Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Grist for LA Mill

Walk into Silver Lake's new LA Mill cafe and you know you are in for something different. Where do I start: the somewhat- bizarre-uber-cool-Kelly Wearstler-Regency-style-borderline ugly-yet hip decor, the formal format, the over-extracted espresso and unremarkable pastries, or the high prices... We just wanted some coffee and a pastry, and a table to enjoy it on. It is not like your usual coffee house format where you order at the counter then take your coffee to an available table. We were seated by the host, ordered our coffee through the server, and were presented it on little wooden trays, with little cut-outs for the saucer to fit. There is something very uncomfortable about this place. I felt like I was in an ultra chic and overpriced hotel restaurant. Absolutely not comfortable for lingering over the newspaper and coffee. They are clearly reaching for new heights, sort of the French Laundry of coffee. Just as I was getting used to restaurant menus listing the farm from which their dendelion greens came from, now we have a coffee store listing thier milk source (Strauss Organic). Anyone heard of textured milk? Well, now I have! Here is a sample from their menu: "Vanilla Latte - Espresso poured directly over house made vanilla bean-infused syrup, mixed with textured milk and topped with foam 4/5" and, "Espresso/ in porcelain cup - coffee brewed under approximately 9ATM of pressure, created strong and rich 1.5-2oz. beverage topped with traditional foam known as crema 2.5" What is an ATM? Be sure you hit one up before you come here! Over-wrought, pretentious, uncomfortable, overstaffed, highly stylized. I don't like trashing establishments on my bIog, so let me clarify that these critisims are based on the fact that they are trying to do something different, and I just do not want something different. I can appreciate that they make their own vanilla syrup and chocolate sauce, and take coffee seriously (they even have a couple Clover machines). I was just expecting a more comfortable, relaxed environment for early morning coffee. They offer lunch (with a menu by Michael Cimarusti, who was in the kitchen that morning) which looks promising. But for your regular AM coffee, I think I will stick to nearby Intelligentsia.

LA Mill
1636 Silver Lake Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026


H. C. said...

Haven't gotten a chance to visit myself yet, but yea -- from the prices, how the menu is described & the various photos, I get the feeling that I'd feel uncomfortable eating a casual meal here as well.

On the other hand, I've heard mostly raves about their food (despite its upscale prices... $16 for a panini?!) so I may still eventually stop for a quick bite.

Anonymous said...

atm is a unit of measure for pressure. 1 atm (atmosphere) being the pressure at sea-level (simplifying a bit).

or...it's a term that can be used to add a bit of ultrapretension to your uberchic coffee boutique's menu. :)

Anonymous said...

In some respects I find this place insulting. In certain parts of Europe you would get a good/quality cup of coffee with quality milk and a pastry at the bar, stand or maybe sit, drink it, eat it and be done. No fuss, no tip, no pretension.

I don't really think they are doing anything different. They are using higher quality milk, which most places if not all should use. And they have invested in quality machinery.

I wish them all the best, but tone down the descriptions it's annoying and again insulting.

Unknown said...

The joint is completely out of place on Silver Lake Blvd. The place is gorgeous, indeed, but is not inviting. It reminds me of a place i would find on the Vegas strip in one of the upper scale casinos, not in grotty old Silver Lake, next to a auto body shop and the (sniffle) carcass of Netty's (RIP).

Anonymous said...

The thing I love about LA is that bloggers have a certain amount of power and reach a certain audience. The thing I hate about LA-see above.
Bree-I generally love what you write and find it refreshing and always personal. You're right about the hotel restaurant feel, and I don't like that personally.
Where I disagree with you, however, is your use of 'over-extracted' espresso. If you know anything about espresso, you know that LA Mill and Intelligentsia are the only two specialty coffee places in LA doing espresso correctly. Oh yes, there are restaurants and coffee places doing things well, but not with a degree of execution they should be. (Klatch in San Dimas, Kean in the South Bay also).
As for the milk, Starbucks et al, could only HOPE to have milk that is especially designed for steaming. Consumers who know espresso and know how it's paired with milk know the difference in taste, texture, and quality. It's a matter of chemistry.
The fact that you don't want something different means that you can feel free to sit at Starbucks, Susina, Aroma, wherever 'til your heart is content.
I always love someone who prefaces something by saying "I don't like trashing..." and then goes on to trash...it's like saying "I don't smoke" but then has a cigarette because they're having it with a glass of wine...
just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

er, so, everyone take a chill pill. she is entitled to her opinion. guess what? she is correct, indeed. local here: this place does not belong. should be on melrose place or robertson blvd. "too" much of everything. more is not more. end of story. intell gets my buck any day.

Anonymous said...

then go to Intelligentsia...they'll welcome your buck. Being in Silver Lake (yes, it's two words) I'm really happy they are here and so are most of my friends who live here. Why should they conform to the typical run of the mill (excuse the pun)when they can push the envelope and do something different?

They are breaking new ground and more power to them. It elevates the overall game for everyone.

Next you'll be claiming it was LA Mill's fault Back door went and now Michaelangelo....hmmm?

KT said...

I haven't been, so I can't comment, but your description of "uncomfortable" is exactly the reason I haven't been in a hurry to run over and check L.A. Mill out.

The place seems a little too precious and while I like fanciness sometimes, getting coffee is a process that I like to be as low-key as possible, not a big production.

Anonymous said...

i was there this morning, and while they have some kinks to work out in terms of service, the food and coffee were great. it's nice to have something a little bit different in silver lake. i get a little bored of brite spot.

Anonymous said...

I always find it amusing when people with conflicting opinions post anonymously. Have something to hide? It's a blog for goodness' sake - no one is going to be out to get you for disagreeing.

Anyway, I haven't been (must confess I just made it to Intelligentsia for the first time last week) but Irene gave the Mill a nice write up in Thursday's Times so I had high hopes. Silver Lake is just so frickin' far away, though.

Frankly, I make a fine latte' at home every day with my little Breville machine, the pods I import from Italy and the milk I buy at Ralphs!!!

Keep on rockin' Bree! I love your blog and you're still two steps ahead of me at every place you write about...


I agree in that they take their coffee a little too seriously, but I actually thought it was kinda funny. I did enjoy the best cafe au lait of my life so i was willing to over look the fact that my coffee was $5. It's not somewhere I would go for my everyday cup o' java but I don't think it is meant to be that type of place. The breakfast was OUTSTANDING!!! While Lamill may seem more Bev Hills, I don't think people in that area actually appreciate GREAT food and Drink ... that's why the ivy and spago are still popular :)