As part of dineLA’s first and hopefully annual Restaurant Week, a long list of “Deluxe” and “Premier” restaurants around the county are offering three-course lunches and dinners at mostly reduced prices. First up: lunch at the flagship of Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group empire. Since Patina is situated on the ground floor of Walt Disney Hall – architect Frank Gehry’s silver-skinned masterpiece – it was unlikely the food would match the surroundings. Still, Patina has been one of the city’s top rated restaurants for well over a decade, so expectations were high.
Hagy Belzberg’s interior was muted, not nearly as interesting as the exterior, but then again, why try to compete with Frank Gehry? The wavy wooden wall coverings reminded me of drapes, and there was plenty of natural light. The sumptuous leather seats were also awfully inviting.
At fine dining restaurants like Patina, differences can be in the details. Their house-baked bread selection is certainly representative of an upper tier operation. A server presented a wood-framed bread tray loaded with six options. On his first pass, I opted for a warm potato roll and slices of walnut, olive and sesame breads (shown counterclockwise from the bottom right).
On the bread man’s second pass, I collected a fluffy slice of ciabatta and a cone-shaped cut of chewy baguette.
Executive Chef Theo Schoenegger was in the kitchen for lunch, not exactly a given at such a reputable restaurant. For my first course, I passed up the opportunity to “study” market beets, opting for the most unusual Butternut Squash and Tahitian Vanilla “Cappuccino.” The vibrant soup contained cubes of al dente butternut squash and was topped with what amounted to a Tahitian vanilla marshmallow, which melted in the scorching nectar, spreading frothy flavor. Almost every aspect of the soup worked for me, except for the texture of the marshmallow, which was too chalky.
Merlot braised lamb osso buco was less successful. Saffron risotto hosted diced zucchini and strips of roasted tomato. Tender nuggets of lamb slipped off the bones, but they were held in place by too much fat. Using my sleek Patina knife, I was able to extract some marrow from the bones, but it was a struggle.
For a mid-day meal, I was happy to do without a heavy dessert. Instead, Patina dispensed a simple array of Mignardises: a caramel-like praline “lingo,” a Tahitian vanilla marshmallow (identical to the one used in the soup?), a fluffy pistachio macaroon, a sugar-crusted persimmon jelly and a rich Viennese chocolate truffle.
Patina regularly offers a two-course business lunch for $25, including petit fours, so it’s not like they discovered value in time for dineLA Restaurant Week. Overall, the generous portions and quality ingredients warranted $22 plus tax and tip. The lunch wasn’t groundbreaking, but the attention to detail hinted that it might be worth returning to Patina for dinner.