Monday, December 29, 2008

The Two Dragos

Drago Centro
525 South Flower Street
Suite #120
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Enoteca Drago
410 N. Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310- 786-8236

One weekend in early December, a weekend spent primarily Christmas shopping and running errands around town, we spent our budget for fun lining Celestino Drago's pockets. On Saturday evening, after Christmas party number 1, we headed downtown and slipped into Drago Central right before they closed up shop. We settled in at the bar and were told the kitchen would be more than happy to feed us.

I love the look of the place. The manager told us that Drago wanted to ever so slightly emulate the feeling of Drago in Santa Monica, with the stones and glass. However, this is definitely an updated version. Above, see the glassed in wine storage.

I am a huge fan of the outdoor lounge. I can see coming by here in the summer for a drink and some apps with friends and enjoying the night air.

The great table in the bar area, perfect for large parties at happy hour or a special event.

The sommelier set us up with this was lovely once it opened up a little. I wish he would have offered to decant this $120 bottle. I should have asked.

The amuse-bouche was delicious. Proscuitto wrapped figs with chevre inside. I would have ordered an entire plate. My bouche was amused.

For a first course, we shared the langostine carpaccio with pomegranates, olive oil and herbs, and it was delicious. I can taste it in my mouth right now...slightly tangy, slippery langostines, the rich green olive oil and the slight bite of those pomegranates.

I ordered the venison carpaccio as well. Irene Virbiglia said she loved this on her first visit to Drago Centro, and I am unsure why. I found it incredibly flavorless. I was really disappointed in this dish. Maybe the venison was having an off-night.

D ordered a gorgeous winter vegetable salad. I love shooting root vegetables. I have been told 2009 is the year of the root vegetable. This is your year, beets! Can we have a shout out for the turnip? Let's hear it for the sugar beet! This salad was lovingly dressed lightly and flavorfully.

Drago offers three kinds of pasta. He offers a few egg pasta dishes, a handful of durum wheat pasta dishes and several filled pasta dishes. D tried the durum wheat pasta with spot prawns in a puttanesca sauce. This was damn good. Just enough bite. I personally am not troubled by prawns with their heads left on. I love how rustic this makes a dish look. And the width of the pasta made this feel so earthy and comforting on such a cold cold night.

Instead of an entree, I noshed on some side dishes. I tried the truffled soft polenta, in its own little baking dish. Delish and everything a soft polenta should be. No surprises there.

And for a second side I tasted the Italian broccoli with a little olive oil, garlic, and chili pepper flakes. Good. Very good.

All in all, it was a solid showing at Drago Centro. I want to go back, sit down and have a proper meal at a table with friends, having conversation and a more leisurely pace. The very next day, we got up and headed to Beverly Hills for some shopping and stopped in at Enoteca Drago for lunch. I just felt like a Drago weekend.

I like the simple interior of this wine bar/restaurant. It's non-intimidating and lovely. We chose to sit inside, although the beautiful people were all sitting outside on the sidewalk. It was damn cold out there and no heat lamps were provided.

I love the Murano glass chandeliers.

No snargey amuse-bouche to start, instead hearty sour bread with a garbanzo bean and olive oil spread.

I am unsure what herbs were hanging around in that spread, but it was a wonderful and healthy alternative to butter.

I started my lunch with an artichoke and arugula salad. This is not even on their menu on the Enoteca website. It was composed of slivers of al dente artichoke hearts, a mound of barely dressed arugula and shavings of Parmesan cheese. This is one of my favorite salads, ever.

D started with the tuna, white beans and tomato salad. It was great and would have been a whole meal for me. Very hearty, that salad.

For an entree, I had the filet mignon carpaccio with celery salad and pate. This kicked the venison carpaccio's ass. They had it out in a Beverly Hills alley, while face-lifted dowagers looked on. The beef won, hands down.

D again ate a seafood pasta for his main. I cannot choose one pasta over the other, Centro versus Enoteca. Both tasted great, both had seafood, both were in a red sauce...but one was a puttanesca with very wide noodles and this one was a simple marinara sauce with al dent spaghetti noodles. Night and day, salt and pepper, bread and butter. Both fantastic.

I wish I lived closer to Enoteca Drago, as I would make this a regular habit. Centro is certainly close enough, but I don't see it being a weekly event. I do see it for future occasions and when I feel like treating myself to some wonderful Italian.

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