Location: 11359 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025. 310.477.7886
Date: September 12, 2012
Rating: Modern Italian to die for
After my stellar birthday meal at Il Grano, and with the closing of Drago, Il Grano has become one of my favorite westside Italians. Every Wednesday through the summer and early fall the restaurant has “tomato night,” where a crazy bounty of the fruits are used in every conceivable dish.
Chef/owner Sal Marino has some kind of mega tomato garden in his backyard where he grows approximately a 100 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in staggered progression (some have slightly different seasons). Here you can see just a few of them. I’m not even a tomato fan but I have to say they look gorgeous!
This spectacular Barbaresco comes from my cellar. Parker gives it 93, “The classic 1997 Barbaresco Santo Stefano is evolved and flamboyant. A medium ruby/garnet color with an amber edge is followed by a sweet perfume of black cherries, tobacco, leather, spice box, licorice, and tar. Full-bodied, with a creamy texture, superb concentration, and an exquisite finish.”
Fresh bread and olive oil. The pottery is evidently by the chef from Mori sushi!
This green one is “Green Zebra.”
Seared sushi grade Saba (Japanese Mackerel) with a green tomato slurry and roasted micro tomatoes. The fish was spectacular, with no fishy notes at all, and paired really nicely with the acidic slurry.
“Faux tomato.” While this is actually made from a number of tomato parts, it’s not a “real” tomato, but a construct with an artificial skin and a tomato mouse inside. Interestingly, I had a very similar dish at Calima in Spain. That one used an avocado “soup” and shrimp, but was otherwise nearly identical. It was good either way!
This is a tomato sorbet made in the same manner as The Bazaar’s liquid nitrogen signature drinks.
While similar in format, Tomato Night shows a different palette for Il Grano. Everything was executed in spectacular fashion. Sure, I’m not a total raw tomato lover, so perhaps I prefer a more “normal” meal, but these were some of the best tomatoes I’ve ever had. Two of the people at the table were tomato fiends and were in heaven. And I love when a restaurant can keep mixing it up. If you like higher end Italian cooking (and who doesn’t?) you should absolutely rush over here. Make sure you get a tasting menu. I don’t think appetizer and entree selected off the regular menu would do the place the justice it deserves. I’m sure the dishes would be great, but this cuisine is about more than just two notes.