Tuesday, October 10, 2006
A couple weeks ago I tried Upstairs 2 for the first time. I have been putting off writing this review because I just cannot get excited about the experience. We left the restaurant fairly satisfied, but the more I think about it, the more I did not like it. It was not horrible, just very unmemorable. And service that night was just below par.
Upstairs 2 is situated in the old tasting room, upstairs, above The Wine House. It is a very small and charming space, you easily forget you are right next to the freeway, down the road from warehouses and strip clubs. The chef is Todd Barrie formerly of Joe's. The food is reminiscent of Joe's contemporary cuisine, but next time, I will go to Joe's instead. There are no normal sized entrees, everything is a "small plate", appetizer size, meant to be shared. They are divided into "hot," "cold," and "flatbread," as well as a few cheeses and charcuterie selections.
For an aperitif, Susan and I started off with a Moscato d' Asti, the least expensive glass from the list of sparking wines. We just wanted a nice, light, refreshing sparking wine to stimulate our palates. But instead it was just like apple juice with 2 bubbles. We expected something less sweet and more effervescent, and when expressed this to our server, she did not jump at the chance to replace them. The sommelier did replace them, but after a lecture on the sweet and barely sparking qualities of Moscato d'Asti. Apparently, we should have known better. But we didn't. And DJ's martini had an olive stuffed with jalapeno, flavoring the gin, ruining an otherwise satisfyingly simple cocktail.
After telling our very persistent server too slow down the pace (every 3 minutes she wanted to take our order, while we just wanted to finish our cocktails before we started to think about food), the chef sent out an amuse bouche - some thick, pasty, puree with a sliver of salami. Too thick to eat from a spoon gracefully.
The dishes were good, but not great. DJ asked me what we ate that stands out in my mind, and I quickly replied, "the black rice." A wonderfully nuttty, buttery rice served with shrimp. He replied the same.
Nothing else was super-memorable. I am struggling a little right now to remember the details of the dishes. The scallops were cooked perfectly, set atop a lemon risotto cake (which had the disadvantage of giving me 'Nam-like flashbacks of frying an endless amount little risotto cakes for a caterer I used to work for).
I had venison for the first time, which was surprisingly pleasant, but a tad dry - too lean for me. What else...oh yeah, we had lamb rib chops - one cooked medium, the other med-rare, just OK. What else...a very unattractive dish of zucchini chunks and sausage...
Asiago stuffed dates, good, but not great...
and boring (sorry, DJ) profiteroles for dessert...
With tip, the 3 of us paid $75 each. We enjoyed two Spanish wines, including a lovely Ribera Del Duero for $29, available downstairs in the store for $16.99. Did it pass the LLT? No. I will explain The LLT later...
2311 Cotner Ave.
Los Angele, CA 90064