Monday, March 31, 2008

Sawtelle Kitchen

2024 Sawtelle Blvd
West Los Angeles, CA 90025

Adequately Fed: $24
Umeshu (Plum Wine)****
Fried Yams with Plum Mayonnaise*****
Penne with Tomato, Garlic, Eggplant and Shiso****
Lamb Shank**
Blackberry Champagne Sorbet*****
(Out of Five Stars)

I had been waiting to go to Sawtelle Kitchen for months upon a recommendation by my Aunt and Uncle. Unfortunately, it had been under renovations for months and so I only recently had an opportunity to go. The place looks great, although I had not seen it before the new expansion. It's decorum reflects its cuisine, a deep Tuscan feel. Despite being located in a Japanese area and having many elements of Japanese cuisine on the menu, the food must be more correctly characterized as European.

The most striking characteristic of this restaurant upon first entering was the abundance of wine. We ordered a glass of plum wine which was deliciously sweet, but maybe not dry enough for serious wine drinkers. Looking at other reviews, we ordered the fried yams appetizer. The yams themselves were fried well, but the highlight of that dish was the plum mayonnaise, which I expected to be sickeningly sweet, but in fact was subdued and intricate. The potato croquettes were nothing spectacular.

The pasta was a light penne which looked like an eggplant heavy dish on the menu, but in fact, the eggplant brought nothing to the dish. Despite this, it was well combined with the other ingredients adding onto each other and building a complex flavor. Shiso is the herb perilla most commonly known by its Japanese name. In this dish, the shiso complemented the tomatoes without overwhelming them.

The disappointment of the night would have to be the lamb shank, advertised as braised for five hours on the menu. For lamb cooked this long, I expected a flavor explosion, but received only a fizzle at most. It had no distinguishing flavors and even the lamb flavor had been sadly destroyed.Braised Lamb Shank

At least the dessert was redeeming. Choosing between the green apple and the blackberry champagne sorbets, the waiter recommended the latter. It reminded me of the black raspberry yogurt at Ben and Jerry's, a deep berry taste with a splash of champagne crispness.

The waiter was extremely helpful, though he had a hard time explaining how Japanese meatloaf differed from American meatloaf. Although the particular dishes I got this time didn't reflect that well on the restaurant, I would considering returning to try some of its other menu items including the various grilled fishes.

Recommended: The decor makes this a great place to bring a date, just don't expect Japanese food or you will be disappointed.

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