Welcome to binNotes, a blog for those who consider wine an art, and not just a beverage.
It’s time for a special installment of binNotes Restaurant Intervention – SVU (Special Victim’s Unit) featuring: L.A.’s Patina Restaurant.
By L. M. Archer, FWS
Warning: Viewer Discretion Advised.
When it was all over, and they’d cleared the crime scene, I realized I should have just ordered the vegetables. I would have avoided the whole bloody mess, literally.
But no. This is L.A. City of angels. City of demons. A city where everyone looks the part they’re paid to play. Including the wait staff of Patina, in the bowels of Frank Gehry’s Disney Museum. Bowels may not be an appropriate choice of words for the dinner table…maybe in the haunches of the Museum…no, that doesn’t sound quite right either…
Let me set the scene:
Enter Stage Right: Mr. and Mrs. binNotes in town on business, opting for a romantic pre-Valentine’s celebration at this concierge-recommended restaurant.
Enter Stage Left: Major Domo, oozing gravitas with well-honed pate, bespoke suit and James Joyce-ian attitude specs. If he were a surgeon, I would trust him to operate on my major organs. As a Major Domo, I trust him with my palate. Implicitly. He will make cameo appearances at the beginning and end of our dining experience.
But this is L.A….where there are no small roles, only small actors. And not everyone can be a star. Enter the Head Waiter, a Major Domo in training – not quite bespoke enough yet to don the glasses, but trying hard in the fawning department. His role, we discover, is to appear at the service of each course and advise of the ingredients and preparation. For questions about wine, he defers to the Sommelier.
Enter Stage Left: The Sommelier, a delightful Frenchman from Toulouse with a refreshing candor about the wine list. We both commisterate over the jacked-up Burgundy prices, he dismisses my inquiries about a Crémant de Jura with a nod “no no no…Madam…it’s Chardonnay…not Blanc de Blanc…” and we settle on a domestic Pinot Noir.
The supporting staff of water pourers and hand-crafted bread servers appear and disappear in a hush. All seems well in the wonderful world of the Disney Museum…but that’s about to change.
Yes. I should have stayed with the vegetables. Root vegetables, to be exact. Individually roasted, so as not to contaminate the other vegetables with their essential flavors. Then those essential flavors combined into a lovely vegetable jus with lemon daubs. But the siren song of the well-cast staff lulls me into thinking that vegetables are not enough.
“And for the second course, Madam?” ‘Well, I’m not really that hungry‘, I think, ‘but since you’re staring at me through your James Joycian eyeglasses and I really don’t want to fill up on these delicious hand-made olive demi-baguettes and the unsalted artisanal butter, I guess I’ll go with a protein’. The only protein I can eat. Seafood.
“Very good, madam.” For these prices, it better be.
Waiting for our proteins to arrive allows us time to scan the mise en scène. Rich curtain-carved wooden panels adorn the non-banqueted walls, while muted lighting softens the shell-shaped cream ceiling. It’s not surprising that the restaurant resembles a theatre-in-the-round, with booths surrounding a bevy of two -and four-top tables in the center. This is, after all, L.A., where everyone’s always ready for their close-up. Nor is it surprising that the wait staff seat out-of-towners at the center tables, for the amusement of booth-sitting regulars. Regulars like the ‘movie executive’ and ‘aspiring actress’ seated nearest our table, oozing subtext and typecasting…but I digress…proteins now served.
Enter Head Waiter. “And how is Madam enjoying her meal?”
“Uhmm…it’s…it doesn’t taste like what I ordered…” I say, i.e.,: ‘Like, not at all. It tastes like it hasn’t finished unthawing from its holding tank in the back of the walk-in freezer where its been hibernating since being plucked from antibiotic-infested farmed waters light years away.’ In truth, no amount of Cialis can possibly revive the flaccid crustacean laying limp on my plate.
“It’s poached, Madam…in port and white wine sauce…” he says, i.e., ‘What do you know about fine seafood, you frazzle-haired, one-size-fits-all synthetic, wrinkle-free, all black garbed out-of-towner? Really?’
“Oh…” I say, i.e., ‘Really. Really? Do I really have to get nasty with this guy in front of all these super sincere, hard-working support staffers worried about keeping their jobs and making sure their kids make it on The Dream Act?‘ No. Life’s too short. And the vegetables -and wine – were great.
Finale: Head Waiter and the Major Domo remain conspicuously absent for the remainder of the meal, as the support staff clear the crime scene and leaves us to ponder our experience.
“My meat sucked,” Mr. binNotes advises as we carried the remnants home to our loyal mascot, Lucca.
Two proteins massacred in one evening. And the perpetrators still on the streets of L.A., ready to strike again.
Yet another unresolved case in the culinary criminal justice system.
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