Restaurant: Il Grano [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
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!
First course is a pretty straight up Neapolitan pizza with arugala and… you guessed it… fresh tomatoes.
Then two sorts of gazpacho made from single varieties of tomatoes. Here is the garnish, which includes that dark stuff made from olives.
This green one is “Green Zebra.”
Since the GZ is an extra tart tomato, this made for a great gazpacho with a bracing vinegar flavor.
This variant was made from a red heirloom instead, I can’t remember which one.
A “carpaccio” of heirloom tomato, raw red snapper, and burrata. Il Grano uses only sushi grade fish!
Fresh wild blue fin tuna tartar (not yet fully extinct) with arugala and those lovely yellow and red puppies.
A tomato, arugala, burrata salad. As you can see, tomato haters should stay away from Wednesday.
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!
A cheese manicotti (homemade) with a very Neapolitan fresh tomato sauce. Yum!
Spaghetti vongle. The classic Neapolitan and clams. Not so much tomato but this was amazing with a nice heft to the pasta and a satisfying clamminess.
Fresh Carolina grouper, simply cooked (salt and pepper) with tomatoes. This fish was melt in your mouth.
Fried zucchini blossom with what has to be one of the best tomato purees I’ve ever had.
A bit of filet minion with the same sauce and some rappini. The dark stuff on top are sun dried and perhaps smoked tomatoes that had an almost ham like quality to them.
Sal’s maniac grin and he literally whips it up.
This is a tomato sorbet made in the same manner as The Bazaar’s liquid nitrogen signature drinks.
And the result, topped with ground olives. Not your usual dessert and halfway between sweet and savory. The texture was that ultra-smooth one that comes from liquid nitrogen freezing.
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.
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Or experience my gluttonous month-long journey through Northern Italy.sharethis_button(); ?>