After passing by this place several times on our way Pizzanista! I finally convinced Will to take me to Bestia. We were apprehensive because the chef also used to work at Osteria Angelini, where I had the most underdone plate of pasta in my life. My pasta at Angelini was not a “Oh, this must be al dente” underdone. It was a “Oh, my pasta is crunchy and still half white inside” underdone. Perhaps I don’t know how to appreciate a properly al dente pasta, but I was not a fan.
Fast forward to last night, where we had a 9:30 reservation for Bestia. The restaurant is tucked away in an odd parking lot where if you hadn’t known it was there, you’d think you were parking to score some drugs or bootleg something. Stepping into the place, we were accosted with smoke in the air. Was the kitchen on fire? No, it must be usually like this because no one else seemed alarmed at how smoky it was. Or maybe we couldn’t hear the cries of alarm because it was just so darn loud. I literally had to yell across a 2-seat table to Will in order for him to hear me.
When we sat down and looked at the menu, we were surprised to read something we must have overlooked on the menu online. No substitutions or modifications. Uh oh, this does not bode well for the vegan. Luckily, our server and the kitchen was really understanding and let us leave off the dairy and other un-vegan ingredients in some of the dishes.
We started with some cured olives which were fine. The addition of fennel or cumin seeds was a nice touch.
I ordered the house-made salumi, which included head cheese and three other slices of cured meats. While they tasted great, I couldn’t taste much difference between three of them. Other than the color and shape, they seemed similar to me. I did enjoy the spicy house-made mustard and the pickles. It’s not every day you have pickled nameko mushrooms. And the grilled bread! It had been a while since I had a nice piece of grilled bread.
We split the roasted vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, fennel, potato), which had a great char on them. My chief complaint about restaurant roasted vegetables is that they’re often underdone. This was not the case at Bestia. These were roasted to perfection, but a little too oily.
Although I was fearful of ordering pasta, I couldn’t stop myself from ordering the stinging nettle pasta with mushroom ragu and a poached egg. Boy, am I glad I did. The pasta was topped with a few dehydrated leaves of curly spinach that were crunchy and had a seaweed-like savory flavor. The pasta was cooked perfectly with the stinging nettle giving it a characteristic green color. The mushroom ragu tasted incredibly earthy and creamy. The star of the dish was the perfectly poached egg. The white was creamy without being slimy, and the yolk ran down my pasta in rich rivulets of gold. What a great sauce that made! I’m still kicking myself for forgetting to bring the leftovers home.
Will got the burrata pizza without the burrata, so it was more like a tomato sauce and olive pizza. The crust was charred well without being too burnt. I liked the way the tomato sauce tasted along with the briny green olives. I can see this being a hit when it’s being served with burrata on top.
Even though I was stuffed to overflowing, I couldn’t turn down the chocolate budino tart. I loved the chocolate wafer-like things it was served on the side with. I loved the dark, bitter taste of the crust. The actual budino part, I could have skipped. It was no comparison to the budino at Mozza.
I’m glad we got over our fear of undercooked pasta and underwhelming dishes to finally try Bestia. I only wish it wasn’t so loud and smoky in there. I emerged smelling more like smoke than I do when marinating for hours in a KBBQ restaurant.
2121 E 7th Pl
Los Angeles, CA 90021