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Wood & Vine

Wood & Vine

6280 Hollywood Blvd

Los Angeles,

323 334 3360

Monday date night with the boyfriend (FG) last week led us to Hollywood and the Bar/Restaurant ‘Wood & Vine’, named appropriately for its location on the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Vine Street.  The restaurant is located in the historic Taft building (Just across from the Pantages theater and home to the first offices of Charlie Chaplin and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) I loved the decor as soon as we entered the building.  I have noticed a lot of restaurants in LA are placing random objects and antique looking items around their rooms as decoration.  Wood and Vine follows this trend.

A somewhat strange selection of items were on display behind the bar. There were jars filled with bizarre looking brown fluids, old books, pictures and statues.  The funny thing is, there was probably someone hired with the sole purpose of thinking up and finding all the objects in that cabinet and then making it appear random.

The restaurant area was larger than I expected and continued upstairs with a balcony overlooking the bar below, the courtyard was actually in amongst the buildings and it felt very urban but a little claustrophobic when looking up at them towering above you.  We decided to sit at the bar, as we tend to enjoy talking to the bartenders anyway.  We got Justin who was really friendly and started us off with two cocktails from the winter drinks list (which will change as it becomes spring).

FG got the Kentucky Cashmere and I got a classic Aviation.  I do like this as a drink, and although it was made well it wasn’t quite sweet enough for me (we all know my sweet tooth). When I asked Justin if he could make it a little sweeter for me, I was thoroughly impressed that he didn’t just dunk simple syrup in it, like most other bartenders would. Instead he increased the Creme de Violette and Maraschino liqueur which meant the drink was certainly sweeter but still maintained it’s balance.

The Kentucky Cashmere drink was interesting.  FG loved it because of the bitterness of the fernet, but I liked the undertones of cocoa I could taste from the chocolate bitters.  The Chai tea flavors were subtle but certainly noticeable.

Kentucky Cashmere- Chai & Vanilla infused bourbon, Jelinek Fernet, Chocolate chili bitters

Aviation- Gin, Maraschino, Creme de violette, lemon juice

Justin gave us food menus and I was pleasantly surprised by the pricing, totally reasonable if not on the lower cost scale. They had a Monday Menu special which is a 3 course set menu for $18 (which I am told changes weekly).  The deal sounded amazing but we decided we’d rather mix and match off the main menu instead.

The menu wasn’t huge but there were so many good entrees to choose from and such a range of styles I couldn’t quite work out what kind of restaurant it was trying to be… American, Italian, Asian Inspired, French…dishes included Chicken & Waffles, Pork Belly, Gnocchi and Mussels.  As a mix of genres however, it seemed to work well and was certainly popular. The place was pretty busy on a Monday night, but then again it is Hollywood.

We decided to split the Beet Salad to start. Small portion but really tasty. Goats cheese and candied nuts are my favorite items on a salad, and lucky for me this had both.  They were candied pistachios this time (which is a nut I have never tried candied before) which were very tasty, with a slight salty sweetness to them.  I tried Beets for the first time this night too! They were much sweeter and juicier than I imagined so naturally I enjoyed them.

Beet Salad- Market greens, Candied pistachios, goat cheese, sherry vinaigrette $10

FG went for the Baked Gnocchi and I went for the Flat Iron Steak.  My Steak was cooked correctly to my medium/rare specifications and the asparagus was just the right amount of grilled. The carrot puree was creamy, sweet and delicate against the meat. A fine addition, I only wish they had given me more puree because it was just a small drizzle. The compound butter on top was excessive (size wise) and not really necessary in my opinion, I barely touched it because the meat and vegetables had enough flavor without the need for the overpowering taste of butter.

Flat Iron Steak- carrot puree, grilled asparagus, compound butter $21

FG was loving his Baked Gnocchi so I decided to try a bite even though I really dislike the texture of braised meat. The dish reminded me of a meal my mum made me back in England called ‘Meat and Dumplings’, it was like a stew and I almost wanted a slice of bread to dip in the gravy like sauce. It had a definite comfort food taste to it and the Gnocchi were cooked perfectly-not too soft and not too hard. Gnocchi is often made with semolina, flour, egg, potato, water and salt.  For those who’ve never had it, the best description comes from my old room mate Bryan;

“If potato and pasta had a baby, it would taste like Gnocchi”

Baked Gnocchi- Braised pork, goats cheese $16

The meal portions weren’t huge so we ordered the scallops also.   In my opinion Scallops are really hard to get perfect, and although they did a decent job of this dish, they were only good and not excellent (not like the ones I had at Piccolo).  The grits were an interesting addition to the dish and were creamy with less of a cornmeal taste than usual, which I prefer.  They worked surprisingly well along side the seafood. FG liked the grilled squash it came with and said it was perfectly juicy, I didn’t care for it myself though and didn’t really feel it was needed.

