It’s weird that Papilles DineLA prices went up $4-$5, but their usual price dropped down $1 from $39 to $38, but I finally made it to this place as a friend also wanted to check out the Duck l’Orange.
The fruit components listed for the foie gras did not really appeal, so we skipped it, maybe a mistake, but idk, meal didn’t feel like it needed it really.
The meal started out with some free Sliced Baguette and Salted Butter*. Pretty nice honestly, maybe not as grand as Petit Trois’ but as a free baguette, genuinely tasty, and pretty good butter, though it could’ve been softer.
Frisee aux Lardons was classic and simple, I feel I’ve had warm lardons in other preps before, whereas they were cold here, but the egg was superb, and the greens nicely vinegared. Solid enough as a starter salad.
Root Vegetable Veloute was semi-successful. The bites with pickled shimji were quite nice as the acidity lifted it on the palate, but it was rather mundane otherwise, not as earthy as one would hope; nice texture, though. Of the starters, the frisee seemed more pleasant to me.
Trout Grenobloise was not bad, really nice crispy skin underneath. The romanesco, capers, croutons and lemon provided a piquantly astringent bite that paired nicely with the trout. The actual meat of the trout felt a bit overdone to me though. Memories of the spectacularly delicate, moist trout Zarandeado at Salazar haunted me when eating some of this, but it was solid.
The main event, Duck a l’Orange proved to be the best dish of the night by far, despite not being very traditional. There actually was some of the more traditional-looking orange sauce as well as a cream sauce underneath. The turnips (both pickled and non-pickled), as well as the spinach and fresh oranges were all superbly cooked, and packed with flavor. The duck was also much more thickly sliced than on their 'gram shot of the dish, and it was fabulous. I am generally unimpressed by duck breast dishes where the duck hasn’t been aged, but this was shockingly flavorful. Great crispy skin, and the duck was quite pink. Although the citrus was not super intense, the general theme of citrus, acid (from the pickled turnips), astringency of the spinach, and earthiness of the non-pickled turnips really worked beautifully against the fatty duck. The two sauces really were a bit like a creamsicle, but it actually worked strangely well given the way the vegetables contributed to the dish as a whole. A shockingly addictive, and awesome plate.
Detail showing how nicely the duck was cooked:
We did opt for an $8 additional order of Sunchokes with Meyer Lemon and Espelette. The sunchokes were nicely cooked, with a toothsomeness, but not overly so. However, the meyer lemon and espelette was in the form of a kind of cream in the bottom of the bowl that didn’t really properly coat them. A bit of a strange execution, but I am a big enough fan of sunchokes that it was pleasant to eat.
Dessert proved to be the next best dish of the night. Celeriac Ice Cream, Smoked Pear, and Ginger Beer according to the menu, but I am not sure where all of this was in the dish. The cubes seemed like celeriac but I guess they must’ve been the smoked pear? They did not have a lot of smoke to them, but provided an interesting counterpoint of texture to the dish.
The white quenelle (center) seemed to be a thick, super delicately flavored ice cream that was more like a thick cheese than an ice cream, especially since it retained its immaculate texture despite being almost room temperature. The darker quenelle (left) was a ginger beer whipped cream I think; it was very airy, yet quite savory. The crumbs seemed to be like a savory pie crumble type of thing, and really went great with the combination of the ice cream and whipped cream. I am not exactly sure if the stated flavors all translated onto the plate here, but it was really tasty, and the textures were perfect for me, so I felt it was a great finish to the meal. I also liked that it was not too heavy despite the luxurious textures involved.
We each had a glass of excellent sparkling wine to begin the meal, but I forgot to take a photo. However, we then moved to a bottle of fascinating orange Sivi Pinot 2012, which was an intriguing orange wine from Slovenia. I appreciated how the waiter turned us on to it instead of a Chardonnay from Jura despite it being $12 cheaper. Something about a place that recommends a lower priced wine rubs me the right way in terms of atmosphere. It really went nicely with the meal with a super smooth body and slightly funky minerality. I reall enjoy oddball Eastern European wines, so this was nice to see, and quite reasonable for $48. However, in general, the method of having to go pick out wine from the wall is somewhat cumbersome in such a cramped space, but I suppose it was fun in a way; oddly enough, these bottles weren’t on the wall, and our waiter recommended it instead of the Jura which we found on the wall, so that’s a bit of a pitfall of the system, but I suppose many would find it charming.
So all told, we spent $98/person, but we spent slightly more on alcohol than on the food to be fair. My dining companion had just eaten at Lost at Sea, and he thought it was about even; I don’t think he is a huge fan unfortunately, but also doesn’t think it’s bad. I would say that is the right attitude. I am not sure if prices have just gone up or what, but I didn’t necessarily feel like I got an absurd QPR for the amount of food and general cooking level. The cooking leans more solid than extraordinary.
I actually really liked the Duck a l’Orange (or a la Creamsicle if you will), and there are glimpses of potential the shine through, but their typical price is at $38, and $38 pre-tax/tip can really feed one pretty well in LA. (This was $34 for DineLA though; there is no option not to do DineLA since it’s just a regular $4 discount across the board, and it is not even mentioned; I did enjoy that and wish every restaurant did that for DineLA). But it the same time it’s also a bit less than you would spend at most places doing the same level of cuisine. I think if this had been $25 I would say it was an outrageously good deal rather than a merely alright one. Some of the dishes did seem quite unique, and so I am not really unhappy to have gone and tried it, but I also don’t feel an intense desire to rush back.
Given their penchant for oddball items like the Duck a l’Orange, and the 60 day aged beef from a year ago, it probably is worth checking in with them from time to time, though.