Restaurant: Upstairs 2
Location: 2311 Cotner Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90064 Tel. 310-231-0316
Date: October 10, 2010 & April 15, 2011
Cuisine: Modern Tapas
Rating: Bright flavors and a lot of options.
Upstairs 2 is located just above the Wine House on Cotner. This is one of the two great wine stores on this road, the other being Twenty Twenty Wine Merchants which is even more erudite (and closer allied to my taste in wine). Upstairs offers not only a big wine list and extensive by-the-glass offers (in multiple sizes) but a rich and varied menu of modern American tapas. As you know, I love tapas style dining because of the ability to try more than 2-3 flavors and the much more flexible composition of dinner menus.
This review is a composite of two different dinners. I show both a small set menu and a variety of “regular” tapas off the menu.
The bread and olive oil.
Tonight there’s a little tasting menu with wine pairings. It appealed to me so I gave it a try.
This riesling was to my taste.
The cold cucumber soup, creme fraiche, and dill, not as much. I was hoping for something a little closer to middle eastern yogurt salad. This was very cucumber and dill. I enjoy those flavors but the thin texture of the soup (almost watery: the texture not the flavor) put me off somehow.
I funky powerful white.
“Half lobster tail, spinach polenta, black truffle butter.” This was the best dish of the three. The green stuff was rich and creamy and went very nicely with the firm lobster meat.
A pleasant barolo.
The osso bucco itself was tasty. The meat was firmer than a traditional osso bucco, and tasted almost like lamb. The succotash was okay.
I should have ordered ala carte. The dishes were okay, but I could have done better picking myself.
And so, here is a collection of modern tapas designed to be shared by the whole table.
“Blood Orange Caesar Salad, Pumpernickel Croutons, Shaved Parmesan.” Very close to a traditional caesar, just with a little extra sweetness thrown in.
“Grilled Mahi Mahi, Crispy Corn Pancake, Black Bean Hummus, Avocado Mousse.” Sort of a modern fish taco!
“Medjool dates wrapped in serrano ham, stuffed with asiago cheese.” These are always yum central. The sweetness of the dates, the savory of the cheese, and the salty bite of the ham blend wonderfully.
“Lobster BLT on brioche, bacon, frisse, roma tomato, housemade mayo.” Another winner. I didn’t even mind the tomatoes here.
“Tandoori chicken salad, artisan greens, grape tomatos, raita, meyer lemon dressing.” This was great too. Somehow tandoori chicken does okay on salad.
“Crispened eggplant, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, marscapone cheese, chunky tomato and basil.” Mini pizza-like in flavor.
“Mixed heirloom tomatos, rainbow microgreens, citrus vinaigrette.”
“Lamb sausage flatbread, Moroccan red sauce, asiago cheese.” Not so mini pizza!
“Grilled Local Sea Bass, Purple Potato Ravioli, Ginger Beur Blanc, Black Sea Salt.”
“King crab ravioli, veronique sauce.” I love these butter sauces on delicate pastas.
“Grilled bison hanger steak, yukon smashed potatoes, red wine sauce.”
“Slow Roasted Kurobuta Pork, Sticky Rice, Oregano and Citrus.” This was really tasty, with a sweet asian pork thing going on.
“Moroccan Roast Chicken, Plums, Olives, Capers, Couscous.” Lots of flavor here as well.
“lamb meatballs, ouzo and mint.”
“Pappardelle Pasta, Veal ragu, Fresh Basil, Asiago Cheese.”
“Valrhona Chocolate Chip Gelato.”
“Sticky Toffee Pudding, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.” This was good, not amazing, but good, particularly with the ice cream. I wanted even MORE toffee flavor, but I’m an extremist.
Overall Upstairs 2 is a good place, particularly in that it offers a lot of variety and really strong flavors. It’s particularly good with a part of 4 or 6 and people willing to just order up a storm and share it around. The good, extensive, and flexible wine options are great too. Also if you buy a wine downstairs, there’s no corkage.