For Remembrance Day long weekend, I was lucky enough to take the rest of my vacation time and get out of Edmonton. Don’t get me wrong, I love Edmonton and the great food it has to offer, but I know that other types of cuisine and styles of cooking are out there. I had originally planned to go to Vancouver, hit up some sushi restaurants and grab myself a Japadog, until Joe mentioned that it was still in Canada – in other words, still cold. As he suggested Los Angeles as an alternative, I was 100% on board with it: California sun, beaches, palm trees, and, you guessed it, infinite amount of good eats! Not exaggerating, I think I spent a good full day’s worth to Google what to eat in my five days. Travel guides, Urbanspoon, Zagat, James Beard awards, you name it, I researched it. The biggest one of them all? The Michelin Star Guide.
Although they’ve stopped reviewing Los Angeles since 2009, I figured going off of that year’s list isn’t the worst thing. It’s still the same quality, non? With 16 restaurants having one star, and 4 restaurants awarded two stars, I had my options cut out for me. Narrowing it down to cuisines that I would most likely enjoy, it came down to Mélisse, a French-New American cuisine in Santa Monica or Providence, an LA restaurant showcasing seafood and shellfish in their purest forms – both two Michelin stars. On the Friday before my trip, I checked on the online Open Table to reserve my first choice. I was nearly in tears when I found out Mélisse was fully booked for almost the entire week! Providence, however, still had seating available the night we flew in. 8:30pm for 2 it was!
Chef Michael Cimarusti is no stranger to me. He was a contestant on Top Chef Masters Season 1, competing against the best of the best. His career has led him from NYC to Los Angeles, with an impressive repertoire of being executive chef at Spago in Hollywood (Wolfgang Puck’s two Michelin Star), executive chef at Water Grill (one Michelin Star), and now owner and chef of Providence. I was definitely in for a special evening!
The interior was airy, nice high ceilings with paper (?) displays mimicking shellfish on the ocean floor. Although I requested a nicely lit area, our table was similar to everybody else’s – dimmer lighting for a more romantic and intimate experience. Excuse the quality of the photos, the iPhone can only do so much!
To start, I ordered a drink. I don’t recall the exact name or ingredients but it was a vanilla flavored vodka, with pear and lychee notes. Delicious! Joe ordered the Allagash white, recommended by our server to go with our menu choices.
The menu has a few options: you may choose to enjoy a three-course meal and choose your items from one side of the menu, or you may have the five- or nine-course Providence market menu, pre-selected and presented on the other side of the menu. Also available is the daunting 14-course chef’s tasting menu, an extensive meal where the chef makes whatever he pleases. Menus must be chosen and consistent throughout your table so it was hard for us to decide. The 14-course menu would take over 3 hours to complete and we were exhausted from our flight and a half-day’s worth of shopping! We (or more like, I) decided to go for the nine-course menu. I wanted the full experience if this was to be my first Michelin star experience!
Our evening was kicked off with complimentary amuse-bouches. The first was a Greyhound cocktail, sphericalized into a gelée form. This one small bite was rich in flavor yet very refreshing.
Second amuse-bouche: a squash soup with Bourbon foam shooter and a spiced crouton with a profiterole covered in a Parmesan chives coating. It was also served with a crispy salmon skin cracker and salmon roe cream cheese and chives. Yummy! The salmon skin was pounded very thinly but packed a bunch of flavor. Wished I had more to dip into the cream!
A trio of breads were presented to us in a basket by one of the servers: bacon brioche, nori focaccia, and plain white buns were available. I tried the first two, served with butter and salt. The bacon was noticeable in the brioche and it wasn’t as airy as I’m use to. Delicious nevertheless! Same with the seaweed focaccia. Unique flavors but it worked!
Our selected menu finally began after our breads. Thinly sliced Japanese kampachi, served sashimi style, with smoked gold rush apple juice, daikon radish, cut julienne and cubed, and piquillo peppers. A light dish, as is expected at the beginning of a meal, and well executed.
