Caché Restaurant

IMG_1362

Bar area

Caché, which means ‘hidden’ in French, is a lovely gem that recently opened on Main street in Santa Monica.  After the former restaurant Hidden’s schizophrenic menu failed to keep the crowds coming, Josiah Citrin took over to transform this large space into a rocking joint.  We all know and love Josiah Citrin from his other successful LA projects- Jiraffe, Mélisse and Lemon Moon.  Caché is a different concept, serving straightforward but well executed food in a loungey setting.  Diners can enjoy their meals indoors or outdoors, and late night partiers can congregate for cocktails in the outdoor patio by the enticing oblong fireplace.

Chef Arrington checking the white truffles for dinner service

Chef Arrington checking the white truffles for dinner service

Citrin has chosen a bright young star to lead the Caché kitchen.  Nyesha Arrington, the Chef de Cuisine,  is a SoCal native who was entrusted to take this position after proving her capabilities at Lemon Moon and Mélisse.   Her impressive resume also includes stints at Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier and The Mansion in Las Vegas.  Her appreciation of cultural diversity, stemming from her multi-cultural background, is reflected in the superb balance and integration of different flavors.

We were greeted with a wonderful warm mason jar of assorted olives.  IMG_1269Warm olives are so much more pleasurable than cold or room temperature ones, it makes me wonder why more restaurants don’t serve it this way.  I love the warm olives at Pizzeria Mozza, and what a joy it is to dip my pizza crust into that aromatic warm olive oil.

Caché offers 4 types of mason jar starters, but the ones to get are the duck confit and foie gras parfait.  The rich and creamy foie gras parfait was topped with a luxurious port wine gelée.  The duck confit jar had tender shredded duck meat mixed with herbs and vegetables.  Both were equally satisfying and addictive, and we kept asking for more bread.  The bottle of 2005 St. Émilion Bordeaux from Chateau de Bellevue we ordered was a bit tart before it hit the decanter, but it got better and better through the course of our meal.  The lustrious tannins in this full bodied wine were a wonderful complement to the mason jar delicacies.

IMG_1265

There was no conversation or interaction at the table during the first 10 minutes of our ravenous mason jar frenzy.  IMG_1271These delectable delights had tapped into a part of our brain that had been scientifically thought to be dormant since the caveman era.  Dilated pupils, flushed face, rapid heart rate and incomprehensible gutteral grunting… these incredible edibles almost caused a sympathetic nervous system overload.  Once we calmed down, we started talking about what our ideal ‘last meal’ would be.  The heated debate included stellar candidates like sushi, steak, lamb chops, caviar and truffles.  The one thing we all agreed on was that we would love to have this foie gras parfait mason jar there before we draw our last breath.

The lovely calamari dish with chorizo, confit meyer lemon, cherry tomatoes and parsley came straight from the wood fired oven.  The chorizo slivers imparted a wonderful smokey flavor to the tender calamari, and the citrus kick from the meyer lemons kept the dish fresh and sharp.

IMG_1270

Caché’s version of moules frites was spectacular.  The black mussels were cooked in a delectable white wine, shallots and tomato sauce that we lapped up with the fries.  After the fries were gone we used our spoons to drink it like soup.  I’m normally not a fan of thicker cut fries as they tend to be soggy and overcooked, but these were fried to a perfect outer crisp and moist tender interior.  I could really taste the innate rustic potato flavors in each dazzling morsel.  The farmer who made these potatoes would be proud.

IMG_1272

I was ecstatic to see bone marrow on the menu.  It’s one of my favorite things to eat, so we placed 2 orders.  The fire-roasted bone marrow was silky and rich, oozing with blissful beef essence.   The green parsley foam on top added a perfect amount of saltiness to complement the marrow gelatin.  The wild mushroom tapenade on the toasted baguettes was earthy and aromatic, but it overpowered and competed with the bone marrow.  I had to scrape off the paste in order to indulge in a full-scale unadulterated marrow orgy.

IMG_1280

The crisp and fresh market wedge salad with cherry tomatoes, egg, blue cheese and bacon vinaigrette was the perfect palate cleanser to reset my heavy marrow-saturated taste buds.

IMG_1277

Caché has many delicious flat breads on their menu that are all baked in their special wood fired oven.  Toppings range from spicy sopressata to duck sausage, zucchini to caramelized shallots.  They all sounded amazing, but we decided to go with the evening special:  lardon, caramelized onion, cantal cheese, bechamel sauce and thyme.  A splendid array of caramelized sweetness, fresh herb aromas, lardon saltiness and cantal sharpness on a doughy flatbread canvas baked to perfection.

