Monday, July 20, 2009

Reservoir: What Virbila Thinks v. What I Think

1700 Silver Lake Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 662-8655

Recently dining at Reservoir in Silverlake sans camera, Virbila's sad review of May 29, 2009 kept popping into my mind while having great service and eating very good food. On this particular visit I didn't bring my camera, nor had I intended to review this visit at all. My dining companion and I, of late, have been conversing about the change in dynamic at our dinner table since I started food blogging. So, on our recent trip to Reservoir I decided to leave the camera and analytical mind set at home and simply enjoy the food and company. However! I couldn't get Virbila's review out of my mind. And I find myself still thinking about it this morning in between clients, planning my next math lesson and going back and forth to the fridge for a diet coke.

I found Virbila to be incredibly ungenerous in her review of Reservoir, starting off mean spiritedly, but perhaps with validity, mentioning, "What could I say but that we had a wonderful time. And we did. Despite the food, I could have said. But I didn't. I didn't have the heart.", and continuing to criticize the investors/owners/developers for taking so long to get the restaurant up and running. The only thought I had about its opening is what a beautiful job they did, how pleasant the room is, and during my first visit how I couldn't wait until summer when the windows would be flung wide in the evening leaving the room open to the night air, sounds of traffic and dogs at play coming to and from the dog park across the street. I thought they lucked out with a unique space in a brilliant neighborhood location with a parking lot. With LAMill one block away, Spaceland and 7-Eleven across the street and beautiful homes at several different levels of value right up hills on both sides of Silverlake Blvd, this is the perfect spot for a true neighborhood place meeting the needs of many different kinds of humans.

Virbila's main concern in the review appeared to be a lack of development in the menu as the seasons changed and offerings at the farmer's market changed with them. I cannot speak for Virbila, but the menu on this recent visit was entirely different from my last visit, if not in concept certainly in produce. Last visit, mid-March, we shared a baby green salad with green beans and a variety of warm sauteed mushrooms. Not offered on the menu this trip, we instead ordered a grilled watermelon salad with arugula and marcona almonds. We also ordered the heirloom tomato and burrata salad Virbila wrote about, with the infamous balsamic reduction. Both salads were delightful in flavor and presentation.

I also enjoy the format of the mains. There are several plate "set-ups" and several proteins available including cowboy steak, short ribs, the chimichurri skirt steak and a nice selection of seafood including scallops, miso marinated black cod and even a tofu option. The reason I am enamored of this approach is that I usually have a yen for a certain protein but envy the accompaniments listed elsewhere on the menu. I like the interactivity, and that I have a hand in choosing the veg and starch/grain that comes on my plate. Both visits, however, I did ask for the assistance of my server to decide what to put where. This trip I ordered the miso black cod (delicious) served over Forbidden rice with potatoes, fava beans and grilled cippollini onions. It was fantastic.

SIV complained, "the food is all mushed together, steak sitting on top of braised kale and roasted tomatoes with fingerling potatoes and baby yams. Chicken is served with the Parmesan polenta (which is very good) and roasted balsamic cippollini onions. But does the same plate also need to be mucked up with sautéed shiitake mushrooms and fresh peas? It begins to seem like baby food for adults." I don't understand what she means here. Is it a textural issue? Does everything seem soft and uniform in consistency? If that is what she means, I suppose I can understand that. But at nearly every restaurant I eat at, the protein lays atop the veg/starch/grain (except steak). Because if she means similar to baby food flavor-wise, maybe she has never seen or tasted baby food. Baby food is simple, homogeneous in flavor and ingredient for a baby's developing digestive system. The flavors at Reservoir bring to my mind sophisticated comfort food. I can comprehend the criticism of too many flavors on the plate, but I still enjoyed all my flavors. I thought the food was very good, both times.

At a recent family wedding, a relative knowledgeable about food and the LA dining scene asked me if I was overly generous in my analysis of the places I dine. And in the past I have wondered if I am Pollyanna-esque when dining out. Perhaps I am. Although I have certainly had bad experiences and food I did not enjoy. I tend to not review these experience on my blog, saving them for commentary on someone else's blog or in a Chowhound thread.

Reservoir was worthy of a good write up here, both visits. I think it is great for what it is, a neighborhood spot for all kinds of people in an economically developing artsy neighborhood with an accessible price point. I wouldn't consider this a destination restaurant for people from the west side, as I would Rivera. However, I don't see Reservoir hurting for business. Not now, and if they are consistent in the friendliness & efficiency of their service(unlike Blair's, which I have stopped going to because I always feel like they act like they are doing me a favor by letting me dine there), not in the near future.

SIV and I can see eye-to-eye on the wine list, however. Many restaurants have proven how easy it is to have a small but intriguing wine list staying within a low price point by consulting a sommelier and staying away from designer labels. City Sip and Barbrix come to mind as places with some intriguing and delicious wines without going into wallet shock.

I am not a restaurant critic. I am a person who blogs about food experiences. I like Reservoir. The food tasted good and the service only added to my enjoyment of the experience. The end.


SinoSoul said...

haven't dined in Silver Lake recently. Have always wondered how Reservoir stacked against SiLA (which I truly enjoyed). And wonder how it stacks up against its neighbor, Domenico?

Food, she thought. said...

Sinosoul: What's SiLA? and haven't been to Domenicos.

tgirl said...

C & I went to Blair's on Saturday night and they were quite lovely and helpful. The place was only 1/3 full so maybe they caught on that in these trying economic times, service matters.

Food, she thought. said...

Hey was the food at Blair's?

It's With A K said...

I really enjoy your approach and thought process with this review. Perhaps the Virbala was having an off day when dining at Reservoir. Your description of the plating of the food seems pretty standard. Makes me want to dine there :-)

Diana said...

Really thoughtful review. I was turned off from trying Reservior after reading SIV's scathing review, so I'm glad you voiced your take. This is why food blogs are a good thing. They give a different perspective that might not otherwise be heard.

the woolly monkey said...

when everything is too pristinely separated on a plate, I always think of tv dinner - so agree (1).

do you have pictures of the windows? I love that type of atmosphere, and I think it makes the food taste better to get some fresh air with it.