Tasca, A Review
I put the best thing I've ever had in my mouth last night...and it WAS in fact food (I always knew it would be).
Of course that lead in has you gripping the edge of your seat (especially if you are my father) but alas, like a good journalist, I will make you wait for the payoff--as I in fact did.
A few months ago this very cute, albeit way too-cool-guy gave me his card saying that he is a chef at Tasca, a tapas bar. His name is Nano Crespo, and once I got passed the name (and the sunglass wearing inside the building) I put the card in my wallet and thought I would visit when I had some time.
What with all of the restaurant openings in Los Angeles, I've gone broke and gained 13 pounds--so Tasca was down far on the list. (Coincidentally, I met Tiffany from Top Chef and she said she was heading over to Craft for dinner last night). But my friend CH invited me to dinner, and I never turn down a free glass of wine.
We sat in the very tiny space (it's soooo Spain that way) and met the owner right off of the bat. She's young, yields a light accent from somewhere outside of Los Angeles and is very nice; in fact the whole staff is very nice.
We started with the Brandade, which is salt cod, reconstituted and mixed with a thickener (in this case mashed potatoes) and made into a dip. It was fair. My dining partner was immediately turned off as it looked like "hairy mashed potatoes" and tasted like "kitty food". It is authentic, it's true.
The owner sent an amuse of truffle potato chips that were very good; highly scented with truffle but lightly flavored. That is the wondrous thing about truffles, they speak more to your nose than your palate; it is confusing enough to the brain that you only think you are tasting what you are smelling, but if you taste very carefully you will see the flavor has little to do with the smell.
Next we had the potatoes stewed with chorizo, another classic Spanish dish. Chorizo is one of my favorite meats of all time, and this chorizo was no exception. The menu claimed to braise the meat and potatoes in Sherry, but I didn't taste any here. What I did taste were exploding flavors of very fresh, piquant paprika and smolderingly earthy, cumin. The flavors were phenomenal. These are two flavors that die in our kitchen cabinets in the United States, as our paprika is weak and our cumin stale. Preserved in the chorizo it held its flavor from table to mouth. What I didn't taste were the potatoes as they were so starchy they didn't want to stay on the fork. I would suggest using small yellow potatoes with the skins on or making crispy potatoes out of the russets they are using in the dish.
But alas we are to the finale and what a finale it was. I'm no sucker for things like, "vanilla scented" or "red wine and demi glace braised"; in fact I'm jaded from all of the bad "vanilla scented" sauces I've experienced outside of a pastry or dessert. THIS is the "vanilla scented" to kick all of the other "vanilla scented" sauces out of the water.
I'll leave it up to the waiter to explain; "Red wine and Demi Glace Braised Short Ribs with Butternut Squash Ravioli and Vanilla Scented Cream Sauce." I almost didn't order it because it is THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER. But my dining partner had stopped by earlier in the evening and smelled the short ribs a braisin'; so she asked to have them included in our tasting.
I’m glad she did otherwise I would have left the restaurant less than enthusiastic. I probably would have written this review like Frank Bruni wrote about Harold’s restaurant last week..."eh, ‘tis okay." But now I can boast that the most perfect dish I've eaten was consumed at a little unassuming wine bar that only recently got its license.
The first bite is always the best, and I'm glad to have savored it like a chocolate truffle. I cut a ravioli in half, scooped some short rib on top and laid it on my tongue. It melted right then and there and I went with it. Forget about the sunglasses inside, this guy is my new crush! It's like he knew that I, personally had been offended by so many "vanilla scented" sauces that he sat out to make one that I would approve of. And approve I do.
I think I'm in love...with the meal of course.