Monday, April 7, 2008

Los Angeles, I'm Yours: The Little Door

On the way to Burbank last Thursday I was sick and tired and achey in a dirty, white, long-sleeved gym shirt and dirty underwear. On the plane I had drooled on the older woman next to me but when I finally woke up, after almost 4 1/2 hours of uninterrupted mile high slumber, she hardly seemed to mind. Not at all. Instead she thought it was just the cutest thing how I managed to sleep so soundly and made sure to recreate the honkish noise I had apparently given the stewardess when she wouldn't stop shoving the snack tray into my shoulder. She didn't even care that during my snooze I had flailed my arm and knocked her Diet Coke onto both of our laps. I could have been embarrassed when I woke up but when I looked out the window and down onto the backside of a smoggy, electric skyline, I turned to my fly partner and instead of sorries, smiled sleepily and said "We've made it".

Taking my grandma to the grocery store and getting bean dip at Los Toros with Bridget would have been plenty to erase the memory of my Thursday morning appointment at the oral surgeon's, but apparently I lead a blessed life. Soaking the backs of my milky white calves in sand and sun after a bike ride on the beach with Mom I got a text message from a far away friend who had been jonesing so seriously for some top-notch Los Angeles glitz, glam, and fine dining that he bought a ticket on a whim and would touch down by 6pm.

10 minutes later I was high-tailing my cut-off and bikini top clad self South on the Venice Boardwalk. By 5:30 I had scored a sexy, steel grey number at TJ Maxx for $15 bucks (!!). By 6:15 I was gliding Grandma's Buick Le Sabre into Terminal 1's passenger loading zone.

By 9pm we were standing in front of the castle style entrance of The Little Door, busy 3rd St making beautiful machine noises behind us. Seconds later we were taking small steps into an atrium dripping with pink roses, ivy, thousands of sulky candles, and a sea of tan, happy, and attractive LA diners.

Our hostess was very sloshed and not so much paying attention to her job, but because she was also very French and had a cute little gap between her two front top teeth, and because having a glass of Champagne at the bar didn't sound all that miserable we didn't complain much. Instead we toasted with Louis de Sacy Grand Cru Brut and eyed the room flirtatiously, knowing that we looked at least 12x more attractive than usual with the aide of pale candlelight and a marine layer of angel's portion painting the air.

The table we were lead to by our beaming, balding (prematurely), and bow-tied waiter was cramped but cozy in the corner of the "Winter Garden" room. We started the meal with a goat cheese tart which was tasty but quickly forgotten when my seared foie gras in a maple demi-glaze served with a thick cut brioche French toast was served. The foie was seared perfectly- the edges crispy and still very hot, salted with quality sea salt. The intense maple flavor of the sauce sunk into the liver just softly enough that the first sweet taste of syrup slowly gave way to the subtler, gamey sweetness of the duck. Even my vegetarian dining partner couldn't help himself.

I didn't try the vegetarian's massive pile of four cheese, homemade pasta (which seemed painfully uninspired and collegiate, though undoubtedly delicious...) but my seared day boat scallops with saffron sauce were good enough. I don't remember seeing or eating the braised leeks the menu told me about but the little, pastry-bag squeezed dollops of beet puree were a surprising compliment to the scallop, both rendered unexpected creaminess with distinct, pleasant tastes of earth and ocean.

We drank our very soft, very round, very enjoyable 2004 Trefethen Merlot (Napa) too quickly and by the time we left the restaurant we were happily buzzed, in love with Los Angeles, and ready for the perfect margarita and El Carmen, next-door.

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