Restaurant: Officine Brera [1, 2, 3]
Location: 1331 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021. (213) 553-8006
Date: May 12, 2016
Rating: Some of the best (new?) Italian in the city!
Officine Brera is one of LA’s hottest 2016 openings and I’ve been waiting for an excuse to haul myself Downtown for months. Another modern “rustic” Italian by the team that brought us Factory Kitchen, including master chef Angelo Auriana, plus Brera brings in some new blood in the form of Mirko Paderno who rocked it at Oliverio.
The actual restaurant is behind us, but like many recent hot openings (including Factory Kitchen), Brera is located in the “Arts District”, a bombed out region of DTLA not far from skid row that is rapidly up and coming.
The area offers a mess of old brick 40s warehouses and factories which are being lovingly converted, allowing large spaces at reasonable rents (for now).
There is a nice outside patio/bar.
And inside the gigantic warehouse/factory space has been reconfigured with highly attractive duct work. Who would have thought that grungy 70 year-old factory windows could look so good?
Tonight’s menu, slightly different than last time.
Arnie brought: 2002 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. VM 98. Honey, almonds, butter, tropical fruit and brioche are some of the notes that emerge in the 2002 Dom Pérignon. Here the flavors are bold, rich and exotic, as they have always been, while the textural feel is one of pure exuberance. The 2002 remains dense, honeyed and totally voluptuous on the palate, with more than enough density to drink well for decades The style will always remain opulent to the core.
JF brought: 2011 Domaine Louis Michel Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles. VM 92+. Tangerine, cloves, mint and smoke all emerge from the 2011 Chablis Grenouilles. There is lovely depth and focus in the glass, although the Grenouilles comes across as a bit compact relative to most 2011s. This introspective Chablis isn’t ready to show all of its cards just yet. Although I expect the Grenouilles to soften a bit in bottle, the style is likely to always remain a bit on the firm side.
From my cellar: 2010 Borgo del Tiglio (Nicola Manferrari) Collio Friulano Ronco della Chiesa. VM 94. Borgo del Tiglio’s 2010 Ronco della Chiesa shows what this hillside site in Cormons can do in cooler vintages. Still bright, focused and intensely saline, the 2010 bursts from the glass with grapefruit, lime, mint and crushed rocks. The 2010 will probably be appreciated most by readers who like tense, vibrant whites. Next to some of the other vintages, the 2010 lacks a little mid-palate pliancy, but it is quite beautiful just the same. I especially like the way the 2010 opens up nicely in the glass over time.
Mesin con Salam. Selection of meats & cheeses, crostini, pear mostarda.
Culatello. traditional pianura padana inspired heritage pork, most prized salume. They aren’t kidding when they say traditional. Both Auriana and Paderno are from the Po river valley.
Fagiolini. blue lake green beans, radicchio, baby kale, toasted hazelnuts, raspadura, garda oil. Nice salad.
Polpo. grilled mediterranean octopus, water cress, frisée salad, sunchokes purèe. Good pus.
Chick pea fritters, on the house.
Battuta cruda. hand chopped beef, celery, raspadura, quail egg, black ash dressing. Beef tartar — and I love beef tartar, but some at the table found it too chewy.
JF brought: 1990 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Masseto Toscana IGT. VM 95. The 1990 Masseto comes across as quite ripe and almost exotic, very much in the style of the year. This is a decidedly opulent, full-bodied vintage. Tar, smoke and licorice wrap around the huge finish. My preference was for the 1988 in this first flight, but to tell the truth all of three last wines were spectacular.
agavin: we all loved this wine. Maybe WOTN, although there were a lot of great wines.
From my cellar: 2006 Fattoria Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino. VM 95. Medium red. A real essence of sangiovese on the nose: sour cherry, flowers, marzipan and a whiff of orange peel. Wonderfully lush and seamless, with an almost liqueur-like sweetness that does not go roasted. This medium-to-full wine boasts a velvety texture today but really needs time in bottle to show off its inherent complexity. Finishes with a broad dusting of tannins. This powerful, classy Brunello stayed fresh for 48 hours in the recorked bottle.
Yarom brought: 1970 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Ygay Reserva. agavin 93. Really lush and fully of life. Great bottle and about as good as one can imagine from this good but “structured” year.
Nastrini del miracolo. ancient grain house made pasta, butcher’s table meat-ragù, italian parsley. The Fettucine Bolognese you wish your grandmother made! Really a very nice ragu.
