One of the biggest hits at last year’s Plate by Plate food festival was Chef Meehan’s “Asian” spiced seared tuna. Compared to majority of the other zushi/seafood/minced fish served that evening on the USC campus, the seared tuna was beyond tasty.

Cafe Pinot

In additional to the solid French dishes with slight Asian inflection, Cafe Pinot has been quietly, and excellently, offering a Chef’s tasting menu. Is it official? Depends, it’s on the POS. When it’s on the POS, it’s no longer the “secret menu” (In-N-Out peoples, are you listening? Your Animal Style fries? Available on the POS with a push of a button).

First up, octopus carpaccio amuse with citrus segment, olives & jalapeno

: Octopus is an offal of the sea. It’s cheap, it’s often overlooked, and it could easily be trendy. (O wait, it already is: think Cube, Mozza, Bistro LQ, etc.). Done well, I’d rather have it any time over tripa and bone marrow. Here, it’s light and enjoyable. Like a good amuse, you think you can eat a whole dish of it, or whatever will be served next. Appetite whetted indeed.

Cafe Pinot Tai Snapper, Yuzu Snow

Next, (tai) snapper with yuzu snow, candied lotus root, pistachio, pom seed, & avocado mousse

It’s a mouthful to introduce (and the patient server did an excellent job, despite our repeated request) and even more of a mouthful to actually eat. The dish is an exercise in foraging. Pick a bit of that, carry a piece of the seed, maybe it goes together, or better yet you can recompose as you wish. Yuzu is in season right now, and the snow brings forth a foreign texture to an otherwise warm city. Just lovely stuff.

What followed (below left) was another amalgamation exercise: pumpkin ravioli, house ricotta, roasted chestnut, crisped sage, brown butter.

Hate to bring up the name of that convicted felon but… perhaps Martha Stewart’s simpler version of this dish would’ve sufficed. Cafe Pinot’s ravioli stands on its own, the chest nut & sage took the raviolis over the cliff. Sometimes less is a bit better. While others may excite themselves over the thought of panty dropping risotto, others will no doubt find Pinot’s ravioli equally provocative.

Cafe Pinot pumpkin ravioli Cafe Pinot cured salmon terrine

Cured salmon terrine, fennel soubise, chive crepe, caviar (above right).
When was the last time a soubise was paired with a terrine? Not sure, but the French hostess insisted on busing this entree to the table herself, thereby allowing her the chance to shower the dish with praise. Everyone’s gung ho on pork pates and terrines right now, but a salmon terrine is just more Jewish and equally pleasurable.

Finally, a dual of beef / a beef duo.
First popularized by Daniel NYC, then used as a weapon on Top Chef Las Vegas, this dish is really difficult to dislike. The fillet mignon was melty, and the short ribs provided contrast. Served after the salmon terrine, the land animal provided a sense heartiness.

Cafe Pinot
Tasting Menu: $75
700 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 239-6500
Cafe Pinot on Urbanspoon

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