Chef’s Table @ Providence

Up there with getting spontaneously upgraded from coach to first class on a flight is getting upgraded from a regular table to a chef’s table overlooking the kitchen at Providence.   Great company, great lighting for pictures, a quiet, secluded corner, a wonderful view of the working kitchen, a little chat with the head chef — I couldn’t have asked for more.

ProvidenceChef Cimarusti tasting some micro greens

Although Providence is known for their seafood dishes and those may certainly be what earned them their Michelin stars, the kitchen also puts out wonderful, inventive vegan dishes as well — as long as you call in advance and make a reservation.  Tonight was our second time at Providence and Will was looking forward to seeing what new tricks Michael Cimarusti had up his sleeve.Providence

The vegan amuse bouche was a tomato tartare with rice cracker and smoked sesame seeds.  According to Will, it’s the smoked sesame seeds that really makes the flavors stand out.

Providence

What the vegan and omnivore amuse bouche had in common was the screwdriver bubble.  I’m usually one to run away at the sign of molecular gastronomy and science experiment-like dishes, but I think limiting that type of thing to an amuse bouche is a fantastic choice.  The screwdriver bubble was a gelatinous sphere that popped in your mouth to reveal a tangy, sweet, liquid.  It was playful while tasting good at the same time.  Also on the plate was a mojito gelee (not shown), a gruyere pastry, and a shot glass full of tasty morsels: trout, a lemon gelee, some sort of cream sauce, crunchy bits, and a decadent flake of gold. I could have done without the flake of gold, which seemed like an unnecessary extravagance.

Providence

The normal appetizer course was a kanpachi or hamachi sashimi, I forget which. What I do remember is that it was served on top of a creamy sauce which really added to the rich, decadent mouthfeel of the fish.  I could eat this all day.  The sous vide endive, which I initially thought was over-the-top, was admittedly very, very good.

Providence

The vegan appetizer was a salad with persimmon, artfully cut avocado, hearts of palm, and micro-coconuts (which we learned were really small, tender coconuts).

Providence

Our second course was seared scallop, which may sound ordinary and boring as far as high end restaurants go, but this one was artfully done.  One of the things Providence excels at is cooking their seafood to the ideal doneness and this scallop was no exception.  The scallop was served on a bed of cooked buckwheat, which gave it an interesting textural contrast.

Providence

The vegan pairing with this meal was the buckwheat soba under delicately sliced matsutake mushrooms.

Providence

The next course was striped bass over some cranberry beans, lemon and brown butter sauce, and shaved truffles.  The skin of the fish was perfectly crispy and the entire dish was well composed. The slight tang of the lemon cut down on the richness of the brown butter sauce and truffles and the sauce went perfectly with the fish.  It was like every musician in the orchestra was in perfect harmony with each other.

Providence

When Will’s dish came out, I did a double take.  Thickly shaved truffles and lots of it. I don’t remember exactly what it was, other than it had some potato, celery root, and lots of truffles.

Providence

Finally, we had veal tenderloin over what they called a truffle fondue, a few pieces of chanterelle mushrooms, and small onions.  I may be a philistine, but I never got the whole deal with veal.  It’s not that I don’t like it, but it isn’t exceptionally delicious to me. The meat was cooked perfectly in this dish and it tasted fine, but I was more excited by the sauce, the purslane, the mushrooms, and the onions on the plate. Another thing Providence excels at is making sauces and accouterments to the dish every bit as delicious as the star protein of the dish.

Providence

For dessert, we had a scoop of buckwheat ice cream, which was surreal in how odd but good it tasted.  Then there was a compressed banana, which tasted just like dressed-up banana to me, an a fantastic banana bread pudding.  The pudding was velvety and packed full of ripe banana flavor without going too overboard and still feeling light in the mouth — genius.

Providence

Unfortunately, the regular dessert course was not vegan, but Will did get a fancy slice of persimmon as dessert.

ProvidenceProvidence

Thanks to the advice of the sommelier, we also drank two bottles of wine we really liked. The first one was very light (for a red) and oaky tasting, and the second one was bolder, darker, and had a great, plummy aftertaste.

Providence is quickly becoming one of my favorite high-end restaurants.  The food has been excellent both times I went, the service impeccable, and Chef Cimarusti has buckets of talent in creating an interesting vegan menu.  The only downside of this visit is that now that I’ve seen the Chef’s table and how much fun it is, I won’t be able to go back to sitting in the regular dining room ever again.

Protip: get the bacon brioche from the bread man if he comes around. It’s decadent.

Providence
5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 460-4170

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