When news first arrived that San Francisco’s famed Tartine Bakery was going to be arriving in L.A. we were hopeful it might mean one more good Bakery and Pastry specialist might be added to our city’s landscape. When we learned that Pizzaiolo Chris Bianco (of Pizzeria Bianco fame) was going to join Tartine and open a restaurant in conjunction with Tartine, this sounded even better.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when final details of Tartine Manufactory L.A. started to emerge: Tartine L.A. was going to have a “Market,” a “Market Bar,” “Tartine Bianco” (which was Chris Bianco’s joint venture restaurant with Tartine), and the “Alameda Supper Club.” And they were not going to be making Pizzas (which is Chris Bianco’s claim to fame), and where was the “Bakery”? And then @PorkyBelly’s excellent early report showing off a menu of Root Greens Kimchi, some Salads, Sweetbreads and some large meat dishes made us wonder even more.
After a few weeks of opening Tartine Bianco, Tartine Manufactory has finally debuted their Tartine Market, Market Bar and Bianco’s new Breakfast & Lunch Menu. It was time to visit:
Approaching Tartine Manufactory (located in the hotter and hotter ROW DTLA (home of the outstanding Kaiseki experience known as Hayato, weekend food festival Smorgasburg and Japanese Fried Chicken purveyor Pikunico, you’re greeted first by the massive bakery kitchen of Tartine. Following the signs you’ll eventually find the entrance to where you want to go:
Tartine Bianco is at 100% capacity when we arrive. A loud, boisterous affair with a full bar on the right side, a bright open kitchen, and well-lit, casual tables.
While Tartine Bianco features No Pizza (sigh), Tartine’s Market Bar is serving “Flatbreads” which are basically electric oven baked square-cut Flatbreads that essentially are like Pizza, but thicker and sturdier.
Tip: You can nicely ask your server if they can procure some of the Flatbreads from Market Bar (across the dining room to the left).
Crushed Bianco Dinapoli Tomato, Parmigiano Reggiano, Basil Flatbread:
While this isn’t anything like Pizzaiolo Chris Bianco’s famous Pizzas from his Pizzeria Bianco, the Crushed Bianco Dinapoli Tomato Flatbread is tasty: There’s a deep umami, rich Tomato flavor coming through, a nice pungent Parmigiano Reggiano and fragrant wafts of Basil aroma in each bite. (This won’t make @lapizzamaven or any Pizza lovers give up their favorites, but it’s a solid slice if you’re in the area.)
One massive get for Tartine Manufactory L.A. is that its Bar Program and Cocktails are headed up by legendary Bar Maestro Julian Cox! We were excited to hear that Julian might be back in L.A. with this endeavor, but it turns out he’s only developed the Cocktail list, but not actually spinning his magic behind the bar. Still, reading the Cocktail menu, it had many signatures of Julian Cox’s past masterpieces.
Tartine Rum Blend and Coconut Cream “Pina Colada” Fresh Pineapple, Tonka Bean, Sparkling Wine:
This was incredible! Super balanced, tropical, easy to sip, tasting of fresh Pineapple, real Coconut and Vanilla notes. This tasted like it could’ve been made by Julian Cox.
Silly Rabbit (Pressed Carrot Juice, Wild Thai Banana, Makrut Lime, Blend of Oaxacan and Haitian Rums, Panang Foam):
This sounded great, but unfortunately it was way too boozy. I loved the fresh pressed Carrot Juice, Banana and Lime, but there was way too much Rum, as if it was made by a different bartender (there were 3 working the bar when we went).
Assorted Breads (Kefir Butter, Nori Butter, Whipped Lardo):
While the baked goods didn’t debut until the following week, they were already making Tartine’s famous Bread Loaves for Tartine Bianco. This was an excellent way to sample all of their Breads to decide what you might like later (to take home).
Oat Porridge Loaf:
My favorite of the Tartine Breads served in L.A., the Oat Porridge Loaf had a subtle nuttiness and a deeper grain-flavor while still retaining a soft, fluffy interior.
I like Sesame Seeds and Sesame flavor in general, but the Sesame Loaf didn’t really shine through with a lot of Sesame flavor (despite the seeds on the outside). It was fine, but we liked the Oat Porridge Loaf more.
