Friday, March 2, 2012

Japanese Spaghetti House: Orris Goes Italian

Spaghetti House by Orris
2006 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

I'm seeing a trend here, or maybe it was already a trend and I just missed it until now (which would usually be the case). First there was Spoon House in Gardena with their One Dollar Salad and 36 item list of Japanese influenced pastas. 

Then there was Fat Spoon in Little Tokyo. They serve giant fresh and deliciously dressed salads with seaweed and lots of veggies, Curry Cheese Fries and Tarako Pasta among many other things. Now there is Spaghetti House by Orris in the old Orris space. Orris was Japanese/French, cheffed by Shiro who also does the shopping and menu planning for Shiro in Pasadena. Our waiter informed us that the original Orris concept had slowly been losing customers throughout the recession and Shiro felt it was time for a change. Turning the high concept Orris into an uber casual noodle shop (the Italian kind) is a major change, and it was packed. Customers were waiting for tables when we left at around 8. Drawn in by the change or the $9-$12 giant plates of pasta? Hard to say. I hope Spaghetti House stays this busy. Stuff we ate:

In addition to the regular menu, there was a fairly long blackboard list. Despite the fact that we were dining early at 6:30, the albacore lettuce cups were sold out mere moments before we ordered them. Audible quadruple sigh from our table. The above was from the blackboard, a beet and cheese salad with a little olive oil, dill and balsamic. It didn't blow me away but it was tasty.

Also on the board, salmon croquettes with smoked salmon and salmon roe. I really enjoyed the balance of smokey and briney flavors in these croquettes. There is Y in the back shooting pics with her phone. D held his phone with a lighting app over the food so we both could get well lit pics. They are fun to dine with because verbally deconstructing food does not annoy D & Y, they do it themselves. They went to the recent Food & Wine Festival in the Cayman Islands, returning with many mouth watering stories to tell about relaxed and happy chefs cooking and socializing with the guests.

A crostini was also offered on the blackboard...cheese on bread with tomatoes. I didn't think this was successful, the bread wasn't toasty nor was the cheese melty.

The pastas were lovely, however. Lightly sauced and dressed and the pasta itself springy. Above, mushrooms and takana mustard greens.

Y ordered the skirt steak with a little pesto and arugula salad cooked medium-well (certain temporary health concerns might lead one to order differently from their norm).

D naturally caved on the Italian sausage and tomato sauce. It had giant chunks of asparagus and lots of green onion. He said it tasted like a Japanese approach to spaghetti, in it's lightness and ingredients, if that made sense. I am not sure it did, without further explanation. Cleaned his plate.

Since my visit to Fat Spoon a few months ago, I have been craving uni pasta. I ordered it from the backboard before it was sold out. Plenty of chunks of fresh uni with a rich uni sauce, that umami of the sea flavor one gets from beautiful sea urchin.

The four of us shared two desserts, a chocolate cake with mocha ice cream and chocolate whip, and an apple tart with caramel. Both solid.

I didn't find the apple tart with caramel overly sweet as I sometimes find desserts.  There was a perfect balance between the lightly salted and sugared pastry crust, simple fruitiness of the apple filling and the sweet caramel with a little vanilla ice cream.

I'm chuffed to be hip to a new/old trend. I have no idea how common Japanese spaghetti houses are, maybe they've been flying under my radar for years. The history of my taste buds tells me Chef Shiro's food is high quality ingredients with classic preps and interesting ethnic combinations. Spaghetti House is low brow compared to original Orris and Pasadena's Shiro, but the price point and the packed room are a sign of the times. Diners are seeking good value for their money, willing to sacrifice pomp and circumstance, and I personally am happy to see great chefs answer this call. 


joanh said...

mm, the uni pasta looks yummy. it's true, i haven't been to orris in years or felt the urge to. change up is good if business wasn't working for them and they can still be creative on the appetizer menu

Food, she thought. said...

I completely agree, Joan. Business people need to adapt to the market, and ultimately chefs also need to be good at the business of marketing food. I like the food at Shiro better, but I love the concept and Chef Shiro's adaptability. So many great chefs these days in lower price, shared food concept restaurants. Ink, Baco, Bazaar, etc.

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