After our recent tour of the bella Italia, my love for rustic Italian cuisine has turned into an obsession…
- For starters, it’s Italian, which means there is Pasta (**hello**) !!
- Despite being “peasant-y” and unrefined, the simplicity, freshness, and earthiness of the ingredients balance together so perfectly!
- Despite being “Old World flavors”, rustic Italian dishes are always so inviting and comforting!!
I bring this up because last night, we finally decided to visit a gem in the Arts District of Los Angeles with our good friend from New York, Adrian. Simon and I have actually been meaning to try rising chef-star, Ori Menashe’s DTLA-based trendy Bestia, and we were pleasantly blown away by the quality and taste. In Italian, Bestia means “Beast.” There is no doubt that this restaurant is living up to its name!
According to our server, the menu changes daily. I think he just meant that it is a seasonal menu because our menu from last night seems to be what I’ve seen in the past. Side note: if you’re planning on visiting, I highly recommend ordering family-style. There are simply too many delicious dishes for you to want to stick to one.
As for the poison, we decided to stick to wine. Our server suggested a Californian red from the El Dorado Hills ~ Donkey and Goat, 2014 Grenache Noir. Adrian and Simon seemed to have enjoyed it. I felt it was…. interesting. The first sip felt very dry. So I took a couple of small sips to “neutralize the palate.” Then I had to have some water. I found myself doing this a lot. Every sip started sweet, light, fruity, and seemed to have a lot of potential…. but somehow kept ending really dry. I’ll refrain from the sexual innuendo…. but you get my point. As hard as it was trying, the wine just couldn’t finish off strong. I personally wouldn’t order it again…
Now…. on to the meat and bones…
Piatti Piccoli & Antipasti:
Creamy Polenta ~ Request Denied: I reallllly wanted to try the Creamy Polenta (simply because I love everything listed in the description: polenta, charred corn, sweet onions, potatoes, and grana padano). Unfortunately, they were running low and were only serving it with the pork porterhouse. I felt slightly heartbroken at this point….
Marinated Olives: All his life, Simon has hated olives. All 50 years of his life… and then, one fine day in a bustling food market in Florence, he was force-fed an amore olive by a very pushy olive vendor… he loved it so much that he made me buy 2 pounds, which we ate over the next 5 days. He’s hated every olive since then… until last night. The olives at Bestia reinforces the notion that sometimes Simple is the Best! They were a mix of French and (primarily) Italian olives, marinated in olive oil, garlic and citrus. Although the individual flavors of olives, garlic, and citrus can be overpowering on their own, these olives were very well-balanced! The garlic was subtle, and the citrus oils and peels provided a refreshing lift. The marinade/oil itself was so delicious that we couldn’t resist asking for bread on the side to soak up the oil… we couldn’t let it go to waste! The only complaint we had about this was that the bread was not part of the dish itself…. rather, we had to pay $6 for two slices of homemade wood-grilled country bread. The bread was good, and I get you’re making it on site, but really? $6 for 2 slices??
Lamb Meatballs: Unanimous Verdict of Guilty for being SO Good!! Anyway, these meatballs were actually ridiculously delicious! We all agreed we wouldn’t change a thing about the dish (other than there being an endless portion!) The meat was perfectly seasoned and was tender and moist. It was served with a lime yogurt, pickled shallots and chilies, on a small bed of lentils and delicate greens. The citrus yogurt was perfect to cut through the richness of the meat… this dish really was perfect in every aspect!
- This photo is a fairly true and accurate depiction of the presentation…we dug in so fast that I forgot to take a photo… so I’m borrowing one from Bestias’ very own Instagram account! Hopefully, they don’t mind…
Half Portion Roasted Marrow Bone with Spinach Gnocchetti: The bone marrow was also absolutely delicious! The bone itself had a nice amount of char, which permeated a nice smokey flavor through the dish, and once scooped out, the marrow melted like butter into the gnocchetti. The gnocchetti were inconsistent in size, which was a nice homemade feature. The texture was perfect in softness, yet had a bit of a bite, and the flavor was tasty and paired well with the marrow. The dish could have used a bit more texture, which I expected it to have with the breadcrumbs. However, the breadcrumbs seemed to have been lost in the dish. Otherwise, no complaints!
