Sona has been a modern fine dining staple on La Cienega for seven years.
Sona has been accumulating accolades for the past seven years, but fine dining rarely holds much appeal for me, so it was always a restaurant that remained simmering on the back burner. Meanwhile, ambitious chef-owner David Myers started building a restaurant empire by opening Comme Ca and Pizzeria Ortica. Both of those restaurants delivered satisfying dining experiences, so there was certainly reason to think that a seasonal menu crafted by Myers using premium ingredients would be even more rewarding. Finally, the stars aligned and I was invited to experience Sona’s seventh anniversary, greatest hits menu. The meal wasn’t mind-blowing, but there were certainly standout dishes, and considering the seven-course menu costs $77, and the base 6-Course Découverte normally runs $95, there’s no better time to try Sona.
For a fine dining restaurant, Sona certainly offered some surprises. The stark white and gray dining room features a massive stone in the center that’s both decorative and practical, holding active bottles of wine. The crowd and vibe was a little hipper than you’ll find in a typical fine dining establishment, with plenty of beautiful (and young) people. The music was more in line with what you’d find at a lounge like The Standard. This is far from a stuffy environment, which is consistent with Myers’ reputation as a bit of a maverick.
We started in the bar with passed appetizers, beginning with addictive lotus root chips, crunchy and shaped like the face on a bygone rotary phone. Duck confit pouches with maple aioli teetered on warped spoons that looked like they were plucked from a Dali painting.
Tiny square bowls contained house-made tofu custard, umami-rich dashi broth and rosy big eye tuna sheets, all topped with crispy matcha rice cake crumble.
Our Amuse Bouche consisted of a rich pumpkin creme brûlée topped with crunchy espelette pepper bits.
Throughout the meal, we continually received unusual (and warm) house-baked rolls: black tea, wheat and raisin-studded red wine.
Rosy hiramasa sashimi sheets came topped with spicy grapefruit confit and sprinkled with dehydrated green pepper powder. The plate was finished with a silky streak of edamame puree dusted with deep red preserved turmeric that contributed some much needed spice.
Tahitian squash soup featured a concentrated flavor that overpowered the chai foam. The caramelized fillet of anago (freshwater eel) added nice richness, but the hidden cache of chewy tapioca pearls didn’t work for me texturally. Basically, the soup would have benefited from addition by subtraction.
Maine lobster risotto was a real crowd pleaser, with sweet, supple lobster chunks, rice grains cooked to exacting standards, a concentrated shellfish emulsion and an herbaceous kiss from minced kaffir lime leaf.
Roasted duck breast was a winner, with slices featuring rosy centers and crisp skin. The plate also hosted a streak of intensely smoky eggplant puree, tiny roasted eggplant discs and a celery root-shiso salad that added textural variety and an enticing aroma.
Short rib is so overexposed that it has achieved played-out status. At least Sona’s version was especially good. Myers’ red wine braised short rib arrived in a meaty square that didn’t even require a knife. The rib was plated on cardamom-infused boniato puree that had a mild sweetness. Toppers were crispy braised maitake mushroom and garnished with mitsuba, a peppery Japanese herb.
Pastry chef Ramon Perez more than proved his abilities by producing exemplary tarts and mousses for Intelligentsia Venice, under the Comme Ca Bakery banner, but his Baba left something to be desired. The dry pastry was shaped like a halved muffin and even some compelling companions couldn’t salvage the dessert. Accompaniments consisted of diced quince, pear, grains of paradise sabayon and tangy Greek yogurt sorbet.
Thankfully, we had more success with crisp-sheathed beignets that oozed molten chocolate when punctured with a fork. The towering dessert was plated with a dot of pumpkin puree, caramelized carrot sticks (amazing) and a cool scoop of birch bark ice cream.
With dessert, we each received a glass of Dow’s 10 Year Tawny port, from Portugal, naturally. According to the sommelier, for a port to be considered tawny, it has to be in the barrel for at least 7 years. This version delivered nutty caramel flavor and deep ruby color.
Mignardises were practically microscopic, but primarily featured large scale flavors. The rundown: tempered white chocolate filled with grapefruit sauce, a fleur de sel caramel, a salt and pepper macaron, fennel pate de fruit, dehydrated chocolate mousse, a hazelnut crostaillant and a “raspberry cherry.”
The meal seemed complete, but our server(s) brought out a basket of warm Madeleines that were absolutely addictive, crispy outside, soft inside and utterly addictive.
Even by going with seven signature dishes, Sona didn’t achieve the heights of fine dining establishments like Per Se or Michael Mina. Still, it is worth trying the restaurant given the relative value. If you like what you see, Sona has extended their anniversary menu through the end of 2009. The meal is available Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Note: This meal was comped by Sona.