Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bistro LQ: No Pommes Frites

Bistro LQ
8009 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048-4503
(323) 951-1088

This was the maiden voyage for my new camera, having practiced only at home prior. I have been reading Vegan Yum Yum, a food blogger who also has published a very beginner's guide to using a DSLR. Sadly, being out to dinner at a rather fancy restaurant, I didn't follow her cardinal rule #9. Take lots of photos. Dining with friends or family one doesn't see regularly can inhibit the level of obnoxiousness to which one might climb when obsessing on food shots using natural lighting in a dim restaurant. However, I am not entirely unhappy with the inaugural dinner.

Bistro LQ stands for Bistro Laurent Quenioux. Raised in Sologne, France, cooked at The Regency Club in LA, cheffed at the 7th Street Bistro in DTLA from the mid 80's, he ran the well received Bistro K in Pasadena in the early 2000's. Bistro LQ is housed on Beverly near the corner of Fairfax in the old Mimosa space.

Quenioux has received accolades on his new venture from Gayot.com, Sinosoul during a dessert degustation, Thrillist immediately after the soft opening, SIV for the LATimes during an Early Bird special, EatingLA, la.foodblogging, the majority of Yelpers, and Opentable diners. It was panned by some of the Yelpers, a few of the Opentable reviews, and taken to task by foodcentricity.

Personally, I/we should have done better research before making our reservations. I am not 100% sure Bistro LQ was the best go-to for our dinner event last night. In retrospect, something earthier might have been more well received. Not that everyone didn't enjoy themselves, I think we all enjoyed the spectacle, the oddities, the unusual flavor profiles listed on Quenioux's menu. But I think a couple of our diner's palate's would have been happier somewhere less risky, bistro with pommes frites perhaps. So many such French places grace our presence in always sunny Los Angeles these days.

Nevertheless! We went, we saw, we ate.

Amuse -Bouche: Frog Leg Terrine with Lobster

This was a tasty little dish that did not amuse everyone. Much sharing and switching of plates occurred. The oft maligned phrase, tastes like chicken holds true with some regard to frog's legs. Frog leg texture is much like that of the meat of a chicken wing, my favorite part of the bird. I think the flavor is a little different, but in this case the leg meat was mixed with both lobster and squid so it was a little hard to tell which meat my taste buds were sampling at what point.

First Course: Bistro K House Salad

D and P both started with the house salad, a roll over from Bistro K perhaps? There is nothing unusual on the plate, in content. It is the context that makes this dish interesting and comment worthy. To the left, a miniature butter lettuce salad, to the right trevise salad.

Across the top from the left: a celery salad, frisee leaves and to the far right a small cress salad that looked mighty tempting to me. I restrained myself from nibbling at D's salad mostly because there was so little on the menu for his less adventurous palate to get excited about. This salad pleased P, because she enjoys it when her food doesn't touch. We had just finished a conversation contemplating portable divider plates to carry along with one when dining out, and the salads arrived. Perfect timing.

First Course: Oat Meal Infused in fresh fennel lobster broth, cinnamon roasted Maine lobster

P (the other P, herein referred to as TOP) was intrigued by the offering of oat meal on the Overtures menu. He shared very generously, so I know that the big grains of the oat meal carried a definite cinnamon flavoring, not unlike breakfast oats, but without the sweet. The fennel was unreadable over or under the cinnamon flavors, and the lobster was a little on the tough side.

First Course: Uni Sea urchin tapioca pudding with yuzu kocho, kumamoto Oysters in yuzu Martini gelee

This was a luscious success. Very subtle flavors in the rich tapioca carried the brininess of the sea urchin, which was balanced perfectly by the yuzu. While I know that yuzu is an Asian citrus, wiki tells me it is believed to be a hybrid between sour mandarin and Ichang papeda. Here, the peel has been cut in long thin strips and woven throughout the large tapioca pearls. I like sea urchin but not love. Serving over something as comforting as tapioca made it more attractive in concept, pairing the distinctive uni flavor with the yuzu made it wonderful in execution. Genius flavor combination.

Also in attendance on the plate is one perfect kumamoto oyster in a yuzu martini gelee. This was actually not what I think of as a gelee at all. Just a slightly sweet shot of liquid carrying one perfect oyster, fished out from the bottom with a tiny spoon.

Throughout the meal, the plating is so elegant.

The Seas, The Rivers, and the Oceans: Scallops Raw artichokes thinly sliced, chick pea hummus style, sautéed foie gras, corn flakes

For a change, D enjoyed his foie gras. This is perhaps because it was extremely well cooked. Loving his meat overcooked, the sear on the outside of this foie was very firm, too firm for me but perfect for D. I liked the flavor of the foie atop the hummus, an unusual pairing.