IMG_1286

The crispy pan-fried loup de mer was served on a bed of marinated eggplant, lemon and rosemary caponata.  The best part of this dish was the loup de mer skin with crispy scales, fried to a light flakiness that crunched and danced on my tongue.  The fragile texture was addictive, and I found myself enjoying the skin more than the flesh.  The hearty caponata was a bit too intense for the fish, and I left it untouched.

IMG_1298

One of my dining companions had already been to Caché and raved about the Kurobuta pork chop.  Even though we offered to order another dish so that he could have the opportunity to try something new, he insisted that we get it.  He wanted to relive the experience- it was that good.  The thick cut of meat was cooked to a perfectly even color, temperature and consistency.  The freshness of the mint ribbons and the subdued sweetness of the pineapple and five spice chutney embellished this juicy pork.  There was nothing really fancy about this dish, and it was a new flavor combination for me, but somehow it hit the spot.  It was comforting, warming and soulful.  Yes, this was a fantastic and solid dish, and I would order it again on my next visit.

IMG_1294

Chef Arrington complemented our entrées with 3 sides of: carrot with passion fruit, thyme and black pepper, asparagus with curry and pistachios, and a yukon potato purée that was whipped up in classic buttery Robuchon style.

IMG_1302

I bumped into Nyesha a couple of weeks ago at the Santa Monica farmers market as we both rummaged through a box of fairytale eggplants.  She had a twinkle in her eye as she enthusiastically told me how she was going to prepare it for the dinner menu that evening.  I could see the wheels of creativity and inspiration cranking at full speed in her brain as she proceeded to sniff, pick, taste and caress all of the fresh produce throughout the market.  It looked like she was having an intimate conversation with each vegetable.  I couldn’t help but feel a twang of jealousy toward the lucky people who would get to enjoy the farmers market inspired menu that evening at Caché.

IMG_1353The food at Caché boasts innovative flavor combinations with simple fresh ingredients.  It’s fine dining in a hip LA setting.  Yet it also has the comfort of soul food and the familiarity of happy childhood memories at the kitchen table.  How is it that in a jar of refined foie gras, on a superbly baked flatbread, on a side of Robuchon-style whipped potatoes, and in a crispy loup de mer skin that is difficult to perfect, I can taste the love and passion of this talented chef?  How is it possible for these plates to satisfy my soul as much as it pleases my belly and my eyes?  It’s something about the essence of the food and the aura of the chef.

Any chef can cook to impress, please, execute, and entertain.  But only a great chef can take that to a higher level and also cook to nourish and nurture.  That’s why the greatest chefs in the world are our mothers and grandmothers.  Young and beautiful Nyesha sure ain’t your grandmother, but she cooks with the same intention and soul.

http://www.cacherestaurant.com/

Random trivia:  Did you know that mussels are gonochoristic?  That means that each individual mussel is born either male or female.

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon- Paris

IMG_5272

In the heart of trendy Saint Germain des Prés on the Left Bank in Paris stands the infamous L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon restaurant.  What better way to kick start my recent trip to Europe than to pay a visit to one of the world’s most famous chef’s establishments?  Joël Robuchon has almost become a household name, as he continues to build his global empire of Michelin starred restaurants.

IMG_5355

L’Atelier, unlike the more formal La Table, offers casual small plate dining with a sushi bar-like square counter from where diners can sit back and enjoy personalized interactive service with the sommelier and servers, and the theatrical excitement of the large open-air kitchen.  The modern and sexy interior of the restaurant is dimly lit with cherry red accents, and decorated with vivid displays of sliced, rolled and curled vegetables and fruits in geometric containers.

Our amuse bouche was a refreshing gazpacho with mustard ice cream.  An invigorating tart cocktail of fresh vegetables with a powerful jolt of creamy mustard sensation.  This dish slapped my taste buds and salivary glands wide awake and prepared me for the sensational meal to come.

Les Anchois frais marinés aux poivrons rouges grillés- a perfectly vertical tower of marinated anchovies with grilled red peppers.  The perfect saltiness and acidity of the vinegar marinated anchovies, paired with the deep sweetness of the grilled peppers was the perfect way to start the meal.

L’ouef, cocotte et sa crème légère de morilles- egg cocotte with a morel mushroom cream sauce.  This is one of Robuchon’s signature dishes, and for good reason.  This is a whole egg, slow cooked at a low temperature to where the whites of the egg just barely set and the yellow yolk is runny and smooth.  It was elegantly served in a martini glass with foamed morel mushroom cream sauce and a whole plump earthy morel mushroom on top.  A decadent, rich and flavorful masterpiece that combines perfect cooking techniques with culinary innovation.