Mussels and Clams: Honestly, I love mussels and clams. But there were so many other dishes on the menu that I told myself I wouldn’t order the mussels and clams here. And then, a gorgeous bowl arrived at our neighboring table. I couldn’t resist! This dish really packed a full punch of flavor with the spice! As Adrian put it, it was a “Nuclear Explosion Of Flavor”! As soon as the dish was placed on the table, there was a noticeable pleasant smell of the housemade spicy ‘nduja sausage. The mussels were clean, fresh, and hearty, and the despite being on the spicier end of the spectrum, I couldn’t help sipping on the delicious broth! They serve this dish with a few pieces of the country loaf, so its perfect to tame the spice and soak up the broth. I never really appreciated fennel until recently, and the use of the cooling herb here was perfect to counterbalance the spice. This really is a prime example of balance of flavors… If you can handle the heat, this dish is absolutely divine! It *will* knock you socks off!
- Once again, I’ve included a photograph from Bestias’ own page… my photo does no justice to this dish…
Cavatelli alla Norcina: This was Adrian’s order and our least favorite of the 3 entrees despite being one of their most popular items. Ricotta dumplings, housemade pork sausage, black truffles, grana padano…all the elements of a perfect dish. There is no doubt this dish was good but a slightly overpowering truffle essence and lack of bite made this feel a little flat overall.
- The Jury’s out on this, I personally wouldn’t recommend it but I can see why some may like it…after all black truffles are de jour arent they?? De “bore” seems more appropriate!
- We recently visited this gem again, and ordered this pasta, as it was, once again, recommended by the restaurant. It was a lot better! Perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, perfect bite! We would recommend ordering it…. and hope your experience with this dish is what ours was the second time around…
Spaghetti Rustichella: Lobster, sea urchin, garlic, calabrian chilies, squid ink bottarga, breadcrumbs. Check, check and check in every respect as far as ingredients go. The dish came out and Simon (who has a self-proclaimed heightened sense of smell, taste, and apparently sight) noticed that the lobster appeared to be grayish and under-cooked in some spots. He waived for the server who came over and explained that the lobster is intentionally a par-cooked, butter poached lobster. After being assured that it was safe to eat, it was unapologetically devoured by the Old-Man-with-the-heightened-senses. All in all, worth the visit and worth the order!
Quadretti alla Carota: Mushroom ragu, summer squash, squash blossoms, carrot puree, carrot tops. This was the money dish…yes the vegetarian dish was the out-and-out winner (as was I)! As Adrian put it, he wish he hadn’t tried a bite of my pasta as it made his dish taste even more sub-par. The presentation was a piece of art, thoughtfully put together, element by element (unfortunately, my photograph does not do this dish justice). The taste was creamy but light, the shiitake mushrooms, squash, and broth provided the perfect consistency and bite, and the carrot tops and puree were the perfect addition of sweet to cut through the rich, creaminess of this dish. I could taste every element of this dish and appreciate it individually, harmoniously, just like a perfectly practiced orchestra! Nothing needed to be added and nothing needed to be taken away…except the empty plate of course! Vegetarians rejoice, you are the winner in this entree course.
Valrhona Fair Trade Bittersweet Chocolate Budino Tart: Salted caramel, cacao crust, olive oil, sea salt. If it has chocolate and caramel in, you can bet your bottom dollar Simon is ordering it! Somehow we had enough room to have dessert, but lets be fair, there is ALWAYS room for dessert! It sounded richer than it tasted, which was certainly a pleasant surprise but a couple of bites in and our gaskets (er buttons…) were going to blow! Definitely worth ordering…
Community Involvement: I’m only writing this bit because Bestia is serving not only amazing food, but also our community. Bestia charges $1 per person for filtered water, and all proceeds to benefit Gettlove, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles dedicated to ending homelessness. If you want to be Uncle Scrooge this holiday season, just stick to wine…
Guilty-pleasure. We expect to be back here soon to try the other delights on the menu!