Pan-Seared Diver Scallops- Grilled squash, creamy grits, market greens $18

Wood & Vine has a fairly extensive list (over 50 different kinds) of Whisk(e)y, arranged in the menu by Bourbon, Rye, Scotch, Irish and American.  This was extremely appealing to FG but seeing as we had to drive we decided to share a second drink and ordered the ‘Hunter’. I found this drink to be ridiculously delicious and so simple, just two main ingredients in fact.  I’m sure FG would have preferred the Whiskey straight, but I really liked the light cherry sweetness coming through the Rye, it took away any burn there might have been. It is a drink I will remember to order elsewhere in future. I liked it that much.

Hunter- Redemption rye, Heering cherry liqueur, lemon peel

We decided to finish off with something sweet and Justin convinced us to go for the ‘Pot de creme’.  Wow! A lot of places are doing a salted caramel flavor combination but not many i’ve tasted have done it quite as well as this.

The salty ice cream and the intense sweetness of the butterscotch complimented each other perfectly, and it was so rich, creamy and smooth.  We had a similar dish at Bottega Louie a few weeks back (review coming soon) but this one may actually have been slightly better.  We ordered a scoop of Whiskey Ice Cream to try too, which tasted like baileys to me but was also very good.

Butterscotch Pot de Creme-  salted caramel ice cream $6

Drinks get 4 out of 5 Coupes. (Ratings)

All the drinks were executed correctly (I witnessed all the bartenders stirring Manhattans for a good 2 minutes or more which always gets bonus points from me. I am impressed when a bartender takes the time to make a drink correctly instead of rushing, especially in Hollywood.) Our drinks were all balanced, and Justin gets extra points for the way in which he increased the sweetness of my drink.

Food gets a good 3.5 out of 5 Platters.

All in all this place had great food too. Service was timely, and even when they got a little rush at around 10pm they still made sure everyone was served or acknowledged without a crazy wait time.  The food was incredibly affordable and there was a nice range of dishes to choose from.  It loses a platter purely because none of the dishes (except maybe dessert) jumped out as being exceptional, they were just very good.

We will certainly be back however to see new additions to the menu and try the drinks list for summer when it comes out. If you’re in Hollywood and like a good drink and food without a huge price tag, then be sure to check this place out. You certainly won’t be disappointed.

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Piccolo Ristorante

Piccolo Ristorante

5 Dudley Ave

Venice Beach, CA 90291

(310) 314-3222

My boyfriend (FG) took me here on Valentines Eve this year and having never been before I was excited to be trying somewhere new, especially an Italian restaurant.

Italian is officially my favorite cuisine. I am not a huge fan of Venice beach and honestly find it particularly scary at night, especially down some of the graffiti ridden dark alley ways.  Sadly this restaurant is in a slightly less than desirable area, and less than a block from the building I was convinced I was watching a hardcore drug deal go down!

However I was utterly shocked and excited by the restaurant that emerged once I turned the corner.  The restaurant Piccolo is beautiful, aesthetically it is a really lovely looking space. Great attention to detail has been made from the elegant glassware down to the tasteful green glass candle holders on every table which are decorative and beautiful.
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The decor is Venetian inspired (as in Venice, Italy not Venice Beach) decorative masks and tasteful black and white shots of the canals adorn the walls. There is a roaring fire on the side and a wall of wine at the back. As soon as we entered we were greeted by a friendly host who took us straight to the table. There is no host stand or bar area, which makes me wonder where you would stand/sit to wait if you arrived sooner than your reservation. Fortunately for us our table was ready straight away and we sat straight down. The owner Vittorio Viotti came over and said hello (he has worked with FG in the past and is a lovely Italian man from Rome).  The menu allows you to do a set meal called ‘In bobo we trust’ this is a great option if you’ve never been as the Executive Chef Roberto Ivan (Bobo) will choose a ‘Six-course tasting for $80′ or ‘Ten-course tasting for $100′ Two people minimum and entire table only.  Seeing as we didn’t want quite so many courses we decided to just pick ourselves, with the occasional recommendation from Vittorio and our server.

As cocktail drinkers I was sad to discover they don’t have a mixed drink list here, however the wine choice is beyond impressive. There is an extensive wine list in a leather bound book with huge range of Italian wines organized by area (a little map of Italy colored in to represent regions).  Almost all the wines are by the bottle, but Greg went for one of the reds by the glass and I had a prosecco.  The red was smoky and rich with a tobacco finish, perfect for FG and my prosecco was light with a hint of sweetness. Great start to a romantic fine dining experience.