Top scallop. The scallops, for his tastes, on the other hand were a little underdone. They look perfect to me, this meat from the sea. He was not a fan of the raw artichokes the scallops sat on, the texture was like apples but without the flavor pop of either a raw apple or a cooked choke.

The Seas, The Rivers, and the Oceans: Atlantic Skate Wing Tomato tart, spring vegetable nage with sujok, sumac Mini Berries Powder

While this photo is disappointing, this dish was not. I enjoyed the soft meat of the skate wing with the warm crispness of the tart pastry, and just a little flavor of the nage and a few firm peas.

The Seas, The Rivers, and the Oceans: Salmon Bone marrow “royale”, chicharrones ragu with chipotle and epazote, baby abalone

My main course was ok. The salmon was nicely cooked, just cooked all the way through but not overly cooked, very moist, and tasting simply of salmon. The chicharrones ragu were dee-lish-ous, toothsome and a trace spicy. I shared with TOP, secretly wishing there were more chunks of chicharones on the plate. However, the bone marrow royale (the creamy colored mousse to the right of the photo) was not flavorful. I get that marrow is a subtle flavor, an experience appreciated more for the texture than the flavor itself. I just didn't find the translation into a mousse compelling enough to eat the whole thing.

Above, see the generous portion of abalone. Having never tried abalone to my recollection, I was surprised at the crunchiness. A lovely element in presentation, but I am unsure how it really connects to the rest of the dish. 'Twas fun to try.

Meat and Fowl: Hanger Steak jus, tant-pour-tant mash potato, today’s market summer vegetables

This was the most traditional looking composition that traveled across our table all evening. The veggies looked beautifully fresh and tender, and I was a little jealous of the beef that P ate with seeming gusto. I am craving steak as I write this, knowing full well I will be having sushi instead later. A good dish, well prepared without a lot of machinations.

Bonne Bouche: Mini-Cupcakes, Macarons

I ate the one pistachio macaron sitting there to the right of the shot in homage to my macaron obsession of last spring. It was delicious pistachio perfection.

To the far right of the long tray, chocolate cupcake with custard, you can barely see the tip of a chocolate mousse square, and all the way over is one tiny jelly donut. Missing in the shots are a firm fruit gelee sweety and a couple of powdered sugar covered marshmallows, TOP sampled both and was pleased.

Pistachio macaron loveliness.

In conclusion, I found Quenioux's food to be interesting and inventive, if not always delicious. Service was excellent, not obsequious. The atmosphere at Bistro LQ reminds me ever so slightly of Sona, quiet elegance but not so quiet as to be austere. I don't plan to go again anytime soon, because although I enjoyed myself immensely (both company and food), I tend to save restaurants with this level of fancy for special occasions, and there are a few restaurants with this level of fancy whose fanciness I find preferable.

But I would never, ever, say never.

Bistro LQ in Los Angeles


MyLastBite said...

Can't wait to eat here! Great photos. Thanks!

SinoSoul said...

annnd the D90 roars to life. yayers.

Carrie said...

Loving the new shots! You and depth of field are becoming good friends. xo

Kristine said...

beautiful pics! :)

Pepsi Monster said...

Whoa! Is that mean your man is not needed to be the guy who handles overhead lights anymore? hehehe

Love the pics! Can't wait to see what you can do in the day light. My gosh, the unlimited possibilities!!

I had been to Bistro LQ. I'll definitely get my review up for that place soon. Thanks for the write up!

Food, she thought. said...

SS: let's hope the product improves!

Carrie: I hope my ability to manipulate my camera's reception of ambient light befriends me as well.

K: thanks, friend! Whose yogurt is Domo nomming on?

PM: cannot wait to read your write-up! The deal with this camera is, there is so much more to know. It's almost daunting.

mattatouille said...

too bad i couldn't do a D90 tutorial before I left, but these are a good start. Cathy's already rockin' with the D90...seriously amazing stuff. The low light is a tough issue for anyone. I will say, I would NOT take too many photos at a restaurant. I usually take one photo per dish and leave it at that. then i get to eating.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Food, She Thought,

Great review of Bistro LQ. I was curious about this place for a while now. :)

If I may ask, how much did it end up per person total? (Like you, I want to gauge how "special occasion" this place is (via price level) and if it's worth going sooner rather than later. Thanks!)

burumun said...

Thanks for the review! LQ looks very promising, can't wait to try it myself. Your camera seems to be working out well for you. BTW, no dessert courses besides the petit fours?