Tapenade – Sawtelle’s Secret

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Although Tapenade in Los Angeles is technically located on Olympic Blvd, it is as much of a part of Sawtelle Blvd as are the countless ramen joints that line the street. Tapenade is tucked away in a strip mall on the corner of Sawtelle and Olympic but once you step inside the restaurant you are transported to a family restaurant that could be found on any street corner in the entire country. When gazing at the portraits on the wall, you can’t help but feel at home when those family gatherings meant just about everything.

The first look at the menu is a bit overwhelming; there are about 8 different categories to choose from and without guidance from the server, it might just swallow you whole. Don’t let that scare you because once you get settled in and order a glass of wine, everything gets a little easier.

Our first order of business was to decide which type of brussel sprouts we were going to choose. After learning about their ridiculously famous – and delicious – brussel sprouts, we noticed that they have 6 different types to choose from. We were fighting over ordering the Moroccan or Thai style but after much convincing from our server, we went for the original dish. I was quite fine with the decision however my guest for the evening had a different opinion. When certain restaurants have multiple styles of one dish, I always choose the original because if that can not be executed properly than there seems to be no hope for anything else. The dish was superb, finely shaved brussel sprouts with a healthy char dressed with parmesan, aged red wine vinegar, capers and almonds. On our next visit, we will definitely step up our game and order one of the international versions.

We gazed heavily at the bread section but after much thought, we decided to skip it since we knew it would just be a filler since our goal was to explore the menu as much as possible. That being said, we opted for the Hen of the Wood Mushroom dish aka Maitake Mushroom and the Roasted Squid. The mushroom dish was served over very creamy parmesan polenta with truffle oil. Everyone on earth knows how great parmesan and truffle taste together and finding it blended with polenta is just icing on the cake. The mushroom itself was cooked perfectly firm and creamy. A dish not to miss on your next visit. The roasted squid was a very simple dish but each flavor worked well together. Roasted tomato, cannellini beans, Spanish chorizo and micro arugula are the flavors of a well oiled machine.

We opted for the Goat Cheese Tapenade for our next course because, well, we were in fact dining at Tapenade. The dish was good but can become very hearty when served with very thick brioche slices of buttered bread. It almost becomes a meal in itself but there is definitely nothing wrong with that.

A good thing to remember is that all of their pasta is homemade but since our stomachs were beginning to wave the white flag, we skipped over the pasta section and headed for the main plates. One last hoorah, or so, before we called it a night. The absolutely best decision we made all night was ordering the Boneless Beef Short Rib. It was a meal fit for a king so I crowned myself for that particular moment. The dish is served in a ceramic pot with potato puree and a red wine reduction, nothing fancy, just great flavors done right.

If we had any room left whatsoever – which we didn’t – we were going to order the Whisky Crème Brulee for dessert and that is exactly what we did. If you don’t know by now, I’m not a huge fan of sweets but you have to applaud anything made this well. I love dishes that you can have fun with and taking your spoon and cracking the top of the dessert is entertaining enough for me.

 

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