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The Distinguished Gourmand: Trois Mec

In which I turn 36 years old, and am treated to a delicious celebratory dinner at one of Los Angeles’ finest dining establishments. Click through for pictures and descriptions from a night of outstanding food and wine.

A birthday comes but once a year. For some, I suppose, it can come more often. Perhaps (if you’re a woman) you celebrate the day of your birth and the day you gave birth to a child? For me, there is but one celebration each year. And usually, it occurs in late April. This year I was out of town for my birthday. Yes, I enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner in New Jersey with my mom – followed by local cupcakes with my father – but it wasn’t anything like last year’s Vespertine experience. So, a proper Los Angeles birthday dinner for my 36th birthday had to wait until this past weekend.

On Saturday night, a surprise reservation was made for Trois Mec. I’ve really, really wanted to dine there ever since its opening in 2013. Alas, I am philosophically opposed to their reservation system, which asks potential diners to accept a system whereby you have to reserve a table a month in advance by buying “tickets” to a meal when they are released on a specific day and time. Much like waiting in line for a pair of sneakers, or an Instagrammable baked good, or a beer release, I value my time too much to jump through hoops for a restaurant reservation. Of course, for this happy birthday meal I didn’t have to do any of the work. So I was more than content to sit back, let someone else do the work, and reap the delicious benefits of her labor!

Upon arriving at Trois Mec – a restaurant with a max capacity of maybe 30 guests – we are told our seats are maybe 15 minutes from being ready. So, we walk next door to the cafe Petite Trois for a glass of wine. When ready, we are lead to a counter overlooking the kitchen. I could not have asked for a better seat. We could observe the preparation of every dish before it made its way out of the kitchen. We could ask questions, we received detailed explanations by those preparing and expediting our meal, and it really heightened the experience. Should you be planning a night at Trois Mec, you should totally request a seat at the counter. I don’t know if their byzantine ticket system allows for such requests…but try!

Our first dish of the night (not pictured) was simply called “Apérol,” and it consisted of a tiny glass filled with an iced Apérol-y bite. Super botanical and bitter with hints of orange, it was a nice way to cleanse our palates and prepare for the onslaught of flavors. There was a glass of Prosecco-like sparkling wine to welcome us as well.

While munching on our shaved ice apérol, we were upsold on the “classic” wine pairing, which I believe included 7 half-glasses of wine to be paired with most of the courses we received. It was at this time I also learned my dining companion would be receiving a vegetable-based meal, whereas I would receive the standard daily tasting menu. Trois Mec offers a six-course menu, so the reason you’ll be seeing way more than six photos is because we received several courses that were different from one another, and I wanted to try everything. I was kind of shocked that she opted for a vegetarian meal, and chided her for not just keeping an open mind and trying everything, no matter what…

Our second bite of the meal – right after I finished telling her to act like an adult and eat everything they give you – was Dijon Mustard Creme Brulee. I absolutely abhor mustard. It’s one of the five or six food items that repulse me. And yet – AND YET! This was absolutely one of the best bites of the meal. It was creamy and lush, and pillowy…with just a hint of that weird mustard flavor I so despise. I could have eaten a giant bowl of this. Considering the main ingredient is one that grosses me out to no end and I practically licked the bowl clean, I was excited for what was to come.

 

Next up was a plate that was described as a Thai-style waffle, with little syrupy condiments the menu describes as “Vietnamese vinaigrette,” so I’m going to guess the server misspoke. These two items were actually different from one another. Mine was made with dried shrimp in the batter (hers was not), and my vinaigrette had fish sauce in it, while hers did not. I tried both, and I think I preferred mine. It had a lot more umami flavor to it, while hers was mostly sweet. Not cloying, just sweeter by comparison. Less earthy and salty and funky.

 

Bread service was described as a Parker House-style roll with yuzu butter. It was outstanding. I ate all of my bread and half of hers, because I wasn’t going to let anything go to waste.

 

The first course, which I believe was paired with a sparkling red wine from the Loire Valley in France, was the housemade tofu with crispy chicken skin and condiments. No, I don’t remember what the condiments were. Hers did not have the chicken skin on top and had one different condiment that was supposed to provide the salty crunchiness of the skin. Don’t ask me to recall what that condiment was.

 

Sweet Peas, Scallop, Passion Fruit, Kiwi, Matcha Powder. Here the difference between our plates was simple. I had scallops, she had beets. I thought this was a fantastic pop of bright, sweet, tropical flavors balanced by the earthiness of the matcha. The wine pairing here was a Chenin Blanc: Francois Pinon, “Le 2016,” Vouvray.