A bread basket came out with bread sticks, olive ciabatta and baguette inside. Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore good bread.  This bread was warm with a freshly baked crisp crust and fluffy inside, just how I like it.  Came with olive oil for dipping but I told myself not to fill up on bread so I mainly munched on the sticks which were a not so filling alternative. Great idea.

Antipasti Freddi

The first dishes we chose from the ‘Antipasti’ section of the menu were the Prosciutto and Carpaccio (see item descriptions below).

The presentation for all our dishes was nothing short of pure elegance,  I really like duck but it was actually a little rich for my taste.  It had a herbaceous celery/watercress dressing on top though which was light and creamy and helped dilute the richness of the meat slightly.

Prosciutto d’anatra- Homemade duck proscuitto, fresh watercress drizzle $17

The Carpaccio FG ordered was delicious. I should mention that I hadn’t eaten lamb since I was around 11 years old and saved a lamb from drowning in a river in Wales, strange reason I know, but I just never found myself wanting to order it since then.  I did however try some of the carpaccio this evening. I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed it, it wasn’t gamey but complimented wonderfully by the truffle and celery shavings.

Carpaccio di agnello- Seared lamb, thinly sliced,  celery, piave shavings, truffle shaving $17

Antipasti Caldi

The next dish we ordered were the Scallops.  Now, if you haven’t read the ‘about me’ section, I suggest you do it now, because it will astound you that someone as fussy about food like myself would ever like sea food let alone Scallops.  The scallops were nothing short of divine.  To go from not trying a salad to devouring scallops is quite a dramatic change, but my goodness did I enjoy these.

Delicious on every front. Texture, sauce, cooked to perfection. The cheese sauce was very light but the little addition of truffles was all the richness it needed. Ironically I don’t like parmesan or truffles for that matter but adored this.  My only complaint was portion size, but this restaurant is more tapas (small plate) style. I could have easily gone for at least 8 of those beauties! This dish came with 2 scallops and they were nice enough they split our dishes without us even asking, we just told them we’d be sharing everything.

Capesante scottate- Seared sea scallops, parmesan-truffle fondue, truffle shaving $17

Primi

The second section of the menu had dishes that were created using their own hand-crafted fresh pasta prepared with organic eggs.  FG had the Tagliatelle which was certainly interesting, but tasted a little like christmas in my opinion. The use of cloves/all spice in the aromatic spices I believe is what gave this affect, the venison was a little overpowered by the spices but was well cooked.

I went for the black kale and beef tenderloin filled ravioli.  It was rich but very tasty.  I couldn’t taste the kale itself, but the dish altogether was flavorful and very good.

Agnolotti al cavolo nero- Tuscan black kale-beef tenderloin filled ravioli roasted garlic, rosemary, parmesan $24

Ragu di capriolo- Tagliatelle, slow braised venison ragu, aromatic spices, red wine $24

Secondi

The Duck from the final section of the menu was delicious and my favorite ‘main’ course.  The honey truffle sauce was light but had the perfect level of sweetness.  The meat was cooked to perfection, and they don’t ask for a temperature because they know how it should be cooked (seemed about medium/rare).  I had no complaints, juicy and perfectly tender duck slices.

Germano reale al miele tartufato- Breast of mallard (wild duck) pan-seared, truffle-honey sauce $34

Please note the photos of the duck and scallops are ‘half’ the regular portion size as the plates were split for our convenience.

Dessert

I don’t know how but we managed to squeeze in a little dessert at the end.  Bobo chose the Bignole and the Tortino. The tortino was soft and light with a slightly unusual lightly orange taste (reminded me of a children’s medicine in Uk called Calpol actually).  I preferred the little pastry chocolate puff balls. They had a crisp pastry surrounding a sweet, soft chocolate truffle center. Very delicious and a great end to the meal.

    

Tortino- Ricotta and mascarpone torte. Saffron coulis

Bignole- Puffs filled with belgian gianduja chocolate

I’m giving Piccolo 4.5 out of 5 Platters

All in all this restaurant was truly excellent. The service was friendly and fast, but not rushed. The food was beautifully presented and tasted great.  The only down side of this place is it’s location, although the interior strongly makes up for it. The pasta dishes were my least favorite, but I will happily return to try other dishes on the extensive menu.  I felt the food was pretty reasonably priced although I know it may seem a little pricey for some, especially when the dishes aren’t huge portions. It is fine-dining however and for a romantic night out is well worth the cost when the quality is there. Definitely worth a visit!

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