8117 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Friday night was the much anticipated DineLA dinner at XIV with L from Gastronomnom and his fiancee, the lovely and sweet A. L made the reservations weeks ago, and this was their 7th DineLA restaurant visit of this years's DineLA week(s). You may or may not know that DineLA is a series of weeks in which restaurants offer a 3-course prix fixe menu for a bargain price. The prix fixe at XIV was $44 per person, with an optional $21 wine pairing. There is much conversation around the interwebs about DineLA and whether some of the high end restaurants put out fare that rivals the quality of their normal menu. Worthy of note is that The Bazaar's DineLA menu is their regular menu. They simply ask that you order one from a selection of appetizers and three additional dishes anywhere from their menu. Personally, I am a huge Bazaar fan and knowing that I would be ordering from their regular menu would remove any doubt that a DineLA menu would somehow be dumbed down. L argues that the food comes from the same kitchen and the same cooks, however, I feel that the food at XIV on this visit was, while not of different quality in terms of ingredients, just not up to the same par in terms of flavor and interest as the food during my prior visit in December, 2008.
Choices on the menu for starters: Wagyu tataki skirt steak, corn soup, and beet salad with burrata.
Choices for entree include: Jidori chicken, asparagus risotto, and Alaskan halibut.
For dessert, XIV offered: dark chocolate cake, Nutella custard, and a root beer float.
Per usual, we started with individual portions of the warm naan with a creamy feta and herbs. Heavenly, as always.
L & I both chose the Wagyu skirt tataki. Wonderfully aromatic, well marinated, and cooked well done. Nothing to argue with here in terms of flavor, I love beef tataki.
The tataki was accompanied by a cherry tomato salad with micro greens and cucumber. This had an almost pickled taste to it, however the vegetables did not seem pickled. Fresh, bright and acidic. A nice counter to the sweet and savory of the tataki.
D ordered the beet & burrata salad, with a balsamic reduction, olive oil, arugula. I adore the earthy flavor of a beet, and this is a lovely little salad. However, I feel like the beet salad is such a predictable stand-by at so many restaurants, from those of the celebrity chefs to gastropubs, that it slightly surprised me to see it on at XIV. It's just a little too platitudiness. A ordered the beautiful corn soup, which although it tasted divine and luxurious, was incredibly unphotogenic.
Surprisingly, we all ordered the halibut. Most likely paying attention to my camera while everyone else was ordering, I was shocked when 4 halibuts arrives at the table. For a group of food people, how unadventurous! A generous portion of well cooked and incredibly moist meat, it was served in fish broth on a bed of kale, with cherry tomato halves and cantaloupe balls. Not a huge lover of the cantaloupe, here it worked perfectly. I loved the sweet melonious flavor popping against the slightly fishy taste of the halibut. This was a solid dish, flavor wise. If it were on the menu in a restaurant I frequent, I would order it often.
Not being inclined much toward the sweets, I let D steer me toward the chocolate cake. Really, not a chocolate cake in the true sense of the term. This was a long thin cake-like strip down the long narrow plate, chocolate stripes interspersed between peanut butter stripes.
At the end of my "cake" was a scoop of coconut gelato which was wonderful. Almost made up for the weird cake product thing stuff.
L chose the Nutella custard, said it was delicious.
In the end, I thought the amount of food, the choices and the portions were definitely a bargain at $44. Again, the quality of ingredients was above reproach. Somehow, however, the meal lacked a little of the thrill of my last visit. Previously, the food seemed so inspired. Also, the crowd has changed. When XIV first opened the crowd was incredibly elegant, Angelenos to whom dining is important populated the dining room, filled the bar. The room felt hushed, genteel. This last Friday's crowd was similar to the crowd cramming into the bar at Bazaar these days. The entire feel is that of a nightclub/restaurant akin to Mesa in Costa Mesa, but more Los Angeles in mood. Think: urgent, electrified, parvenu, and all the other axioms that describe nightlife in Los Angeles.
Nevertheless, the food was solid. And there is almost nothing that good company cannot overcome.