Location: 2121 E 7th Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90021. (213) 514-5724
Date: September 17, 2015
Cuisine: New Italian American
Rating: Super tasty, super hip, and a good bit of attitude
Bestia has been on my “to eat at” list since it opened. Opinions generally include the sentiment that the food is great. Some adore it. Some think the place has too much attitude and is too hard to get into. I wanted to see for myself.
It’s located in the Arts District, near Factory Kitchen. Funny to see much energy in an area of town that was nigh on terrifying 10 years ago. But urban renewal is a good thing.
The interior is typical in recent years, brick factory building, I-beams, hard tables.
Open kitchen too.
We sat outside on the porch. It was a lovely evening and this was great because it was a perfect temperature and not nearly as loud as inside.
The menu, with our marked up orders.
We ordered so much that we swore a pact to reaffirm our commitment to hedonism.
2013 Alberto Nanclares Albariño Soverribas. 93 points. Medium gold colour. Mature nose with medium intensity aromas of quince, ripe peaches, very ripe yellow apples, savoury yeast, lemon peel and hints of neutral white flowers.
A very nice Albarino we ordered off the list. A very nice food white. I have some issues with the wine service, but more on that at the bottom.
Smoked Whitefish Crostino. Dill, potatoes, scallions, fresno chillies, celery leaf. An early start on Yom Kippur break fast! Very nice.
Veal Tartare Crostino. shallots, parsley, lemon, tonnato sauce. This was even better, super meaty, totally delicious. The grilled bread was amazing.
Pan-Fried Ciccioli. pickled fenne, candied kumquats, crème fraîche, pea tendrils. Our first server, who was awesome, recommended this. Wow! Like a pulled pork confit crab cake (no crab). Oodles of fatty goodness. In case that wasn’t obvious, the brown stuff is a “cake” made of heavy rich pork meat cooked in some kind of fat and then pan fried.
From my cellar: 1998 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo. 93 points. Initially quite tight with reductive nose, some tar and rose petal. Middle weight palate, that at first seemed to lack a bit in fruit, but then flowered brilliantly. Nice perfume of dark fruits, some tar, rose petals. Good structure. Drinking well now with very nice balance. Not overly tannic. Aldo was a genius.
Salumi. chef’s selection of house-cured meats, mostarda, grilled bread. All sorts of pig. All amazing. Left to right: prosciutto crudo, salami, lardo & fig jam, prosciutto, some kind of head meat. The far right was my least favorite. The pinker prosciutto was amazing, and the smoked lard toast was out of this world!
Burrata pizza. san marzano tomatoes, castelvetrano olives, oregano, fermented chilies. A wonderful pizza in the current style. I normally like some meat on my pizza, and not olives, but this was bright, acidic, and delicious. Another recommend from the excellent server.
Mussels and Clams. housemade spicy ‘nduja sausage, fennel seed, preserved orange, grilled bread. A 10. The sauce had all that salty, sausage, spice, tomato acidity awesomeness. We kept a bunch of grilled bread to dip in it.
Quadretti alla Carota. mushroom ragu, summer squash, squash blossoms, carrot puree, carrot tops. My least favorite pasta, but still nice, and quite rich for a non meat pasta.
From my cellar (picked by Seb): 2006 Fattoria Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino. AG/Parker 97. The 2006 Brunello di Montalcino is an explosive, structured wine bursting with dark fruit. It is one of the most inward, brooding wines of the vintage. Black cherries, menthol, spices and new leather are some of the nuances that flow as this expansive Brunello literally covers every inch of the palate. This is a totally mesmerizing, sublime wine of the highest level.
agavin: A great wine, although it took a few minutes to get going (no surprise).
Roasted Marrow Bone. spinach gnocchetti, crispy breadcrumbs, aged balsamic.
I didn’t even realize this was sort of a pasta, but you dump the bone marrow on the gnocchetti and stir up. Nice, rich, mild.
Cavatelli alla Norcina. ricotta dumplings, housemade pork sausage, black truffles, grana padano. This was one of my favorite pastas during my recent month in Italy. This rendition had the right ingredients, and was very good, but it wasn’t as rich as a really good one in Umbria and was lacking the creamy cheesy strong truffle intensity. Instead it came off a bit more buttery, less cheese. Also in Umbria they pile on the truffles.
Spaghetti Rustichella. lobster, sea urchin, garlic, calabrian chilies, squid ink bottarga, breadcrumbs. But this was to die for. Almost a rich uni Gauzetto sauce. Just awesome umami brine yum. Perfectly al dente too.
From my cellar: 2007 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Secco Pagliaro. 94 points. A rich, sumptuous wine that totally covers the palate with dense, dark fruit. The Pagliaro is impressive in the way it achieves superb density while retaining the elements of delicate, nuanced subtlety that inform Bea’s finest wines. This is a fabulous effort from Bea. 46 days on the skins, followed by a year in stainless steel and two years in cask.