Le Bœuf en plat de côte effiloché, salade de haricots verts relevée à l’échalote et chips d’ail- shredded beef short rib with french green bean salad with shallots, garlic chips and arugula.  A wonderful combination of textures between the crispy garlic chips, firm haricot verts, tender beef and fresh greens.  A surprisingly light dish that was a delight to eat.

L’Os a Moelle relevé d’une pointe de moutarde à notre façon- a grilled slice of toasted rustic bread, generously slathered with beef bone marrow mixed with Orléans mustard ‘our way’, perfectly balanced on a beef bone pedestal and garnished with parsley, arugula and baby beet greens. The marrow was perfectly rich and plenteous, with the slight peppery contrast of the greens and the fleur de sel seasoning taming the fattiness just enough so it wasn’t too heavy.  This dish, my favorite of the evening, was so mindblowingly delicious that we ordered another.

Le Cochon de Lait en côtelletes à la marjolaine, jeunes oignons au jus- Suckling pork cutlets with marjoram and young onion jus.  The small pieces of pork cutlet were perfectly tender and juicy, and the marjoram added a deep earthy aroma.  The dish came with Robuchon’s signature potato purée, extremely rich in butter and milk, and so creamy and smooth that it melts immediately on your tongue.

Les spaghettis à notre façon- spaghetti ‘our way’, with a simple tomato, basil and olive sauce.  Although this dish was good by any other standards, it was the least memorable plate of the evening.  I was hoping for something extraordinary, given the big name behind this establishment, but I was immediately unimpressed and bored after the first bite.  This is around the time that I ordered more bone marrow.


Les Langoustines en papillotes croustillantes au basilic- crispy langoustine fritters with basil pesto.  Deep fried to a perfect light and crispy crunch, these moist and delicate langoustines balanced out our meat-dominant menu.

L’agneau de lait en côtelettes à la fleur de thym- milk-fed spring lamb cutlets with fresh thyme, again with Robuchon’s signature potatoes.  These young lamb cutlets were surprisingly delicate and light, unlike the more familiar gamey and mature version.

Le foie de veau aux rouelles d’oignon croustillantes et son jus acidulé- veal liver with deep fried crispy onion rings in a tart jus.   This was my second favorite dish of the evening, especially since I am a big lover of organ meats.  Juicy, tender and intensely flavorful, the foie’s innate robustness was balanced out with the acidity of the vinegar jus and crispy sweet onions.  This dish paired beautifully with our bottle of 2003 Savigny-les-Beaune Les Marconnets that the sommelier carefully chose for us.


Le Bœuf la noix d’entrecôte à la plancha et ses pommes de terres grenailles confites- grilled beef ribeye with baby potatoes.  This was one of the most tender and sensational cuts of steak I have ever had, overflowing with succulent meat juices and exquisite fatty flavor.  It was grilled a la plancha to a perfect medium rare, most fitting to show off the incredibly high quality of the meat.


Although we were quite full from our delicious feast, we could not resist ordering a full dessert  spread.  We were on a roll, the night was still young, and good Lord we were at Robuchon in Paris!

Le Chocolat Tendance, créme onctueuse au chocolat Araguani, sorbet cacao au biscuit Oréo- creamy Araguani chocolate cream, bitter chocolate sorbet with Oreo cookie crumbs.  A beautifully decorated piece of art very fitting with the general theme and decor of the modern restaurant, with rich chocolate sweetness.


Le Pamplemousse glacé et confit en gelée rose, chantilly légère au litchi- grapefruit confit with rose gelée and light lychee cream.  A delightfully refreshing cold dessert with subtle tart sweetness and a spring floral aroma.


La Chartreuse en soufflé chaud avec une crème glacée à la pistache- warm chartreuse yellow soufflé with pistachio ice cream.  A wonderful interplay of cold ice cream slowly melting like lava and soaking its nutty flavors into the depths of soft warm soufflé heaven.

La fraise gariguette et son sorbet citron-basilic, meringues crispy- glazed Gariguette strawberries with yuzu basil sorbet.  A mix of tart and sweet, light and rich, this was a delightful way to end the extraordinary meal.

IMG_5357I entered the doors of L’Atelier with high expectations, and I left with a big smile and a full belly.    From the impeccable service to the seductive decor, the succulent cuts of tender meats to the delightful desserts, it was a perfect Parisian dream come true.

