Crudo Nights at il Grano

Sal was in Italy, not at the restaurant.  We eventually figured this out, and that was most likely why they had trouble handling just 5 tables.  And their concierge quit.  And our waiter had just started there.  He did fine, but clearly the kitchen was experiencing serious chaos. 

But the food? Really good.  But dinner took 3 hours.  It was 10-15 minutes between courses, with no apology.  We have had tasting menus there before; this was atypical.  So we are cutting them a break, but warning everyone that their dinner will seem even more authentically European than usual because of the lengthly evening. 

The Crudo menu contained about 11 different crudo items, 7 salads, and a few cheese/dessert options.  They are very flexible in how you can enjoy them. Each item has an a la carte price, or do do the tasting you build your own menu.  5, 8, or 12 courses for $49, $75, or $125 per person.  You can split or double order or structure it any way you like.   Much of the fish came from the Tskiji market in Tokyo.

They have a great wine list, but no sommelier at the moment.  The people at the restaurant had very little wine knowledge so were unable to offer insight, but no matter, I found a great ’93 1’er Cru Burgundy at a great price that paired beautifully with everything.

We had one or more of the following, ultimately 8 courses each:

Wild Maine Blue Fin Tuna Toro Tartar, Pine Nuts, Arugula:
This was presented as a small patty on chopped fennel. It was accentuated by slivers of carrot and a bit of lime zest.  The pine nuts were a great enhancement to the toro-it worked.

Hokkaido Scallop Crudo, Bottarga, Chives: 
One of our favorite courses.  The saltiness of the thinly sliced bottarga was a great foil to the naturally sweet coarsely chopped scallop

Caprese di Mare – Wild Japanese Snapper, Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, Basil:  This was a good dish, not remarkable.  Spanish Mackerel (Aji) would have a better choice, as the snapper was too mild for the bold flavors.

J Bass Branzino Tartar, Caper, & Olive Taggiasche: Mixed Reviews.  Husband really liked this dish, I thought the capers way overpowered it. 

Gamberone – Live Santa Barbara Prawn & Black Truffle Tartar:  The prawns were of the highest quality and freshly killed.  The tail was served chopped with a generous but very mild flavored portion of sliced black summer truffles.  The rather large head came out as a “garnish.” The kitchen did not take us very seriously when we requested that the head be deep fried like at the sushi bars.  Something about this is “ITALIAN sashimi not Japanese…”  I hope we did not offend them.

Ricciola Tonnato – Amberjack, Italian tuna, caper, lemon sauce: Very traditional preparation, the tuna sauce reminiscent of the flavors of tuna casserole. 

Sardine, Mint, English Pea, Grain Mustard Puree:
This was the most unique item on the menu. Highly inventive combination of flavors, really striking.

SkipJack Carpaccio, Pink Peppercorn Dressing, Cantaloupe-Arugula Salad:  The quality of the fish in this dish was the only one that disappointed.  It was not quite fresh enough.  The melon salad did pair well. 

Veal Tenderloin Tartar, Summer Black Truffle, Baby Spinach:  Disappointing, as I was expecting to adore this dish.  It was too coarsely chopped and inconsistently seasoned.  Kind of flat, actually.  I get the truffles are certainly not peaking at the moment, but they just shouldn’t have bothered with them they had no taste. Truffle oil would have been a better choice

Wild Arugula, English Pea, Artichole Heart, Jamon Iberico Salad: 
Even though we were there for fish, this was actually our second favorite dish of the night.  The Artichoke hearts were probably the best we ever had.  Lightly sauteed and buttery in texture, they had phenomenal mild flavor.  The Jamon Iberico was of course wonderful.

All in all, we would like to try it again.  But next time we are going to make sure Sal is there. 

Il Grano Restaurant
11359 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 477-7886

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