Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ombra - Neighborhood Gem, Without a Shadow of Doubt

OMG fresh shaved truffles over handmade pasta in Studio City!!!!!!!!!!

I struggled to find a more eloquent opening for this post - but couldn't find another way that would better express my first taste of the 2-month-old Ombra Ristorante on Cahuenga. I nearly died today from excitement.

Fellow foodie "Queen Bee" and I had been looking for a short culinary getaway from work, and I stumbled upon Ombra entirely by accident while looking for dineLA deals within short driving distance of our offices.  The menu read creative Italian: calamari with Romesco sauce, Risotto Porcini with blueberries, and the chocolate cake with burrata cheese - I was intrigued and amazed I had missed this while filtering through all the dineLA menus- we had to go for it.

Ombra is located at the site of the former Bollywood Indian Restaurant, but you would never know from the look of the place - it has been completely transformed into a chic, minimalist but cozy space with espresso themed decor and sleek, modern chandeliers. 

We knew we were off to a good start when, instead of the standard bread basket with oil & vinegar or olive tapenade, we were presented with a plate of foccacia and caponata (eggplant relish).

Poised with our dineLA picks, we were just listening to specials out of politeness when we were completely derailed (me by a single word, "truffle"!!!) and knew we were meant to be there that day. 

Guess which one I went with?  Forget the porcini, I went whole hog for the Umbricelli with fennel sausage and black truffle ($29).  Which came with tableside service from chef/owner Michael Young (whose credentials include Valentino and Drago Santa Monica) - he proceeded to shave paper-thin slices of gorgeousness over my fresh made pasta.

[Is $29 a lot to spend on weekday lunch?  Yes and No.  Yes if you are on a budget, but No considering what you get for it - and think about the fact that fresh shaved truffle is involved, and for just $5 more than Scarpetta's crazy expensive spaghetti with nothing but tomato sauce and basil!]

Did I mention I almost died of excitement?!!!  Ever since 8 1/2 Taverna shuttered, I despaired that I would ever find fresh shaved truffle in my neck of the Valley for lunch ever again.

And here we were - all the stress of the week blown away by each beautiful round of truffle as it fluttered down into my bowl.

Queen Bee loved her Cavatelli - homemade Pugliese pasta with Washington dungeness crab, spring onions and arugula ($14) - I had a bite of this and it was amazing, pillowy twists of pasta with fresh, sweet clusters of crab cutting through the market fresh tomato sauce, with spring onion and arugula providing visual and herbal accents in pops of green.

Though we were completely full at this point, we could not resist the dessert menu, and at our server's recommendation, went for the Salame di Cioccolato "chocolate salami" with saffron zabaglione ($7).  This was like slabs of chocolate ganache with candied fruit and nuts - with a slightly savory tasting saffron sauce - the perfect finish to our meal.

All in all, a fantastic find!!! 'Ombra' literally means 'shadow', referring to both a glass of wine, and the Venetian culture of hardworking gondoliers and merchants, who step into the shadow of buildings from time to time to take a break and drink a glass. Definitely a fitting theme for Queen Bee and I in terms of 'break time' - we left thoroughly recharged and ready to face whatever stress was sure to come our way in the remaining hours between us and the weekend.

Before we left, our server reminded us that the Risotto Porcini on the dineLA menu is delicious and that we should come back to try it - I can't wait to do just that!  Based on regular menu pricing for calamari ($12)+average price of pasta ($13)+any dessert ($7), estimated savings for the dineLA deal would be around $10!

Beyond dineLA, they also have quail, white corn polenta, and gelato flavors like pistachio rosewater on the menu, and a "Notte Slow" (Slow Night) Monday prix fixe dinner, 3-courses for $35 plus $12 carafes of wine.  Love that they mean for this to be a no-fuss spot for great Italian.  I definitely anticipate going back to this little-local-'bistro'-that-could soon, as many times as I can afford, asap!!!

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%

3737 Cahuenga Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604 
Ph: 818.985.7337

OpenTable: Look for reservations

Ombra Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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