Their simplest Country Loaf had a nice airy interior, not dry at all, and a nice chew for the exterior. A good canvas for the 3 different Butters.
Of the 3 Butters, we liked the Nori Butter the most, which really had a strong Nori Seaweed undertone in each bite.
Uni Smorrebrod (Uni, Kohlrabi, Mustard Seed, Lardo):
While it makes sense for Tartine’s restaurant to feature ways for Bread to be a vessel for food delivery, it was a bit strange for us to be eating a Danish dish (Smorrebrod) in a restaurant where Pizza maker Chris Bianco and Tartine Bakery’s Elisabeth Pruiett and Chad Robertson (Pastry and Bread Maker) are collaborating.
While the Lardo, Kohlrabi and Mustard Seed were interesting flavors coming together, it was brought down by bad Uni. The Uni on this evening tasted like it was old Uni, with bad sea water notes.
Morcilla (Apple, Mustard, Fines Herbes):
Next we jump to Spanish Morcilla. This didn’t have a very strong mineral-y flavor that some Blood Sausages might have, but it had a lot of more of a grain-y and nutty flavor. It was fine, but not really Blood Sausage.
Sweetbreads (Crispy Red Rice, Yam, Fermented Chili, Amaranth, Mustard Frill):
This was delicious! The Fermented Chili, Amaranth really worked well with the Sweetbreads. The Crispy Red Rice gave each bite a nice textural contrast and crunch, and the Mustard Frills provided a bright, vegetal aspect, finished off with little bursts of natural sweetness from the Roasted Yams.
However, our friend noted that this really wasn’t a “Sweetbreads” dish as it was a “Salad with Sweetbreads (and Yams and Crispy Rice)” and in hindsight, we’d have to agree. There wasn’t a lot of Sweetbreads compared to all of the other components, but overall this was tasty.
Puntarelle, Date, Stilton, Olives, Allium, Walnut, Sherry Vinaigrette:
This was a good Salad: I loved the Puntarelle’s delicate lightly bitter taste, offset by a surprisingly mild Stilton Cheese, a bit of nice briny salinity from the Olives and nuttiness from the Walnuts. And it wasn’t overdressed, which is a nice change from most restaurants these days.
Whole “Hot” Fish (Dilly Beans, Watercress, Country Croutons, Delta Sauce):
I loved the flavors for their Whole “Hot” Fish: It’s fried super crispy, head and all, and infused with what they call a “Delta Sauce” which was quite spicy! The only downside was that they didn’t fry it hot enough to make the fish bones edible (ala expert Cantonese or Japanese restaurants), but picking out the bones, the meat was perfectly cooked and moist and there was a really good spice infusion.
Spiced Date Cake (Spelt, Brandy Toffee Sauce, Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream):
Loved the Spiced Date Cake that remained super moist with a nice seared, crusty top.
This week, Tartine Bianco debuted their Breakfast and Lunch service, so we decided to stop by and try that out:
It turns out, their Lunch menu is basically their Dinner menu, minus all of the Large Meat dishes, but with 3 Sandwiches added.
Fried Chicken Sandwich (Kohlrabi Sauerkraut, Pickled Jalapeno, Smoked Garlic Aioli, Soft Bun):
It definitely feels like Howlin’ Ray’s has been making an impact around L.A. these days, and “surprise!” we have a Fried Chicken Sandwich here at Tartine as well.
Sadly, the exterior is barely crisped (not crispy, nor crunchy), the Chicken meat is chunky (as if the “patty” was made of diced Chicken chunks), and there’s way too much Kohlrabi Sauerkraut overpowering the Sandwich. Howlin’ Ray’s this is not. (I know, I know @TheCookie, sorry I couldn’t help but make a comparison. It’s not even close.)
Patty Melt (Russian Dressing, Ogleshield, Worcestershire, Sauteed Onion, Country Pullman Bread):
Using Grass-Fed Beef from Washington State, Tartine Bianco’s Patty Melt is lacking the basic understanding of what makes a great Patty Melt. It feels like a wanna-be “chef-ified” version of a Patty Melt, with a clearly good quality Beef patty (you can taste the beefiness), but everything else about it is all wrong: It’s on a super wide Country Bread (burnt on the edges), doused in grease, oil and fat, with barely enough Cheese to add flavor. The whole thing falls apart when you bite into it.
