Le Comptoir is the meticulous chef’s counter from Gary Menes inside Koreatown’s revamped Hotel Normandie. 10 bar stools face a stainless steel kitchen, which relies on a convection oven, a row of induction burners, and produce from the talented chef’s Long Beach garden. Decorative gourds and candles dot the counter, wordless jazz plays, and the printed menu rotates regularly, based on micro-seasons. Le Comptoir debuted on December 26, 2014, featuring seatings at 6 pm and 8:30, a base price tag of $64 for six courses, and a vegetable focus, with opportunities to supplement meat and seafood.
My First Course consisted of tart Greek yogurt, toasted breadcrumbs coated in savory Parmigiano Reggiano and a fennel frond garnish. A server poured in silky cauliflower velouté from across the counter. Velouté straddles the French line between sauce and soup and is usually crafted from roux and stock coaxed from variable animal bones. However, since Menes celebrates what sprouts from the soil, he opted for vegetable stock, Plugra butter and “bypassed using a roux for a much cleaner flavor of cream.” Still, it’s not like Menes skimped on flavor. The result lived to its loose French translation, which is to make like velvet.
Near my meal’s end, Gary Menes told one diner, “If they don’t like the combinations, at least they can taste the authentic ingredients that come from our garden. At the very least.” He was clearly being humble, since “least” was never in the cards for cauliflower velouté or any dish.
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