 

Avocado Sushi, Salted Cod, Lime Vinaigrette. Here was the first stark difference between our plates. I thought texturally this was a little one note, but it was a good note! It was sweet and sour at the same time, with richness from the avocado to balance everything out. There were tiny slivers of jalapeno as well to provide some much-appreciated heat. This course was paired with a white wine from Spain made with Albarino grapes: 2016 Lagar de Pintos, Rias Baixas.

 

Her plate (or bowl, I suppose) was labeled a “California Ceviche,” which included fruits, veggies, and flowers covered in a Peruvian-style leche de tigre sauce that provided ample heat. I loved the bite I was offered, but I’d probably still take my dish over this one if I had to choose one.

 

Crispy Spot Prawn, Bisque Sauce, Peanut Butter. This is the worst food photo I have ever taken. I apologize wholeheartedly. The prawn was described as “chicken fried,” I think. The sauce with peanut butter was outstanding, and probably made this one of the best bites of the entire meal. It was paired with one of our favorite wines of the evening, a white blend from Santa Barbara called “Duke and Ella,” from Amplify Wines (2017 vintage). 

 

My second hearty laugh of the evening came when I saw the plate she was given. Nothing says “vegetarian meal” like a single stalk (stick? piece?) of white asparagus covered in cheese alongside an almond sabayon. I tried it, and it was quite tasty, but I felt bad that she missed out on an incredible spot prawn and received some cheese-drenched asparagus with a little custard to dip it in.

 

Grilled Lamb Leg, Succulent, Harissa, Squid Ink, Blackberries. My main protein was cooked to perfection. In fact, it was so good, my “vegetarian” dining companion both asked for a bite and agreed it was the superior dish. Not that it was much of a debate. Wait until you see what she had. The lamb was paired with an incredible red blend from Bordeaux: Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan (2012).  

 

That there is an onion tart. I was trying to explain to her that restaurants like it when you challenge them with dietary restrictions because it forces them to be more creative…and then she got this onion tart with a site of pesto-y something-or-other, which was probably the least interesting plate of food either of us all night. They might as well have cut an onion in half, caramelized it, and plopped it on a plate. If there was a lowlight of the meal, this was it. No wonder she asked for a bite or two of lamb.

 

Nori ice cream, sweet potato mousse. In between the main and dessert, we had a palate cleanser. Not gonna lie, I. Loved. The. Nori. Ice. Cream. It was so good I had to stop myself about halfway through the bowl to remember to take a picture! I think I ate half of hers as well, which is kind of shocking considering I almost never order dessert when I go out to eat.

 

Arugula Panna Cotta, Yuzu Granita, Wheatgrass Juice. Other than the yuzu, nothing about this dish sounded good…but it was quite tasty! I think we were both starting to feel a little buzzed at this point, after the glass of wine before the meal, the little opening glass, and then 7 half glasses throughout the meal. We also had a beer before leaving the house but that certainly couldn’t have had any impact on us! Anyway, the final (dessert) wine pairing was a Sauternes, 2013 Chateau Guiraud, Petit Guiraud.

Just before we received the Panna Cotta our server arrived at the counter with a tiny birthday candle for me to blow out. It was pretty apparent when he inferred he was asked to have something birthday-related for me that they weren’t into the whole celebratory vibe at Trois Mec, but it still made for a very nice touch. Our final tastes of the night were a bite of strawberry mochi and a small chocolate tart. Before the conclusion of the meal I was presented with a menu (complete with “Joyeux Anniversaire!” scribbled on it) and wine pairing chart. We also got some peanuts to take home as well as little jars of herbs de provence, which will surely be used in some potato, fish or chicken-based dish in the near future. Can you use them in eggs? I feel like they’d make eggs taste much French-ier.

So that was it! That was my big 36th birthday gift, and I really enjoyed it. The spot prawn, the lamb, the scallop and matcha powder dish…there were some unbelievable good plates served on my first trip to Trois Mec. I hope it does not take another six years for me to return. The good news is we got that wine pairing chart at the end of the meal, so if we can find some of our favorite bottles in the wild we can revisit the memory of our meal throughout the year. My 37th birthday is going to have to be pretty special to compete with this meal and last year’s meal. Stay tuned…

Future – Overdose [MP3]

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