It’s good to know that food can still surprise us. During a recent dineL.A. Restaurant Week preview dinner at Providence, an aspirational restaurant from chef Michael Cimarusti and front of house partner Donato Poto, I experienced a delicious shell game. They’d just finished serving spoonfuls of ravioli bursting with molten foie gras, Parmesan, 50-year balsamic and Australian black truffle. Poto brought out cigar boxes. After serving a course involving truffles, many fine dining restaurants show off by presenting truffles in their full form. Thankfully, Providence avoided that ostentatious pitfall and opted for something more playful.
Poto instead peeled back the lids on each cigar box, revealing braised Wagyu beef “cigars” with unctuous shredded beef baked in delicate feuilles de brick that looked eerily like a cigar. They planted each “cigar” in tart, vivid ume sauce with enlightening celery leaf.
This showmanship didn’t match the time when a Manhattan street hustler relieved my childhood friend Dave Good of $80 in a game of three-card Monty, and that’s for the best.