The Santa Barbara sea urchin was served next. Hidden underneath soft scrambled eggs with fine herbs and a champagne beurre blanc, and beautifully presented in an egg-shell. Topped with toasted brioche, this was one of the best dishes of the evening. I’m not normally a fan of uni, my last experience being very unpleasant (post will eventually come). There were 2 – 3 large pieces of sea urchin in my little eggshell, mixed in with the beurre blanc made it perfect!
Also from Santa Barbara, the spot prawn was served on top of Valdivia Farms English peas, white belly radishes, and a shellfish jus over top. The taste of the dish was good overall, but did not wow me. The prawn at the very least was fresh and was quite large.
Sea scallops served as our fourth dish, served on top of turnips braised in milk with turnip infusion and walnuts. The scallops were perfectly seared. I’ve discovered I’m not a raving fan of turnips, I could have done without it. Along with the turnip braised milk sauce, the dish was very one-note. The crunchy texture of the walnuts with the turnips did compliment the scallop though.
The fifth course revitalized the dinner: a wild Pacific halibut with cranberry beans, sage, and oven roasted celebrity tomatoes as a dressing. The fish was nicely cooked, fresh, and well seasoned. I enjoyed the dressing a lot as it added salt to my palate, something lacking in the last dish.
As our last main course of the meal, it was nice to have a hearty piece of veal tenderloin. Aligned at the top was a row of chanterelle mushrooms, La Quercia bacon, haricot vert, and roasted hazelnuts. The mushrooms were packed with earthy flavor which complimented the veal nicely and the bacon and hazelnuts added to the texture of the dish.
At this point, both Joe and I were stuffed. In hindsight, we should have done the five-course menu! But I did not give up. Three dessert courses were up next, the first being a selection of market cheeses. Presentation was exquisite, with a cart of cheese rolled to our table. I asked our server for a sampling of his favorites and if he could include something along the lines of brie. Our plate ended up as such from top to bottom, left to right: dried fig, bread with fruit nuts, guava jelly, rhubarb jam, candied walnuts, a Reblochon cow’s milk cheese, a sheep milk cheese from Italy, and a blue cheese from southern France. Hands down, this has converted me to a love of cheese. There must be some sort of cheese course that I can take to learn more about them! My favorite was the Reblochon, my brie alternative request granted. Very soft, easily spreadable, and a smooth taste. The blue cheese was surprisingly very mild and soft, and was delicious with the rhubarb jam! We could not finish the dish, knowing two more plates were on its way, but mmm, it was delicious!
A plum sorbet and apple bits came out to cleanse our palate. A buttermilk, tapioca, kaffir lime sauce was drizzled over top, making it the perfect tartness. I would have been happy ending the meal with just this! With such a refreshing dish, I got my second (or probably third) wind for the meal.
Last, but most definitely not least, was the Guanaja 70% Valrhona mousse with a cocoa streusel, figs, and spiced ice cream. Creamy and decadent, the mousse was my downfall. I could not stop eating even though after 2.5 hours, my body was telling me to stop with the madness. The spiced ice cream, reminded me of a Chai latte, was smooth, a nice complement to the mousse.
Just as Joe and I were breathing a sigh of relief as our last dessert plate was taken away, our petit fours arrived. I should have known. Of course there’s complimentary petit fours: passionfruit macarons, a peppered caramel twist, and lemon lime gelée. The macaron was perfectly done, and the fruit chew was fresh in flavor. I wasn’t a big fan of the peppered caramel but it was interesting!
So what did I think of my first Michelin star experience? Two words: holy-moly. I say that with as much positivity as I can. The dishes were yummy, some better than others; the service was incredible; the meal was long; my stomach was confused as to what was happening. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Perhaps a 3- or 5-course meal for my next choice though. I’m not sure how anybody can finish the chef’s tasting menu, some of which can last up to 6-7 hours! It was definitely a once (or hopefully a few) in a lifetime experience!Providence
5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA