"This is the most interesting restaurant food we've eaten all year," my long-time reviewing partner, Penny, said at the end of dinner last night. "It's many dishes you don't see on other L.A. menus, brilliantly prepared, and lots of old classics which he's re-conceived." Ms. McTaggart sure got it right...TERRINE is just terrific, a rustically-beautiful place and outright fun. It's located at 8265 Beverly Blvd. (323) 746-5130, between Sweetzer and Harper, with valet parking in the rear, where the former Pane e Vino and Serina was, now redesigned to be the hip modern French bistro-brasserie it has become. (When asked to differentiate between the two, I explain that a bistro is a smaller, more intimate bar-and-bite place while a brasserie is a bigger, busier, more people-friendly eatery.) The best feature of the recent eateries is still here, a breathtaking romantic patio with a nice 20-year old tree. The brick interior features a long copper-and-marble bar and a large kitchen window facing the dining room. The old wood-burning pizza oven is still here behind the bar, as is the wine cellar featuring about a thousand bottles. What's new, apart from the smart redesign, is the trio of guys who have taken it on and made it their own. Stephane Bombet is a venturesome restaurateur who made his mark with a modern Peruvian cantina, Picca, as well as Mo-Chica and the VIP Room in Paris before that. Francoise Renaud is the Rolling Stone writer who then worked on selecting wines with Silvio DeMori at Mimosa as well as the much-missed La Cachette, and he has fashioned one of the most entertaining wine lists in the city, almost all French with a few California vintages thrown in for respect. There are some 15 wines by the glass, so you can experiment with several. But it is the third member of the team which makes this place so special for me. Kris Morningstar (don't you love that name) is a chef whose career I have been following for many years, since I first encountered him at the Patina Group. I last rave-reviewed him at Ray's & the Stark Bar on the LACMA patio. In the three months that Terrine has been open, food-lovers have flocked here for Kris' take on many classic French bistro dishes. I had stopped by a few times but waited 'til now for a full-scale review when foie gras was legal again and offered here. Is it ever!
A terrine is described in the French glossery as a glass jar or rectangular pan filled with meat forcemeat, like a pate or meat loaf but not really. It's usually served cold or at room temperature. Apart from pork, I have had terrines made with game bird meat, venison and wild boar. The epitome of a French terrine is the one with duck or goose foie gras, and we shared a generous portion of one at our dinners. Unctious, smooth and silky, with a deep livery flavor, his terrine ($18) comes with Port-poached figs and a baguette. This was preceded by the restaurant's signature dish, the Charcuterie Board ($26), a long board filled with pork rillettes, country pate, duck-and-pistachio terrine, meats like smoked deckle (brisket) and liverwurst, chorizo, truffled chicken liver, head cheese, andouille, pickles and olives. I could (and will) make a dinner of this dish alone, and many diners in recent nights have been doing so. But to do that means missing some of the most exciting appetizers and mains in town. Someone had raved about the Brussel Sprouts Salad ($14), made with caramelized sprouts joined with dates, Pecorino cheese, walnuts and apples. David Rapoport was won over by Kris' pasta offerings, especially an Herb Spaetzle ($22), the tiny 'hats' mixed with wild mushrooms, scallions, crème fraiche, Pecorino, and a farm-yolk egg. So many delicious things it boggles my mind... Stuffed Bone Marrow ($11), with beets, horseradish, oxtail; a Squid Ink Spaghetti ($24) with sqid and bottarga (tuna roe); Truffled Rice Agnolotti ($22) with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and a porcini sauce; an Octopus ($18) with toasted broccoli, burrata and salsa Calabrese; a half of Mary's Roast Chicken with Moroccan-flavored chermoula ($26); Onion Soup ($10) topped with a hearty Comte cheese in beef broth; several unique pizzas, a hearty Boudin Blanc($25, white sausage) with parsnip puree, roasted apples, cippolini onions and a vinegar sauce; a Bavette (steak, $28 for 10 oz.), the onglet cut smoky and tender; Joining these is what they describe as the city's best Fish and Chips ($20), fresh cod lightly battered, with fries that had been double-fried, and a Cote de Boeuf ($96 for 24 oz.) sliced off the bone, for about three or four trenchermen.
Yet to be tried is a Pig's Ear Salad ($14), an awesme-sounding Duck Fat Yorkshire Pudding ($10), and Fluke Crudo ($14). Last night the market fish was a Whole Roasted Loup de Mer ($42), served with snap peas, garum, with a fried garlic vinaigrette.Kris sent out a new dish, succulent tiny Diver's Scallops ($18) atop a green apple puree beside grated celeriac. He mentioned that Monday night dinners had become a special event here, with a selected ingredient featured with a special three-course dinner..March is scallops, April will be lamb, and May wiil be soft shell crabs. Chefs from all over the city end here late that night to partake of the rustc fare.There is a bar program designed by Ryan Wainwright with a dozen classic cocktails....think Jack Rose, Rob Roy and a Honeysuckle ($12). I liked the Tequila Ocho Reposado ($14)..
Kris and Stephane told me that they are now open for brunch three days a week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and had me salivating as they described some of the dishes on the lunch menu....House-smoked Brisket Hash with a sunnyside egg, horseradish and a burnt-lillies sauce; Pane Perdu ($14), vanilla-battered French toast with sea salt caramel frosting and maple syrup; Frisee aux Lardons ($14), with Benton's bacon, a slow-cooked egg and mustard vinaigrette; and Croque Madame, which is that grilled ham-and-cheese wonder with an egg. There's Spicy Fried Chicken with Grits (love those grits, $16), and a dish which I have not seen outside of Paris: Eggs in Purgatory ($14) - two fried eggs cooked and served in a spicy tomato sauce topped with fennel pollen, basil and Pecorino chees. Kris smiled as he described the Gravlax Tartine, with cured gravlax atop freshly-baked bread smothered in garlic cream cheese.....he knew my culinary proclivities. Desserts are not an afterthought here, since Sahar Shomali is the pastry chef: Baumkuchen ($10) is a warm citrus-marmalade with citrus-leaf frozen yogurt, and there was an Apple-Pear Gallotte which was utterly sinful. It was Penny's birthday and we celebrated with the Birthday Cake, a bit too sweet for my taste.
Celebrating with Penny's birthday cake.
Oh, my, this place is wonderful. I love the fact that the food is superbly-prepared with care (or love) and served by a friendly, knowledgeable staff like our server, Mollie. Like me, you will be thinking of your next visit as you walk out the door. I know I will see you there.
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