Restaurant: Il Grano [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
Location: 11359 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025. 310.477.7886
Date: June 19, 2012
Rating: Modern Italian to die for
After my stellar birthday meal at Il Grano, I just had to go back — 8 days later as it turned out. This recent find has been around awhile and chef/owner Sal Marino and Chef de Cuisine Water el Nagar churn out absolutely first rate modern Italian cuisine. On this particular occasion I just dropped in and they whipped up this 8-10 course tasting menu on the fly. Service was impeccable again as well.
This spectacular Barbaresco comes from my cellar. Parker gives it 91, but it was way better than that. “The 1996 Barbaresco exhibits a dense ruby color as well as a forward nose of cherry liqueur, earth, truffle, mineral, and spicy scents. Rich, full-bodied, and seductive, with its moderate tannin largely concealed by the wine’s wealth of fruit and extract, this gorgeously pure offering gets my nod as the finest Barbaresco produced by Gaja since 1990. Anticipated maturity: 2002-2016.”
“Il Benvenuto. tomato gazpacho and copper river salmon tartar, cucumber caviar.” The amuse. Both were spectacular, showcasing the tomato and the salmon in equal ways.
Various crudo. Left to right: “Wild big eye tuna, Hokkaido scallop, Wild Japanese snapper, Wild Japanese baby yellowtail, and Hokkaido scallop ligament.” Unfortunately, tonight’s photos are a little out of focus because I accidentally locked my camera onto a focus point in the corner and didn’t notice — too much Barbaresco I guess.
The tuna, scallop, and snapper. Sal does a wonderful job with these sashimi like crudos. They have just hints of Italianate flavor to mix them up and the fish is absolutely first rate. You just have to check out my Sushi Index to see I know what I’m talking about too.
The yellowtail and scallop ligament. The ligament (that orange stuff in the right hand corner) was surprisingly tasty.
“Insalata di porcini. Seared porcini, arugala salad, shaved porcini, Sal’s 1st of season sun gold heirloom tomatoes.” A lovely little salad.
“Carpaccio di filetto al fegato grasso d’oca. Foie stuffed prime filet carpaccio, Murrary Farms summer berries, micro greens.” This was a very interesting blend of flavors. A lot going on here: The meat, the berries, the richness of the foie.
“Calamaro Ripieno. Seafood squid ink risotto sutffed wild Japanese calamaro, black foam, orange oil.” I’m a big fan of squid ink and this had that characteristic briny quality.
“Cannellone al branzino. branzino stuffed cannellone, lobster sauce, Santa Barbara prawn, lobster roe.” Sort of an Italian take on the classic Lyonnese Cannelle. Really good though, and totally made by the prawn sauce which is that kind of bisque-like shell fish reduction I love.
“The 2003 Riesling Auslese Wehlener Sonnenuhr displays hints of minerals lurking below its wafts of sulfur. A seamless, creamy-textured wine, it is easygoing, plump, and exhibits flavors reminiscent of poached pears, cotton candy, and sweet minerals. Drink it between 2010 and 2020.” This was a really interesting medium mature Riesling that tasted of hot asphalt.
“Bigoli aai riccio di mare. Squid ink pasta, Santa Barbara channel sea urchin sauce.” Wow! One of the best pastas I’ve had in a while. The uni (sea urchin) literarily melted like butter.
“Agnello. Colorado lamb chop, baby purple artichokes, sunchoke puree, lamb reduction.” Some darn fine lamb. Just a great piece of meat with a nice savory reduction sauce.
This is a white passito DOGC from Emilia-Romagna (near Parma, Modena, etc.). A very nice sticky with notes of honey, apricots, and flowers.
“Panna cotta alle cilege: Cherry pannacotta, cherry crumble, cherry spherification.” Wow. This wasn’t a super showy dessert in the usual sense, but instead a really nice showcase of the in season cherry. Really delightful.
I was doubly blown away by Il Grano. Not only did they nail it the first time I went, but they knocked it out of the park on the second with only one repeat dish. 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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