Monday, July 4, 2011

The Foundry on Melrose - Proving Its Mettle Mid-City

To kick off the start of a gorgeous long weekend, "Designer" and I decided to take her friend's dog, Stella (she was dogsitting that day) - the sweetest pitbull I've ever met - with us out to dinner.  This meant we had to find a place that balanced foodie-friendly fare with dog-friendly patio seating - The Foundry on Melrose fit the bill on both, and when I realized I had an OpenTable Spotlight deal to the place ($110 for 5-course meal for two, with wine pairings!) we knew that's where we were supposed to be that night.

Though a fine dining spot, with a beautiful and famous back patio, the restaurant was very gracious in accommodating our trio - dog included - in the front patio, even providing a water dish for Stella.  It was a perfect summer evening for al fresco dining - and people watching, from the charming patio with its loungey vibe on one side and casual rattan chairs on the other, framed by planters from which fragrant herbs sprouted.

We started with some bread with balsamic vinaigrette spread, followed by an amuse bouche of watermelon radish, avocado, edamame, pickled asparagus, burrata, and tangerine.  We loved the unusual mix of veggies, cheese and fruit, the playful presentation and interplay of tart, savory and subtly sweet with crunchy, creamy and buttery.  Couldn't have asked for a more refreshing start to a summer meal outdoors!
The OpenTable Spotlight deal offered the Chef's Tasting Menu for two, which can change daily.  That night, we had:

Course 1: Tuna Tartare with strawberries / asparagus / horseradish / pistachios
Wine pairing: 2009, Nardello, "Merides", Garganega, Soave, Italy

I have to say I've never had Tuna Tartare with strawberries before - in concept it was interesting, with the sweet/tart flavors theoretically a great way to cut through the fatty fish. Again the presentation was thoughtful and quite beautiful - however, we didn't end up loving the combination - the texture of the fish was for whatever reason sort of 'sticky' and clumped together, and though there was just a thin translucent slice of strawberry, for us the rich flavors overshadowed the fish.
Course 2: Caramelized Scallops rhubarb/ haricot vert/ chicken oysters
Wine pairing: 2008, Cambiata, Albarino, Monterey

The scallops were beautifully seared, with crisp shell yielding to a succulent, sweet interior.  This is another dish that presented pairings of ingredients we've never seen before - pickled rhubarb not only punctuated the plate with color (along with the haricot vert) but also a subtle tang.  This is skillfully counterbalanced by what we could really only describe as fried chicken nuggets - the juiciest ones we've ever had, with dark meat and a perfect flesh to fat ratio enrobed in light, crunchy, flavorful breading.
Course 3: Corn & Chorizo Agnolotti tarragon / lime brown butter
Wine pairing: 2007, Trinity Hill, Pinot Noir, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

This was an interesting dish, with the chorizo seeping heat into an otherwise mellow pasta dish, and the lime brown butter / foam bringing levity to balance out the hefty flavors of the sausage.

Course 4: New York Striploin artichokes / gnocchi / nectarines

Wine pairing: 2007, Et Cetera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County

A truly lovely meat course - we realized they didn't ask us how we'd like the steak prepared, which I think turned out great as they simply presented it cooked to their ideal degree and it was fantastic!  For the accompanying carb, instead of the standard mashed or baked potato, gnocchi was served after being we think pan fried to get a nice crusty edge.  The artichokes and nectarines were we think boiled so that they had the same consistency, but one was savory and one was sweet and added playful dimension to the plate.

Designer thought that one of the meat pieces was sirloin, and the other was short rib.  All night, Stella had been alternately poking her head up above the table whenever plates arrived, and dunking down on her paws in disappointment every time she was told she can't have 'human food'.  When the steak arrived Designer finally made the call to sneak Stella a piece or two - it was afterall her birthday week!  Stella couldn't stop licking our fingers long after the meat was already gone.  If not for the need to maintain some semblance of decorum, I think we would have done the same.

Course 5: Chocolate Brownie S'mores chocolate fudge / graham cracker streusel / marshmallow

Wine pairing: N.V., Taylor Fladgate, 10 Year Old Tawny Porto, Portugal

Of all the courses, this one was not a standout.  The brownie was not bad, but with the inventiveness of the previous courses, we were expecting something a little more creative.  And we didn't get the wine pairing on this last one, possibly as they saw that at least I was struggling to get through my glass from course 4 (though Designer finished hers so they should have at least served the 5th glass to her!).

All in all though, a solid meal and truly great deal (thanks OpenTable Spotlight!) at just $55 per person for 5-courses + wines with each course (ok, 4 for us but it should have been 5) before tax and tip.  The Chef's Tasting Menu normally goes for $80 per person + $30 for wine pairings.  Another lovely thing about The Foundry is their live band - on the night we went it was jazz, but they also offer "Lunes Latino" Mondays, Bluesy Tuesdays, and singers/songwriters Sundays - it makes for a relaxed yet lively and truly enjoyable evening out all around!

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5.5 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 5.5 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks mains)
Probability of return visit - 90%

[To find more deals like the one used here, check out my Get More Bites Outta Your Budget page, and follow me on Twitter for up to the minute finds!]

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The Foundry on Melrose
7465 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046
Phone: 323.651.0915

Website: thefoundryonmelrose.com
Look for reservations: Opentable.com
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The Foundry On Melrose on Urbanspoon


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