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Paris

5 Rue de Montalembert
75007 Paris, France
01 42 22 56 56

Random trivia:  The ostrich egg, with an average weight of 3.3 pounds, is not only the largest egg but also the largest living single cell (the yolk).

Will you marrow me?

I just realized that within the past 3 weeks I had the pleasure of indulging in veal, beef and lamb bone marrow.  What a treat and how lucky am I?!  It’s truly one of my favorite things to nibble on with a nice glass of wine.

It started off 3 weeks ago when I was invited to my friend’s house to have some home cooked braised lamb shanks. Of course I wouldn’t turn down such an offer, so I went over with a bottle of Paso Robles Syrah simply excited for a lamb shank.  Well, holy cow!  Oops, I meant, holy lamb!  Kyle, you sure know how to please a woman (in this case, 3 women at once.  What a stud!)

Master chef Kyle in the kitchen

Master chef Kyle in the kitchen

These red wine braised lamb shanks were so tender, the meat fell right off the bones.  He accompanied them with garlic and rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes, oven roasted garlic bulbs, cipollini onions with a balsamic reduction glaze, sauteed greens, and a tangy parsley gremolata.

Braised lamb shank in the Le Creuset

Braised lamb shank in the Le Creuset

Delicious meal

Delicious meal

After I cleaned my plate and stripped the lamb shank down to the bare bone, Kyle sensed my next move and provided me with long thin crab picks.  Since lamb shank bones are very thin and long, this apparatus was perfect for scooping out all of the bone marrow.  I spread a clove of tender roasted garlic onto a toasted baguette, and placed the lamb bone marrow on top.  Voila, I was in heaven.  Lamb marrow is dark, with a dense and rich flavor.  It was also nicely flavored with the red wine braise and made for a wonderful treat.

Bone marrow and roasted garlic bruschetta

Bone marrow and roasted garlic bruschetta

A week and a half later I was in Cambria doing the same thing with a large piece of veal osso bucco.  This was at a restaurant called Madeline’s, which is a small and quaint restaurant inside of the Cambria Wine Shop.  Veal shank is obviously larger, so the dish came with a small spoon ready to scoop out the marrow.

Veal osso bucco

Veal osso bucco

I had my veal with another glass of local Paso Robles syrah.  What a coincidence…

And of course we savored the rich veal bone marrow on a piece of toast.

Veal marrow on toast

Veal marrow on toast

Sometimes bone marrow can have a bland taste if at all, so it’s best enjoyed from stews such as osso bucco because of the added flavors.  I remember making a lot of scraping noises at the table that night, making sure that I got every little last bit of marrow out with my small spoon.  Gosh, I can be an embarrassing date.

And finally, the king of all bone marrows, the beef marrow.  I went to Father’s Office in Culver City with some great friends a few days ago.

Father's Office

Father's Office

The night started off  with orders of pommes frites and beet salad, both absolutely delicious.  The red beets here were so sweet and juicy. After 2 wonderful bottles of Spanish red wines (I really liked the 2001 Ribera del Duero Fuentespina) and midway into a carafe, I started craving….marrow.  I could feel it in my….bones.

Beef bone marrow

Beef bone marrow

Oh gosh…this was really good.  This was simple straight forward beef bone marrow, roasted to perfection in the nude, so it looked gelatinous, bouncy and barely opaque.  The baguette was toasted just right, the marrow was rich and fatty but not too heavy, and the parsley and caper topping added that perfect amount of freshness, bitterness, acidity, and saltiness to complement it all.  I thought my friends would go ga-ga over this dish, but they weren’t as excited as I was.  Which worked to my advantage, because I got to eat most of it.

Another great place to have roasted beef marrow is Mozza.  They do it well too.

I love the fact that such a simple yet mind blowingly rich and delicious snack can be made from animals parts that would normally be thrown away.  Same goes for other organ meats.  They are so nutritious (okay, fatty too) and rich in flavor.  Most humans are only interested in the lean muscle meats, but the organs and innards are where the money’s at.  All other animals seem to know that.  When lions and tigers eat their prey, they primarily eat the innards, and don’t waste their time picking at the lean cuts.  I think I know what I was in a previous life…

http://www.fathersoffice.com/

http://www.mozza-la.com/

Random trivia:  Did you know that in 1983 the world’s first animal bone marrow transplant was done on Miki, a lilac-point Siamese cat, to correct a rare genetic disease called Mucopolysaccharidosis VI?