Sunday, February 24, 2008

All' Angelo, Los Angeles California

I had the good fortune to dine at All' Angelo during my week off in February and can honestly say it was one of the more memorable Italian meals of my life (along with Il Mulino NYC.) First of all, a word to the quality of the staff: Being from out of town, in a rental car, lacking GPS, and running late the owner of the restaurant himself helped to guide me, turn-by-turn, over the phone to the restaurant. There were no open tables at all, the place was incredibly busy, and we were late......yet this level of service was offered with a smile.
Seating was tight as the restaurant is small, but just the same it is very intimate, low light, and charming. Like everywhere else in LA, designer jeans are the fashion of the moment, yet the staff wore tuxedos and I was comfortable in a suit. Bread and water service was prompt and refilled rapidly and although I don't drink, the wine list was extensive.

For our appetizers, my family and I selected the Octopus Carpaccio with Tomatoes in Pizzaiola......the presentation was amazing and the flavor without compare. Thinly sliced and fully flavored, the kaleidoscope of geometrically placed octopus was tender and perfect. I've never had octopus like this and I still crave it daily. I could have eaten this alone and felt justified in my trip to All' Angelo. Our second appetizer was the delightful Timbale of Cauliflower with Mascarpone Sauce. Quite honestly, Cauliflower doesn't taste like this. It was creme brulee made from a veggie. It was light. It was heaven. Alas, it was too small.

For my main, I selected the Risotto Carnaroli with Maine Lobster and Red Bell Peppers. The lobster was tender and perfect, the pasta hand made and al dente perfection. The sauce was mild with just enough punch. While the pricetag seemed a bit heavy compared to other options, the flavors were excellent and I was content with the dish. My aunt, on the other hand, selected an item that may have been the most delectable dish to grace my tongue in the city of LA, the Home-made Chitarra Spaghetti with Langoustines in White Wine Sauce. The Langoustines were flawlessly preparred and the white wine sauce was light and aromatic with a myriad of unexpected subtle effects that overwhelmed the senses. The dish was Italian, it was seafood, both perfected.

For dessert, three items were purchased and shared at the table. The Apricot Creme Brulee with orange Saffron sauce, Honey glazed Apricot and Vanilla Iced Cream was flavorful and airy, but in my opinion lacking flavor from the Apricot. The honey seemed to overwhelm the dish and although it was beautiful, it was not mindblowing. The second dessert, Apple Torte with Raisin Icecream, was similarly good but not mindblowing. Perhaps I am jaded by the quality of other apple desserts I have had in the past, but the shells on the torte were difficult to cut and the apples bland. The icecream was fabulous, however.

The third dessert, pushed heavily by the wait staff and all chowhounders, was Carmelized Meyer Lemon and Polenta Pudding with Lemon Sabayon. In a word; Yowzaz. Spicy, sweet, sour, and smooth......I've never tasted anything like this. Ordered by my mother who absolutely loves lemon dishes, she claims this is the best fruit dessert she has ever tasted. The presentation was equally beautiful as the octopus appetizer.

While the meal was beautiful, delicious, and classy, the bill for four without Alcohol plus tip came out to just under $240 and all told the portions were not that large. Having attended other fine Italian restaurants, I love and respect quality over quantity, but in my experience All' Angelo's dishes were particularly small for their pricetags. As it stands, if I were given a do over, I would still return to All Angelo if only for the atmosphere, octopus, and langoustines. A better dessert menu would be appreciated, but like the main menu I must say there is a certain charm to innovation.

A random added thought: The house coffee at All' Angelo is without a doubt the best cup of restaurant coffee I have ever experienced. Simple, smooth, with a mild hint of chocolate and the most minimal acidity needed to be aromatic and tasteful.

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