I actually brought this because they had pasta norcina on the menu!
Pici al Sugo di Agnello. lamb ragu, saffron, capra sarda, fig leaf, breadcrumbs. Another stunner. So rich, meaty, lamby. Really fabulous stuff. Great thick al dente bite to the pici too. One of my favorite pasta shapes.
Grilled Pork Tomahawk Chop. served family style. $80 for 37 ounces of meat, but we had to get it. Perfectly cooked. Fatty, but not obviously so. Rich. Delicious. Just a wonderful slab of meat. Not as strongly flavored as the similar Chi Spacca version, but great too.
Grilled long beans. Came with the pork.
The wine lineup, all awesome.
Maple Ricotta Fritters. maple butter ganache, sour cream and huckleberry jam ice cream. Some awesome fried goodness, totally notched up by the ganache and ice cream.
Valrhona Fair Trade Bittersweet Chocolate Budino Tart. salted caramel, cacao crust, olive oil, sea salt. Wow this was great. Soft rich chocolate boosted by the salt and olive oil. A bit like some of Jose Andre’s olive oil chocolate desserts.
Butterscotch Coconut Tart. fresh coconut sorbetto. Not bad, but I was dissapointed as I expected something more “coconut creme.”
Overall, an awesome night. But I’ll break it down.
Ambiance: Exactly what you’d expect from a super trendy DTLA spot in 2015. It’s all there, the rough surfaces, open kitchen, naked wood tables, paper menus, loudness, etc. I suspect if we were inside I would have found it too loud.
Food: Great food. Really quite excellent. Not mind blowing or totally innovative, but a sort of 2014-5 blend of “faux rustic” Italian with gastro pub and other current LA/NY sensibilities. The flavors have been brightened and punched up. There is more of a “grill” thing going on. It isn’t very authentically Italian, but takes itself in a different direction.
Service: General wait service was very good, although not formal. Oddly we had two waiters. Our first one was awesome and not only recommended some good changes but coursed it out really nicely. After ordering he was mysteriously replaced by another guy who was totally fine, but didn’t stand out as much.
Attitude: There is a bit of attitude. It’s hard to make a reservation and hard to move. They didn’t want to seat us partially even though the place was half empty still. The whole wine policy shows attitude. But overall it didn’t bother me too much and they did lean toward customer service.
Wine Service & List: Here were the biggest problems, although admittedly I come at it with a particular viewpoint. Let’s start with pure service. They decanted, if unconventionally into magnum bottles. Stems were mediocre, just regular small crystal tasting stems. They didn’t appear to have good ones, but they gave us 3 each of the little ones without complaint. They didn’t really pour for us, but I don’t like that anyway when we have a small group. Now onto the list. Not a big fan. It’s very small, hard to read, and has extremely few wines for a very good restaurant. The wines it does have re mixed. Far, far too many new world wines. They don’t belong here. Way too few Italians. I couldn’t even find an Italian white at a price I was willing to pay and there were only 5 total. We ended up with the Spanish Albarino (which was very good), but there is no reason for that given the outrageous number of inexpensive but nice Italian whites. Prices were about 3X retail which is a little higher than I’d like (2X would be nice) but not outrageous. There were very few “very good” wines. Most of the bigger reds were way too young. I know new restaurants don’t want to invest in a big inventory, but these are all part of the reason I almost never buy off wine lists. If you are a serious wine guy, and you know prices you just can’t bring yourself to do it.
Corkage: From up on my soapbox, this is a sore spot. All my wine friends talk about how Bestia isn’t really wine guy friendly. It’s sort of middle road. I had to call for the policy and it was first two bottles at $30 and after that $50. While relieved there was no limit (don’t get me started on limits, those are asinine), the hike to $50 is annoying. Really. Particularly given that I opened and poured the bottles myself. I realize they need to make money on the wine, but $30 seems a reasonable max. This isn’t Providence/Melisse type wine service. There also seemed to be an undocumented “can’t bring a wine on the list” rule. Given the list changes everyday and isn’t online, this seems unreasonable. But that being said, the Somm told us he doesn’t enforce it. So why have it? Also to their credit, Bestia made an accommodation for us. There was a little eye rolling with it, and some general somm-attitude, but their actions and words (if not tone) indicated they put customer service first. And after all, tone is just tone so I found this amusing. In the end, they did right by us. But still, one doesn’t get the feeling that Bestia would be a great place to host a Foodie Club type event. At those we have too many bottles to handle more than maybe $10-15 of corkage. Maybe they’d cut a deal, but I think they think they’re too popular to need to. A shame, because the food is amazing and it’d be a fun place to do that sort of thing.
For more LA dining reviews click here.