There are many March babies and I’m one of them. Normally I look forward to my birthday, but I was dreading this year’s. I’ve been dreading it because it’s a big birthday. It’s the entering of a new decade in my life. To help ease the pain, I planned a lot of eating adventures so I had something to look forward to. One of these eating adventures was to try out the full tasting menu at Providence LA.
Providence LA is one of four restaurants in Los Angeles to have been awarded 2 Michelin stars in 2009. The fiance and I previously dined at Providence last year during their anniversary special when they temporarily reduced their 5 course tasting menu to $65 per person (now currently priced at $95 per person). You can read about our previous experience here.
At the time, I already had my eye on the full course tasting menu, which is currently priced at $125 per person (though at the time I believe it was $110). I told the fiance at the time that I wanted to come back again for my next birthday. Though we had many good dining experiences since that visit, nothing could sway me away from my promise to come back for my birthday.
We started the night with some cocktails.
After we ordered, a server came by with fresh hot bread. There were three different kinds to choose from. Being the indecisive person I am, I opted for one of each.
On my last trip here, I remember that I enjoyed all the breads except for the bacon brioche roll. This time, I had quite the opposite experience. I loved the bacon brioche but wasn’t too fond of the other two. I found the seaweed bread to be too salty and the regular bread roll to be too tough and chewy.
After we placed our order, we were given a quartet of complimentary amuse bouche. We were told what each one was, but I don’t quite remember. The first one was an icy alcoholic mixture. The second was an alcoholic orb which popped once you put it in your mouth. Next was a cheese gourgere. Finally the parsley soup with a port wine finish at the bottom. This was by far my favorite bite. The parsley soup was delicious, and I was surprised at how well the port wine complemented the soup.
Our first course off of the tasting menu was the japanese kanpachi. It is mixed with crispy rice crackers and a dollop of creme fraiche. I had this dish when I dined here last year as well and loved it just as much as before. The kanpachi is very fresh and melts in your mouth. The crispy rice crackers add a nice texture and the creme fraiche adds a little tang to the dish.
Next up was a lobster served with soft scrambled eggs. The dish was served in a cute egg shell. I previously had seen a version of this dish that involved uni. Unfortunately, the tasting menu that night had the dish with lobster and not uni. The lobster was chopped into tiny pieces. I’m not sure what soft scrambled eggs are supposed to look like, but it seems the eggs here were so soft that they melted into the liquid. The dish tasted basically like lobster pieces sitting inside a lobster bisque. The presentation was nice, but the taste was just so-so for me.
The next dish was Nancy’s down sea scallop, served atop of bed of buckwheat, dashi and napa cabbage.
I loved the presentation of this dish, especially with the foam and the tiny little flower buds. One bite of the seared scallop and I was in heaven. I’m not sure how one cooks a scallop to have it bursting with so many flavors, but the preparation of the scallop at Providence is by far the best scallops I’ve ever eaten.
I was not fond of the vegetables underneath the scallop. I thought the sauce used in the vegetables did not pair well with the scallop.
Next we were served a wild striped bass with asparagus and sunchoke puree.
Not the prettiest presentation, but the fish was delicious.
Next was the King Salmon with fennel, beets, and orange. Salmon is probably one of my least favorite fish. But I really loved the preparation of salmon here. It was light, silky, and a touch of sweet.
The next dish is the veal tenderloin, which is the lone meat course on this tasting menu. I love meat, but I do not like veal. So I asked for a substitute. I got the same preparation but with a john dory fish. Again, the fish was cooked perfectly. I did find the truffle fondue a tad too salty though.
Here is fiance’s veal:
Our next course was a selection of cheeses. A server brought over a cart full of different cheeses. We could choose a couple or let the serve choose. After the server described a few, we told her which ones we were interested in trying.
I don’t remember the names of them all. My favorite was the one on the far left because it had bits of truffle inside.
I love trying out different cheeses and I was quite excited when I saw this on the menu. But I was really full by this point, so I didn’t enjoy this board of cheeses as much as I thought I would. On an emptier stomach I would have eaten every last bite. But on this night, I opted to save room for dessert.
Our final two courses were desserts. Up until this point, our meal was outstanding. We tasted so many wonderful dishes that it was hard to pick a favorite. I will say though that I think dessert is a weak spot on the tasting menu, as I was not fond of either of our desserts.
Our “pre-dessert” was a tangerine, sake, granite. It was mostly melted so it was more of a drink. The tangerines were quite bitter.
Our dessert was a banana bread pudding with barley ice cream. Because we had informed them it was my birthday, the waiter put a candle on the side. I was surprised that they didn’t do more for a birthday. Almost every place I’ve ever dined at whether cheap or expensive offers some sort of dessert. With us ordering the full tasting menu, I thought perhaps the chef would create an extra dessert.
I didn’t particularly enjoy the banana bread pudding. It tasted mainly of mushed together bananas.
Our final little complimentary bite was a trio of candies. We got a salted caramel, a chocolate marshmallow and fruit jelly.
Overall, we were pretty satisfied with the meal. $125 does seem pricey, but it is actually cheaper than some other 2 Michelin star restaurants, and we felt that most of the food was excellent. I only have a few small criticisms of our experience:
1. The length of the meal. Yelp reviews had forewarned me to prepare for a three hour meal which already made me a bit uneasy. Ours lasted even longer: a full four hours. I definitely think the time could have been reduced. We were one of the first to arrive that night and one of the last to leave.
2. The bathrooms. There is only one bathroom stall for each gender at Providence. This makes for some awkward waiting, which is made harder by the fact that the path to the bathroom is in direct line of the path of the servers.
3. The birthdays. I really was disappointed with just being provided with a candle. After such an expensive meal, I think Providence can afford to do a little more for people’s birthdays. Other nice restaurants do desserts, personalized menus, etc.
Other than that though, this was a very memorable meal. It was made even more memorable by what happened after the meal. On our drive home, the fiance took a detour to La Jolla Cove, and presented me with this:
You can read more about the ring here.