Their last Sandwich for Lunch is a Grilled Cheese.
Service for Lunch and Dinner was adequate, with the servers clearly still learning the menu and dishes. There is a mandatory 5% Service Charge added to the bill in addition to a Tip line.
Moving on to the Market Bar…
The Market Bar is officially the only place you can order their Flatbreads, as well as some Snacks (Olives, Deviled Eggs). They also serve Cheese and Salumi. We tried their Bianco Tomato Flatbread (above) (brought over from Market Bar to Bianco), so for this visit…
Lemon, Red Onion, Rosemary, Young Pecorino Flatbread:
This was quite light: Delicate citrus notes from the Baked Lemon, a bit of Red Onion and faint herbal notes from Rosemary. This definitely tasted more like a Flatbread and less of a Pizza compared to the Bianco Tomato (which was very Margherita Pizza-esque).
Ultimately Market Bar feels like an unfinished concept: I’m not sure many people would want to come to Tartine to only partake in their 3 or 4 Flatbreads, snack on some Olives or Cheese and have a Beer or Wine (the Cocktails and Full Bar are not allowed to be served there, nor any Pastries from their Bakery). Uhm…
Tartine’s Market is a weird mixture of a Provisions / General Store (with Canned Goods, Jams, Dry Goods, Bottled Drinks, along with a deli case for Cheese and Salumi, Soups To Go), and what many people wanted Tartine for: Their Pastries and Baked Goods.
They’re even selling a full lineup of Sqirl’s Jams.
Seeing their Cheese and Salumi section seems fine at first, unless you’ve been to Eataly (or even a well-stocked Whole Foods), at which point this feels like a rather sparse offering.
But walk to the back of the Market, and you’ll find what you’re here for:
Tartine Manufactory finally debuts their famous Tartine Pastries and Desserts this week. We were excited. This is what you expect when you hear that “Tartine” is opening up in L.A.
Tartine L.A.'s 4 Types of Bread:
Time from Oven: 2 Hours.
At least this didn’t look burnt like Tartine San Francisco’s Croissant during our 2nd visit. Taking a bite, it’s crispy, with a light but permeating Butter flavor throughout. However it’s too dry. One of the driest Croissants we’ve had in a long time.
Tartine SF’s Croissants have been hit or miss with us. Over 5 visits, they’ve ranged from disaster to very good. Here, it was just too dried out, but it had a crispness to it still and decent Butter flavor.
The good news is that they said they’ll be making more than 1 batch each day, depending on demand, so there’s hope we could get fresher Croissants throughout the day.
Banana Cream Tart:
When I saw the words “Banana Cream Tart” appear, this was an instant order. Tartine SF’s Banana Cream Tart was one of the Best Bites of 2017 and 2018 for me, so I couldn’t wait!
Taking a bite, it’s got a similar Banana Cream filling and taste (great), but sadly, it’s more watery / liquidy, and then it’s missing the gorgeous Valrhona Dark Chocolate Shell (with its incredible snap and taste) that makes this so outstanding in Tartine SF!
Looking closer, we see a tiny bit of Chocolate but nothing close to resembling the thick, crunchy snap of Dark Chocolate at their original SF location. As is, this is a shell of its original self.
Tartine L.A.'s Eclair is fine. Not exceptional, but a solid rendition of a classic Eclair, with a good Creme Patisserie, but not on the level of the delicateness of a place like Patisserie Chantilly.
Lightly scented with Orange citrus notes, this Pastry is a like a Fried Croissant. There’s a nice shattering crispiness, but it’s very dry.
Bacon Chive Scone:
There was a definite porky Bacon note running in each bite, but we didn’t get much of a Chive flavor. The Melted Cheese and Bacon Fat kept this Scone quite moist, but ultimately we felt the flavors didn’t really come together that well.
Carrot Teff Muffin:
This was a surprise: Their Muffin (made of Teff Flour (also used in Ethiopian Injera Bread)) arrived very moist and the combination of the Carrot Cake Cream Cheese Frosting, notes of Carrot in the Muffin and the Walnuts made this one of the tastiest “Carrot Cake in Small Form” we’ve remembered trying.
