Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bistro LQ - High On Foodie EQ, Comme Ci Comme Ca on Taste (Closed)

My whole inspiration to start this blog peaked this past holiday during my trip to Tokyo and Hong Kong, where I was lucky enough to have some of the most unforgettable culinary experiences I've ever had in my life.  And then of course, when I got back to L.A., my day job took priority and I put on the back burner, the task of sorting through literally hundreds of photos and notes in order to get them into some semblance of organized thought / blog entry...

As I want to put the effort in to do justice to all the places that rocked this newbie blogger's world, I'm actually going to cover  Today I'm going to cover Bistro LQ in Los Angeles - because I just went there recently, it's fresh on my mind and I already know what I want to say about it!  So here goes...

If you asked me to summarize dinner at Bistro LQ, I would have to say "intriguing culinary experiment - high potential".   The sophisticated menu reads like something out of a Top Chef Masters episode - it's packed with all the words that make my taste buds tingle on sight, such as 'foie gras', 'truffles', 'uni' etc., but goes further to push the envelope with dishes containing exotic meat/fish/ingredients that are hard to find elsewhere in LA - sweetbread, pigeon, skate, wild boar, veal feet jam.  It seemed as if the menu was designed to have a Pavlovian effect, and I was totally ready to be in foodie heaven - but like many experiments, some proved to work better in concept than execution.

On arrival, we were greeted by the very friendly manager Eric Bouty, and led to a nice corner table.  I am a huge fan of restaurants with elegant decor, but yet is not so pretentious that it makes you uncomfortable to be there, and which are smaller in size so that the space feels intimate and cozy - the perfect setting in which to enjoy good food and great company.  Bistro LQ fit the bill on this - with its sea foam colored walls, glass orbs blooming from the ceiling, and orchid centerpieces at each table nicely offset in color by blue water glasses - providing a serene and lovely environment for the meal.  The only minor note is that personally, I think the lighting could have been dimmed a little further to set the mood.  The much-talked-about cheese cart was strategically placed near the center of the restaurant, the better for patrons to ogle all night in eager anticipation.

One of the best things about the menu at Bistro LQ is the option to order half-portions of most starter and main dishes, giving you the flexibility to try out multiple dishes.  However, if you choose to order half-portions, there is a minimum requirement of three dishes per person - and not every dish is offered at half-portion.  This was not a problem for me as I wanted to try absolutely everything! 

We started out with a complimentary amuse bouche - a twist on ceviche, with a mussel and some white fish in citrus marinade.

I ended up ordering the Uni to start - a Sea urchin tapioca pudding with yuzu kocho, and a kumamoto oyster in yuzu Martini gelee (the half-portion is served in a shot-glass sized beaker!).  The concept, with its unusual combination of ingredients, intrigued me.  Though the dish was a sensory adventure, in the end I think it fell a little flat in several areas:  I believe the tapioca was supposed to evoke an exaggeration of the texture of uni (sea urchin roe) - however, combining similar textures only took away from the namesake ingredient that the dish was meant to highlight.  The use of yuzu presented a similar issue - where the texture of the tapioca overwhelmed that of the uni, the flavor of the yuzu kocho overpowered the unique taste of the sea urchin roe.  Part of the beauty of sashimi is its purity - it is the ability to savor something fresh from the ocean, which excites most fans.  I am not a purist, and really wanted to like the unique parings in this dish - but instead of complementary flavors coming together - or offsetting each other to take the dish to the next level, I felt that the flavors in this dish did not meld well.  Also, the pudding was a little dry for my taste - it felt like it may have been sitting out uncovered for a while.  Kudos for creativity though, and courage to try something completely new.

I also do want to praise Bistro LQ in one area - their portion sizes.  Anyone would expect, based on this being a place that served haute-cuisine, that the very reasonable prices on the menu would translate into incredibly tiny portions - but every dish even at half-portion was very generous - I actually felt stuffed after the second course! 

For my second dish, I chose the Atlantic Skate Wing, accompanied by an egg roll filled with chanterelles and porcini mushrooms, and a chestnut emulsion. This dish was to me, perfect. The fish was grilled perfectly, and its tender, flaky texture offset by the crispyness of the egg roll and the consistency of the mushrooms inside.

I decided to be adventurous with my meat dish, and chose the Veal Kidneys and Veal Sweetbreads, with wild mushrooms, colman mustard jus and tarragon.  It was my first taste of sweetbread!  In this case, they used heart sweetbreads which had an amazing, smooth and creamy texture, nicely offset by the tougher, somewhat crunchy texture of the kidneys.  The dish was extremely rich in flavor and one of my favorites of the night, though it would have been better served with a side of truffle fries, instead of the gratin of gnocchi with artichokes (which again had the problem of combining items that are too similar in texture - potato and artichoke hearts - that did not elevate each other.  And since the veal dish was already rich and creamy, serving it with a rich and creamy side was a little too much).

We were unfortunately too full after the meal for the made-from-scratch desserts, and will have to come back to try them another time.  The restaurant did provide a tray of complimentary petit fours to top off the meal - which was fabulous in itself.  The tray came with one each of:  Parisian-style macaroon, baby red velvet cupcake, shortbread biscuit, coconut macaroon, mini chocolate cake and panna cotta in a shot glass topped with blueberry compote.

All in all, this was an exciting culinary adventure and fun night out.  Though some dishes were more impressive in concept, I enjoyed seeing Chef Laurent Quenioux's incredible creativity and enjoyment of food on display and appreciated his - there's no other way to say it - 'ballsy-ness' in pushing his artistry to the edge.

[Update 2011: This restaurant is now closed]

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5 bites
Presentation - 4 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 5 stars
Service - 4 stars

Overall experience - 5 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks - not that bad)
Probability of return visit - 90%


Bistro LQ
8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048
Ph: 323.951.1088


Bistro LQ on Urbanspoon

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