Saturday, April 06, 2013

FOOD: Papilles

We discovered a great little gem of a restaurant called Papilles, tucked in the corner of a tiny strip mall on Franklin near the foot of Beachwood Canyon (convenient for a post-Arclight dinner). It caught my eye on OpenTable as being too new to have any reviews at all, so I Googled it and noted glowing reviews on Yelp, as well as from L.A. Times critic Irene Virbila, who compared it to the tiny neighborhood bistros of the 11th or 13th arrondissements in Paris. And so it was true French cooking with farmers market fresh ingredients, but with a neighborhood scale and vibe. They have a $37 3-course fixed price menu, frequently updated based on what's fresh, with a couple choices of starters and a couple choices of mains, and that's the extent of the menu, so you have to be a bit game to eat here and just trust that the limited choices are all good. (And lucky for us, most of the choices were gluten-free, so we had no problem there.) I suspect that's the secret of what makes this place work is that they just cook a few different things each night, but those few things are superb. I started with a light and flavorful bacon and leek quiche with a marvelously flaky crust, and a light accompaniment of frisee and dandelion greens, while George started with a plate of perfectly carmelized roast cauliflower with pine nuts and mint. For our mains, we both opted for the beef cheek with baby parsnips, cardoons, and black trumpets. The beef was fall-apart tender and flavorful, and doused in a dark, umami-rich sauce rendered from the black trumpet mushrooms, complimented by the sweet earthy parsnips and the cardoons (a cousin to artichoke, but more resembling fennel stalks). For dessert, we shared a cheese plate with some excellent selections -- a Spanish cheese with a roquefort-like crust, a pungent, runny goat cheese from New York, and an aged Gouda -- as well as a delicious chocolate terrine (gluten-free!) with pistacchio crust and crème anglaise. They have an eclectic selection of wines arrayed on a bookshelf on one wall for you to peruse, and some unusual by-the-glass offerings. The red and the rosé on offer were both from Pfalz, while the white was a Sancerre. We opted to try the German pinot noir, a whole new idea to us, and found it quite nice, fruity but enough to stand up to the dark meaty sauce. We'll definitely be back to this charming little piece of a Paris neighborhood dropped in the corner of Hollywood.

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