Chocolate Hazelnut Tart:
This was deeply chocolatey, with an almost liquid center! I love Hazelnuts and Chocolate, and while generally tasty, it didn’t really sing to the heights one might expect this to. It was tasty, but not “amazing.”
Orange Sesame Teacake:
The Orange was very prevalent, but there was a bitterness that pervaded every bite (perhaps from the Orange Rind?) that might’ve been intentional, but it actually was so prevalent it felt like it sapped away any sweetness from this Teacake.
Lemon Poppyseed Teacake:
Outstanding! SO moist, flavorful, and bursting with a sweetened Lemon and lightly nutty Poppyseed flavor. As good as Tartine San Francisco. (And better than Huckleberry’s.)
Almond Frangipane Croissant:
Thankfully much better than their plain Croissant (just like Tartine SF), the Almond Croissant is crispy, flaky, lightly sweet (not overly sweet) and with a nice amount of Frangipane within. Delicious!
Officially (according to multiple servers and a manager), you’re supposed to buy Tartine’s Pastries from the Tartine Market and then eat it outside / to-go. But since it was raining, and the Market Bar was slow, they allowed people to sit inside and enjoy the Pastries. Tartine Bianco sells only a fraction of the Tartine Pastries on the sitdown side and they won’t be able to get any of the Pastries they don’t carry. In addition, once they sell out of a limited quantity that they set aside for the Bianco side, they’re out (they won’t sell any more, even if the Market Bakery side has more). Weird.
With Tartine Manufactory L.A. finally (mostly) up-and-running, we’re now seeing a clearer picture: Tartine Bianco (the collaboration with Pizzaiolo Chris Bianco and Tartine Bakery’s Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson) is an All-Day Restaurant that is not selling any Pizzas (which is Chris Bianco’s claim to fame). Tartine Market Bar sells Snacks, Beer & Wine, Cheese and Salumi and their Flatbreads Only, and you officially can’t enjoy Tartine’s Pastries there (even though it’s literally connected (the same counter top runs all the way down to the Bakery & Pastry Case)). And we have Tartine Market proper, which sells provisions, dry goods, canned goods, Cheese and Salumi To Go, and it houses Tartine’s Pastries and Desserts To-Go.
The last component is the Alameda Supper Club, which is scheduled to open later on. Management has informed us it will be a “fine dining experience.” Which begs the question:
- Will the real Tartine please stand up?
What is Tartine Manufactory supposed to be? And is it what L.A. wanted? I think I would’ve been happy being able to finally try Chris Bianco’s famous Pizzas brought to L.A. Or just a casual spot to enjoy well-executed Tartine Pastries, Breads and Desserts.
Instead, as @J_L alluded to: We’re getting this oft-seen before “California / European-esque / Farmers Market-driven” restaurant that serves stuff like Hummus, Danish Smorrebrod, Spanish Morcilla, a variety of Salads, and NY Strip Steak, Rotisserie Chicken, Pork Shoulder and Fried Fish?!
In addition, Tartine L.A.'s Pastries range from poor to very good, with too many of them being dry, not very well done, and a shadow compared to our talented L.A. maestros. Tartine L.A.'s Pastries (sans the Lemon Poppyseed Teacake) don’t hold a candle to Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke’s creations at Republique, nor Pastry Chef Karen Hatfield at Sycamore Kitchen, nor Pastry Chef Zoe Nathan when she was running Huckleberry. Gjusta’s Housemade Breads are more enjoyable than Tartine L.A.'s Breads (at least from what we tasted, but we’ll leave the final decision to our FTC Bread Gurus like @bulavinaka @Bookwich and others).
Hopefully as Tartine gets more settled in, it will find a better identity, and improve its foundation of Baked Goods, Pastries and Desserts. Maybe one day we might even see Chris Bianco’s famous Pizzas. But until then it feels like Tartine Manufactory is having an identity crisis.
(includes Tartine Bianco, Tartine Market, Market Bar and Alameda Supper Club)
(inside ROW DTLA complex)
757 Alameda Street, Suite 160
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Tel: (213) 375-3315