall apart.
“Chocolate creme brulee.” Yum! This was very good, rich, creamy, nicely chocolatty!
Some various petite fours. Mostly simple nut cookies and a couple fruit cream filled chocolates.
And they even included a rose!
Overall, this was one of the better Valentines dinners we’ve done. Really, just like with the flowers one can expect to pay more for less on this special night. But Capo did as well as could be expected. The choices were good, and every dish was very well executed.