A mob of starving food bloggers descended on Canelé’s communal table for a Mediterranean feast, including Matthew (Mattatouille) Christine (Folie à Choisauce), Kevin (Kevin Eats), Aaron (Food Destination), Fiona (Gourmet Pigs) and Danny (Kung Fu Panda). My initial Canelé experience was fairly uninspired in 2006, which is why the charming Atwater Village restaurant never appeared on Food GPS before. The quality has clearly improved since 2006. Canelé may not rank with somewhat similar concepts like Lucques, but the restaurant has matured into a solid neighborhood option with a lower price point.
“Meals At All Hours.” Not true. Canelé is only open for dinner and weekend brunch – but the sign still contributed to warm decor. Chef-owner Corina Weibel and front-of-the-house partner Jane Choi also feature bar seating overlooking their open kitchen and blackboard menus. The regular menu is fairly static, but Weibel features several daily specials.
In an earlier post, Matthew made it no secret that Canelé is his favorite restaurant. That may have contributed to our complimentary plank of veal bresaola with oil-dressed arugula. The pleasantly chewy cured beef is similar to basturma, but without the Armenian meat’s notorious stench. Weibel did a good job of pairing starters with slightly bitter greens to cut their nearly across-the-board richness.
We ordered way too many dishes, but that’s what happens when food bloggers get together to eat. We started with daily special: fat asparagus spears dressed with brown butter and a fried egg. Most Canelé starters come with crispy bread, and this dish was no exception.
Weibel’s clams and mussel special was very good, featuring plump shellfish, smoky strips of bacon and olive oil-soaked breadcrumbs. Bloggers were wiping the bowl with bread to soak up the remaining Provencal-style broth.
A beguiling but ultimately disappointing torte involved chard, spinach, golden raisins, apple and pinenuts. The savory wedge was treated with suspicion but other food bloggers. Those sorts of Mediterranean ingredients can work well together, but felt out of place at dessert, especially when served with flan, chocolate cake and cheesecake.
Canelé gets knocked for having a menu that doesn’t change often enough. It’s true that dishes like duck confit were past the point given the date. To get the most out of Canelé, go big on daily specials and get the best of the season.