Cannelloni. braised beef stuffed oven baked fresh pasta, foie grass, melted cheese béchamel. Now these were awesomely rich and delicious.
Pisaei e faso. House made bread dumplings, borlotti beans, cured pork, reggiano stravecchio. Pork and beans! A table favorite.
Gnocchi. handmade potato gnocchi, castelmagno cheese fonduta, truffle, chives. Simple but amazing. Light fluffy pillows and very cheesy (as it should be). They added the truffle since my last visit. Took it up another notch. Perfect texture too.
Foiade bergamasche. Hand-cut chestnut pasta, braised oxtail ragu, pioppini mushrooms, lodigrana. A solid traditional rustic pasta. Not as sexy as some of the others, but good still.
Arnie brought: 1999 Reininger Cima. 93 points. Super nice and even “somewhat old world” super Tuscan blend. Full of fruit and complexity but not overly hot at all.
Larry brought: 2005 Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana IGT. VM 92. The 2005 Redigaffi (Merlot) is the most finessed, elegant Redigaffi I can recall. This is a Redigaffi that emphasizes clarity and precision over sheer power. Suggestions of new leather, spices, plums, currants, minerals, blueberry jam and toasted oak emerge from this medium-bodied effort. Although the 2005 might not have the structure of previous vintages, the tannins are beautifully balanced and the wine offers terrific overall harmony.
agavin: a monster, but really delicious.
Bassa padana. Arborio rice, luganega rope sausage, cotechino, grana padano. Another good risotto, although a few thought it could be creamier.
Milanese. vialone nano rice, saffron, bone marrow, lodigrana. A version of the classic Milanese risotto but with bone marrow, including that big chunk pulled out. Awesome!
Pesce. Vialone nano veronese igp rice, pan roasted langoustines, smoked eel, black mussels, clams. Flavored with clam juice this smelled pretty intense (aka fishy). A few were put off by that, but I thought it tasted amazing with a strong briny flavor.
Chevy brought: 2001 Pride Mountain Vineyards Reserve Claret. VM 94. Deep ruby-red. Knockout nose combines roasted black raspberry, cassis, espresso and bitter chocolate. Sweet, fat and deep, with extravagantly rich, seamless flavors of dark berries and chocolate. Not as sweet as the Mountaintop merlot but even larger-scaled. The finish shows more obvious cabernet tannins and considerable sweet oak, but has more than enough powerful, palate-staining fruit. As a potential purchase, this is a no-brainer for collectors who can find and afford it.
agavin: also a great wine. Enough age to have mellowed it out and make it work with food.
Quaglia. Grilled semi-boneless california quail, lardo, yellow corn polenta, sage, natural jus. Some really nice juicy quail. Not dry at all with that lardo!
Special house roasted potatoes. Cooked in duck fat!
Gianduiotta. milk chocolate hazelnut, sbrisolona crumble, caramelized brulee.
Castagnole. freshly fried doughnuts, anise sugar, salty bourbon caramel sauce.
Torrone. honey & nut nougatine semifreddo, warmed fudge sauce, amarena cherries.
Overall another amazing evening.
Food. The food at Officine is very good. It’s very Italian, with a fairly non Italian “vibe” to the place and a more modern share plates style. But the pastas and risotto are as good as any you will find in LA with a real hearty flavor forward style. The appetizers and the mains are more of a mixed bag, varying between awesome and just fine. The cured meats are great, but the mains lean a little too heavily on steak for my taste (we didn’t order any tonight). They feel less Italian as the only straight steak I usually see in Italy is the bistecca (massive rare tuscan cut).
Service. Service was great and we were treated like family. Wine service in particular is a real standout.
Atmosphere. I loved the big factory look. It was a little loud, but not as bad as some (Bestia!). We had 7 people and a fabulous round table in the back where it wasn’t quite as deafening.
Wines. We didn’t have a bad wine tonight. All super on point and really delicious and great with the food.
Group thoughts. The above opinions are mine. Tonight was a fairly contentious night. Everyone loved the wines, service, and atmosphere. But about half of us (including me) really like the food and a couple of other guys consider it “meh”, and although they loved certain dishes, felt that others fell flat. The gnocchi, quail, and beans were particular favorites. Whatever one’s tastes, it is definitely true that Brera is a very contemporary LA Italian in that it fuses dish types from contemporary type places in Italy with the small plate format and sort of “right now” LA tastes. It does not draw as obviously from the heritage of “classic” Italian American restaurants.
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