Monday, April 5, 2010

Taste on Melrose on a Sunday Morning

In recent weeks, Groupon has become my new BFF.  If you haven't signed up yet - do it now.  You get daily emails with 50% deals at hotspots around your city, for "the best things to eat, see, do and buy"!

How does this relate to the latest 1MB post, you ask?  Well on a beautiful Sunday morning in LA, I decided to use my $50 Groupon on brunch for two, at a place I've only ever visited (and loved) for dinner - Taste on Melrose.

It was much livelier at brunch than at dinnertime - the cozy space, which reminds me of a converted bungalow with a large stoop and patio - was completely packed - and we were seated at one of the last open tables in a front corner of the covered patio.  It was a gorgeous, sunny SoCal day and the perfect weather for patio seating - so we were off to a great start!  So on to the food...

The menu is quite a bit different than the one for dinner - my favorite truffle risotto (so fragrant and intoxicating that I practically inhaled the dish, plate inclusive, every time I had it) was noticeably missing.

Luckily though, both brunch and lunch menus are offered around the time we arrived - 1pm.  The truffle hog in me quickly spotted an apt-looking replacement - a White Truffle Oil and Mushroom Mac and Cheese ($8.50).

Though from the appetizer section of the lunch menu, this dish arrived in a giant ramekin which looked big enough to be a meal for a smallish person!  We ended up splitting this appetizer - the truffle fragrance was just as evenly infused throughout the pasta shells as it is in my beloved risotto, but the mac and cheese fell short of expectations for several reasons: the conchiglie shells were not the right shape for this dish - they slid around uncomfortably in your mouth and did not provide a smooth surface for the cheese and indulgent truffle flavors to deposit themselves for maximum enjoyment - and to make matters worse, the shells were overcooked.  The layer of cheese that blanketed the top of the pasta was way too thick and greasy, while the cheese that held the pasta shells together had a consistency that was a bit too 'thin' and again, too greasy.  The whole thing ended up being overly rich and unsatisfying at the same time.

Not sure how many people order an appetizer and an 'entree' for brunch - but I couldn't pass up the Crab Cake Benedict - at least, in concept:  the dish was to offer up poached eggs on a toasted brioche and crab cake, with hollandaise sauce and a side of rosemary garlic potatoes ($15.25). 

Perhaps I set my expectations too high, based on my experiences at Taste for dinner meals - but the Crab Cake Benedict definitely disappointed on several levels:  in my view, as a rule, the central focus of any benedict dish should be the combination of a smooth, creamy poached egg, with a warm, crispy toast underneath - embraced in a rich hollandaise sauce that pulls all the elements together.  Any additional ingredients should be used to enhance the experience of the mix, and should not overwhelm it.  Taste breaks this rule, and not to great effect.  From the start, all the proportions were off - the crab cake and brioche were the same size - two towers each with one thick crab patty on top of a thick round of bread.  Sitting atop each tower was an egg that looked sadly dwarfed by comparisan - you normally only see 'Large' or 'Extra Large' eggs at the grocery store, and to me these eggs looked like they would be size 'Small' - they could almost pass for garnishes rather than the central show piece.

The crab cakes were pretty dry and bland, while the brioche fared no better in those areas.  They could have really used the help of the creaminess of the egg and hollandaise sauce, but unfortunately there wasn't enough of either to go around.

I get that in general people don't want strong, pungent tastes in the morning / for brunch - but that doesn't mean dishes served during this time should be absent of flavors!  Even the rosemary garlic potatoes were bland.

My friend ordered the Taste Cobb Frittata with shredded chicken breast, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese, green onion, gorgonzola dressing and rosemary garlic potatoes ($11.25).  She thought it was good enough, but unimpressive.

The real saving grace of the meal was that our total came to $48.21 - the waiter actually noted that we had just over a dollar something left in the Groupon that we could have used - considering that we only paid $25 for the $50 meal, it was a great time!

The other highlight of the day - a tip for those looking for something to do after brunch - there is usually a Farmer's Market just down the street at Melrose Place (Melrose Place and Melrose Avenue, 10am-2 pm  It's just about a block and a half away from Taste - and a great way to walk off your meal.  On this particular day, the Farmer's Market happened to have been taken over by a Wedding Channel event - brides-to-be gathered to check out displays from local vendors offering everything from catering to favors to accessories.  When we arrived, mistakenly thinking we were headed to the Farmer's Market - a friendly security guard kindly let us sneak into the event to check it out since it was the tail end of the event.  Though neither of us were anywhere close to needing bridal services in the near future, we had a great time checking out all that's on offer - sampling hor d'oeuvres from the Patina tent, macaroons from a wedding planner stall, and fruit drinks from Izze!  We had our own crazy little version of the wedding crasher experience - it was pretty awesome!  Anyways, on a regular day at the Farmer's Market - you could have some less mischievous fun checking out organic produce and supporting local growers! :)

On a 7 point scale:

Flavor - 3 bites
Presentation - 3 bites
Originality - 2 bites
Ambience - 3 stars
Service - 3 stars

Overall experience - 3 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 80%


Taste on Melrose
8454 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Ph: 323.852.6888
OpenTable: Look for reservations

Taste on Melrose on Urbanspoon

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