Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Upstairs 2

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...

Upstairs 2
2311 Cotner Ave.
Los Angele, CA 90064


Anonymous said...

Am eagerly waiting to hear what the LLT is...!

By the way, nice pic!

How about going up to Matteo's and checking it out for me? I see that Don Dickman, formerly of Rocca in Santa Monica, is now there. Question: will Matteo's continue to serve southern Italian fare (i.e. lots of tomato sauce and noodles) or will Dickman convert them to the rustic Tuscan menu he excels at?

triplecreme said...

I am afraid Matteo's will be overpriced quasi-mediocre Eye-Talian food. Why don't you try it and tell me how it is? ;-)

Anonymous said...

what does LLT stand for?

Jenn said...

I used to love the Friday night wine tasting that wine house used to host. $20 and you get 20 tastes, and they always had good bread, cheese, meat and some entree to snack on. It was one of the best deals where wine newbies and wine snobs and everyone in between could get together and enjoy the experience.

I was very disappointed when wine house renovated and opened upstairs2. Seems like they are neglecting the little people like me and catering more toward the wine snobs of LA. It lost a lot of its charm.

While I haven't eaten a full meal at upstairs 2, I've had appetizers and sat at the bar. Both times the snack plates and the wine were unmemorable and overpriced. My second and last time I went there involved the bartender "tasting" the wine before she served it, and then spitting it out in a sink directly in front of where I was sitting. It was so gross!

What a disappointment. I wish they would bring back the Friday night tastings! They apparently have another bar across the way that they use for scotch tastings, but I haven't ever heard of them opening it up.