If you’re the type who’s always in the know about food celebrities, you would have known that Gary Menes, who worked at French Laundry and Palate Food + Wine, has popped up in a semi-temporary space at Tiara Cafe. I’m not this type, so it took a tip-off from a friend to get me to go to Le Comptoir LA.
For $46,you get a five-course menu of seasonal produce done in innovative ways and served in a diner-like atmosphere. Although I had emailed ahead of time to make reservations (and to warn about Will’s vegan preferences) when I arrived all the counter seats were gone and we had to take a table nearby. When is a counter seat preferable to a table, you ask? When it overlooks the chefs cooking your dinner.
We started off with the amuse: A compressed melon for Will and padron peppers for me. The peppers had a surprising kick and woke me right up and got me looking forward to the dishes to come. Mission accomplished.
Next came the soup course. A broccoli veloute for me and an amazingly creamy parsnip soup for Will. The veloute was so rich that I almost couldn’t finish it. But somehow I made it through. I’m a champ like that. The parsnip soup, which I had a taste of, was wonderful. There was something in it I couldn’t place but really enjoyed. Lots of black pepper? A smokey broth? Whatever it was, it made the soup.
While I had a fancy fried egg in a skillet and some compound butter for my next course, Will had freshly shucked black-eyed peas and some tasty roasted tomatoes. I’d never been that excited by black-eyed peas, but wow these freshly shucked ones were great. Their earthiness paired with the acidic tang of the tomato-based sauce got me changing my stance on these previously relegated to New Years beans.
Then came the surprise dish of the night: squash with farro and chanterelle mushrooms. First, I have to rave about the farro. I already love this grain, but the way it was prepared at Le Comptoir probably tops my list of best farro dishes in my life. It was creamy, rich, savory, and had just the right amount of bite. Give me a bowl of this topped with a poached egg and I’ll be pretty damn happy. Second, there was the slice of squash. It was meaty, sweet, and nicely charred on the outside. I’m usually disdainful of people who want to sous vide everything, but even I have to admit, this was a perfect way to preserve the texture of the squash so that it didn’t become too mushy.
Next came a playful plate of wagyu ribeye. The bisected root vegetables looked like they happily jumped into the plate and emerged in another dimension on the other side of the same plate. I think the beef might have been cooked sous vide before finishing on the stove because it had a texture I wasn’t expecting. The flavor was good, but I would have preferred just a plain old quick grill on the stovetop.
Will got some grilled cauliflower for this course, which was the vegetarian option, and I heard no complaints from him about it. It must have been good because he had eaten everything without giving me a taste of anything on the dish.
For dessert, he had a bruleed pineapple and I had a dense chocolate cake-like thing. We both had some slices of bruleed banana on our plates, which I think are the greatest idea ever. I love bananas. I love creme brulee. If I had a torch at home, I’d definitely be eating this more often.
As a whole, our meal at Le Comptoir was everything I hoped it to be. It’s great to have something to this calibre and this vegetarian friendly without having to drive that far. I hope this is a pop-up that stays put for a while. Since the menu changes weekly, I’m definitely looking forward to another chance to dine there.
Le Comptoir at Tiara Cafe
127 East 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1728