Friday, March 7, 2008
Vermont was my favorite neighborhood "upscale" joint when I lived in Los Feliz. Not only was the food outstanding, but the service was attentive to the point of obsequiousness. Once during a particularly romantic meal, a waiter casually dropped a large cloth napkin on my table and gave it a few pats, then continued on his way with great aplomb. I was confused by the intrusion until I realized that I had set the table on fire. Talk about sang-froid!
Sadly, that waiter seemed to have called out sick the other night, along with most of the staff. That can be the only explanation for the uncharacteristic gaps in dinner service. Once our first drink orders were filled and dinner orders taken, we did not see much of our waiter for the next two hours. Although the busboys were manically clearing and pouring, we were virtually abandoned.
Our appetites were kept at bay by the bread basket, which is one of the best in town, with fresh walnut bread and focaccia. I am not a big fan of their spinach-pesto dipping sauce, but the busboy brought me fresh, clean-tasting unsalted butter in record time upon request (I know, I know, how gauche am I?).
The first course arrived relatively quickly. Mixed greens with homemade chutney, walnuts and pear made a nice winter salad. The deep-fried goat cheese on top was cut in half, and the soft melted cheese that oozed out was delicious with the chutney, although the pears were somewhat flavorless. I hate to nit-pick, but really, half a cheese? It was a decent serving, but couldn't they just have formed it into a smaller round? It gave me the impression that the "usual" salad came with a whole round of cheese and made me feel a little gypped.
Then we waited and we waited. Busboys removed our glasses when they had sat empty for too long, and no one asked if we would like more wine. I have heard the participation fee in DineLA is steep ($1000) and they could easily recoup that on liquor sales if they poured a little more aggressively - or at all. Finally the waiter returned and asked us if we had eaten our main courses yet. I realized they were treating this more like a wedding banquet than a tasting menu. Our waiter didn't even know what was happening. My husband took the opportunity to order a second glass of wine, but the waiter didn't ask if I would like another glass of champagne.
At last our main dishes arrived. My oxtails were worth waiting for, or maybe worth half the wait. The sweet, rich meat fell off of the bones, and even mouthfuls of fat were delectible. It was paired with a generous helping of barely wilted baby spinach dotted with pine nuts and sultanas. When my husband Bob tried it, he commented on the sultanas, 'I can see what they are trying to do - balancing out the sweetness of the meat" and I realized how many episodes of Top Chef I have forced him to watch. The plate was perfect for a low-carb lifestyle, but I did secretly crave polenta or some other soft, creamy carbohydrate.
The fettucini was in a bland, slightly watery cream sauce. It did not do the homemade noodles justice. But when I tried the heavily salted chicken it made sense. Only when eaten together did the seasoning for the chicken and pasta work. The chicken was properly cooked, with both crispy skin and moist breast meat.
The pastries at Vermont are always a highlight. Even when eating at another restaurant, we would often stop by Vermont for dessert. And once again, they did not disappoint. The light chocolate cake was delicious with homemade hazelnut ice cream, which was so light it was more like an ice milk. The praline cake was stellar, vying with the oxtails for the best plate of the meal. Paper-thin layers of fresh meringue alternated with a homemade hazelnut pastry cream. Bob protested the use of the word "praline" when no pecans were involved, but considering the things they call "Napoleons" I give restaurants a wide leeway in wording their menus.
All in all, including one glass of champagne, one carafe of sparkling water, two glasses of wine, two coffees and tip, the bill came out to $158. I guess I should be grateful that we were unable to order more wine. I look forward to returning to Vermont on a better night.
Vermont (323) 661-6163
1714 North Vermont LA 90027