Finally made it to Kismet.
The $7 Rosewater Lemonade* is worth the price of admission; not overly floral, and exceptionally tasty. My my alcohol-free friends thought it was incredible, and I wholeheartedly agreed despite ordering a glass of German pinot for myself (forgot to snap a photo of the pinot, though).
Tokyo Turnips and Butter with Meyer Lemon Peel recalled a dish of great ham and butter I had at The Whale Wins in Seattle. The meyer lemon is quite faint, really just about undetectable. The salted, excellent butter magnified the juicy, vegetal crunch of the well-sourced turnips in a lovely way to my palate, though. However, I must note that this did not appeal to half of the party, one other person thought it was excellent. It probably appeals to a certain way of eating, namely an intense focus on the simple flavors of excellent produce.
Freekah Fritters were excellent. They have such a robust smokey/malty flavor that the vegetarian in the group briefly freaked out about there being meat in them. I admit, they tasted as if they contained specs of Benton’s smoked ham in them somehow, but, of course, there is no meat in reality. Sort of glutinous smokey falafel type things that were great on their own, but even better with the pickley things and green sauce (which I genuinely mistook for a leaf at first). The interplay of acid and malt, crunch, and glutinous textures really make for an intellectually stimulating and gustatorily satisfying dish.
Roasted Radicchio with yellow beets and sunflower seed tahini was also rather divisive. Compared to Robert’s rendition I think there was somewhat a paucity of the excellent sauce. The radicchio was more shockingly bitter than I thought it would be; I think with the sauce and beets it worked, but there was perhaps too much radicchio in proportion to every other element. Still, not terrible, but half of the party was put off by it.
Shaved Kohlrabi with pumpkin seeds, kumquats, and barberries was somewhat more successful, with excellent quality kohlrabi having a wonderful crunch and juiciness on its own. The sour/sweet of the barberries and kumquats juxtaposed with the crunchy, savory pumpkin seeds really worked superbly. An all around hit.
By now the one other alcoholic and I had moved on to a bottle of Sancho Panza, 2014, Fiano orange wine. The wine director texted the staff the recommendation for the bottle, as she had left for the night when we were there. Given the type of restaurant, I sort of wish the wine director would always be there in person, but I appreciated the text service. The wine went splendidly with the food; being a very light, crisp, dry, and having subtle notes of critus and hay. It was also a rather good deal at $62 when the average retail price is $33. I thought the Utah orange wine they had by the glass was also really excellent for a similar price. I love all of the orange wine. The wine program in general seems great here.
Cranberry Beans with shaved fennel and toasted chili were excellent. Most of the party didn’t care for the fennel, but I thought it worked great. I was pleasantly surprised by the heat of the chili incorporated into the dish; the cranberry beans were cooked perfectly being still a touch toothsome, yet velvety in texture. It was a bit like the most remarkable refried beans punched up with the fragance of excellent, cool, and crunchy fennel. Superb.
Jewel Crispy Rice with Egg yolk was divisive. At least one party member thought it was a horrible deal and not elevated enough versus store-bought jeweled rice, except for the portions with the egg yolk. For $14, I do feel they could include more egg yolks as the proportion is kind of out of whack. However, I thought the rice was toasted really nicely and yielded a popcorn-esque flavor; taken with the yolk, pumpkin seeds, and barberries make for a wonderful side dish to me.
So ignoring the LA Weekly’s advice and the desires of our vegetarian, I ordered the Rabbit Feast. This is a lovely set of food, but there is no question that you are being “ripped off” in monetary terms. You get about the same amount of rabbit meat at Hatchet Hall for $17, and with extra flakey bread this is $87. I was thinking the skewers would be a bit larger, and the stew woud be in a deeper bowl. However, if you can set aside the fact that strictly in price terms you are being taken advantage of, it’s a pretty pleasant set to order. The rabbit legs themselves are perfectly tender and succulent, while exuding an array of spices. The kebabs sing with a tanginess of marinade and the smokey char of open flame, the sweet potatoes are also excellent on them. The salad is perfectly dressed and full of well-sourced greens. The offal stew, though there is not a ton of it, has many chunks of rabbit, perfectly cooked chickpeas, and a slightly-spicy, earthy, flavor that is entirely unique and awesome. Grilled lemon juice amplies everything.
The side plate is even better. The set of pickles are outrageously good and could act as a case study in adroit pickling, most particularly of beets. Absurdly addictive. The labnah is almost like a devonshire cream, not extremely thick (my preferences lean towards super viscous labneh typically), but the most balanced version I have ever had. The tahini is probably the creamiest, most balanced tahini I have ever had as well. The zhug is bracingly spiced with enough heat to really make the other elements of the feast sing a fiery song. And, of course, that flakey bread is absolutely spectacular (so spectacular it was worth paying $7 for another 2 slices of it). Super hot, freshly grilled, flakey, crispy glory that anchors the whole meal. I was rather upset that when we took leftovers they didn’t box the leftover tahini or labneh
We could barely handle dessert, but we also tried the Flourless Chocolate Cake with buckwheat ice cream. It was plated a touch more elegantly than Robert’s version, but it was quite nice. We wondered whether the ice cream had dairy in it, but it did sing with the flavor of buckhweat. The cake itself was more like fudge than any cake I’ve ever had, but altogether it worked fairly well even though I am typically not a chocolate dessert type of person. This was an airy, malty chocolate finish to the meal that was well executed.
Service was all over the place; sometimes extremely lax and haphazard, but sometimes overly nice…I get the feeling that some people have good hearts there, but others take complete advantage of the fact that 20% tips are tacked onto every bill regardless of service quality.
Anyhow, the total was $337 for 4 people here; but $102 of that was drinks; so for food, about $59/person with tax/tip all in. Even with what seems like the worst “rip off” on the menu included, that is actually rather low for Los Angeles dining. So I must say I don’t understand the Weekly’s position of it being overpriced.
I will say that I found it rather more loud than others have, although we could converse with each other at the table.
This place is truly chronically hip, and that is mainly because of the simple fact that it’s a really nice place to drink abnormal wine and eat well-sourced vegetables somewhat late at night (open until 11 nightly!) Despite a few hiccups it was a rather nice meal, and I can see myself returning to sample more of the dishes with dairy that I mostly was restricted from ordering out of courtesy on this particular adventure.