The Distinguished Gourmand: Bestia

January 14, 2020
  • The Distinguished Gourmand: Bestia

Did you know that my meal consumption is not just dependent on whether I’m dining with the other members of Dinner Club For Day People? I eat — usually — two or three meals a day, every day, even if I’m not surrounded by the six friends who comprise the Club. Sometimes I even hit the town for a nice dinner with loved ones, family members, and others! Sorry, Dinner Club. You don’t control my life. Except for one night each month. Then I relinquish control to you.

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a surprise meal at a restaurant from my shortlist of Best Restaurants in Los Angeles. That list includes places I haven’t yet visited, like Dialogue, Bestia, n/naka, Mélisse… as well as some places I have tried before, like Vespertine (review), Felix, Trois Mec (review), Republique (review), and Providence. I narrowed the possibilities down in the days and weeks ahead of the reservation, because anything that requires me saving a date more than one month in advance shortens the list of potential destinations considerably. When our Uber arrived outside of Bestia I was super stoked. I was also super happy that I didn’t over-eat at the barbecue I went to earlier in the day. Reservations at Bestia don’t come around too often, so you’d best believe I was going to drive as much food down as possible. Even if it meant taking home several bags of leftovers — like that time I ordered the beef and bone marrow pie from Chi Spacca even though it said it fed two people — I was going to leave my mark on Bestia. I think I referenced Mr. Creosote at least once in regards to how much I planned on eating.

Chef’s Old Fashioned, Chapter 2 – Big Rock: Lardo Washed Bourbon, Cane, Pear, Bitters, Orange Peel. Before being seated we were directed to the bar. While we waited, we poured over the wine list (pun intended?) trying to determine the best value on the bottle list. I think I’m over ordering Old Fahsioneds at restaurants. They’re all pretty much the same, and none ever seem to impress me. I can make a better one at home. The problem is, by the time I finally get noticed at a bar (which usually takes a while, as an ugly dude) I freeze up and forget what I really want (bourbon or rye, neat) and feel obligated to order whatever cocktail on the menu has bourbon in it. The other drink in this picture is Rosemary’s Sway, which is made with rye, rosemary (duh), pomegranate, apertivo, and soda water.

 

Pancetta and Persimmons. This plate is proof that sometimes the best dishes are the least complicated. A basic plate of pancetta, persimmon, salt, pepper and oil made for some fantastic bites. Fatty, sweet, perfectly seasoned, I really admire resisting the urge to chef this dish up any further.

 

Beef Tartare Crostino. Dry Aged Beef, Fried Mustard Seeds, Tomato, Dill, Celery Leaf. This was one of the better preparations of beef tartare I’ve had in Los Angeles. I don’t think anything can top the brilliance of what Chef Jordan Kahn did at Red Medicine back in the day, but this one comes pretty damned close. The funk coming off the dry-aged beef is remarkable, and the other elements really help elevate the dish’s central component. It’s the first of what will probably be many “must order’ dishes I recommend to you.

 

Pan-Roasted Chicken Gizzards. Roasted Beets, Endive, Aged Goat Cheese. The last antipasti we ordered came down a coin-flip between the gizzards and the Roasted Bone Marrow. We left it up to our server to choose for us, and she chose the gizzards because we had two pasta dishes and a pizza still to come, and the marrow was served with spinach gnocchetti which would have made it (technically) a third pasta dish. I happened to love the way the gizzards were prepared and enjoyed the dish as a whole. I’ll probably try the bone marrow next time just to cross it off the list, but I thought the gizzards were phenomenal.

 

Mortadella & Sage. Grana Padano, Caciocavallo, Aged Balsamic, Sage. Oh man, trying to choose which pizza to order presented us with yet another challenge. Other than the burrata (which has olives on it – I hate olives) I could have ordered any of the options. The basic Margherita would have been a great way to compare a “basic” pie against all the other pies in town. It’s the pizza equivalent of ordering cacio e pepe in order to test a chef’s true skill level. Nevertheless, I think we made the right choice. The cheese was a neat little alternative to the usual parm, the aged balsamic added some tartness and sweetness to balance the spice of the mortadella. Fantastic.

 

Cavatelli alla Norcina. Ricotta Dumplings. Housemade Pork Sausage. Black Truffles. Grana Padano. The first of our two pasta courses was delightful. It wasn’t much to look at on the plate, but all the flavors were on point. The pork was pungent and delicious, and the truffle kicked everything up a notch. I could have licked the plate clean, but I didn’t want to cause a scene and/or embarrass my dining companion.

 

Agnolotti alla Vaccinara. Cocoa Pasta Parcel. Braised Oxtail. Pine Nuts. Currants. Carrot Tops. Our second pasta course was another stunner, visually as well as taste-wise. I kind of skipped over the whole “chocolate pasta” thing and tried to focus more on the oxtail, which was great. It’s hard to pick a winner between this and the pork sausage pasta, but I think I liked the first more than the second. I ate my fill of both, of course. By the way, our meal was paired with a bottle of Schiavenza Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 2015. The Italian red wine paired quite well with our meal, offering hints of smoke and dark cherries on the nose and spiced cherries/plums on the palate. Highly recommended, and I don’t think it’s a hard bottle to track down.

 

“Coffee & Donuts”. Spiced Chestnut Zeppole. Whipped Cream. Coffee Ice Cream. As you all know by now, I’m not a big dessert guy. Alas, as this was a special occasion, we opted for dessert (which I of course paired with a glass of porto) in the form of deep-fried dough and ice cream. It was fine, it was dessert, I thought the ice cream was pretty good, and I don’t typically eat a lot of ice cream. The zeppole were airy and had a nice hint of spice to them. Whipped cream rounded it all out. It turned out to be the perfect way to end our meal.

 

And that’s Bestia! I’m already dreaming of returning, but I have no idea when I’ll be able to score a reservation. Until then, you’ll have to deal with reading more of my Dinner Club recaps. Speaking of which, I think it might be Mark or David’s turn to choose a restaurant. I should remind the club members that it’s time for another meeting…

1 comment

  1. |

    Your review has a misspelling in it. In the paragraph about the old-fashioned you spelled old-fashioned “old fahsioneds.” It is hard to take your review seriously if you can’t spell. I feel confident that this was simply an error on your part and not typical of your word-craft, but I feel compelled to alert you to this so that you can correct it and others won’t read your review and stop prior to finding out about the beef tartare, which I have eaten at Bestia, and find to be délicieux. If you want a tip, make sure to order your cocktails with Svalbarði ice cubes. It truly makes a difference on the palate and sends a message to the waitstaff that you’re to be taken seriously. It’s obvious that your waiter did not take you seriously because if he respected you, he would have recommended the Roasted Bone Marrow over the the gizzards. While the gizzards are tasty, they are plebian, and while the the roasted bone marrow has a subtle flavor, it also has an opulent sophistication. Also, perhaps it is just your photograph, but the fat content of the pork sausage looks wanting. As you’re probably aware, top cuisine typically relies on flavor over fat to make a meal tasty, but pork sausage is it’s own beast. To put it simply, the fat in a pork sausage is like the creme in Galaktoboureko. Yes please!

    After reading your review, I feel like we had a meal together. I can tell that you’re a kindred spirit.
    Feel free to contact me at the email above if you’d like to return to Bestia with me as your companion and guide. I have already earned the respect of the waitstaff so there would not be another embarrassing snafu if we came together.

    – Johan

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