Thursday, July 31, 2008

Search for Sweetbreads

Restaurant 2117
(310) 477-1617
2117 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, 90025
$30 for three small plates

I had checked the menu before arriving and I promised myself that no matter what I decided to order, the sauteed sweetbreads would be my appetizer. My determination came from the fact that I've just never had sweetbreads before. Don't let the name fool you, as any foodie worth his salt knows, the sweetbreads are the thymus glands generally of beef. Now whereas that should be common knowledge, who knows what thymus gland actually does? According to Wikipedia, in humans it is located in the chest cavity behind the sternum and is instrumental in the formation of infection fighting T-cells. Sweetbreads, like giblets and kidneys are considered offal, organ meats that are not skeletal muscle. Apparently liver is an exception though. Now I've never liked liver as a kid, and my one experience with foie gras wasn't that gratifying; but sweetbreads were my new quest dish, something I just had to try.

Besides having the most difficult name to remember, this restaurant looks very non-discreet. I actually forgot to take a picture of the exterior because it was so plain. The restaurant is named simply after its address. Chef Hideyo Mitsuno makes predominately French dishes with Italian pastas, both accented with Japanese ingredients and flavors. Actually, the menu is very similar to Sawtelle Kitchen, although I'd argue that Sawtelle Kitchen leans more towards Italy while Restaurant 2117 has a Gallic slant.

Since I had just gone to Josie the night before and planned to go to a buffet the next night, I opted for three small plates to get a good sampling of the food. Come to think of it, I probably should've tried the pasta too, but the appetizer menu was too tempting.

Half duck leg confit, ravigote sauce

Following my somewhat disappointing duck confit at Comme Ca, I hoped to redeem my opinion of duck confit. Traditionally, a duck or goose leg is salted and herbed, then submerged in its own rendered fat for preservation. What part of that sentence doesn't sound finger-licking good? This duck confit pictured above had a much richer flavor than the one I've had before. The duck flavor was prominent, as it should be since it is such a delicious poultry. Underneath the meat was something like a relish which contrasted nicely with the salty leg meat.

Kobe beef short ribs, Thai style, spicy lemon fish sauce

What I liked about this dish was its startling simplicity. It really showcased the quality meat, and the sauce didn't distract too much from that. This dish was loaded with umami, and I had that satisfying lip-smacking feeling for an hour or two after the meal. I think if the fish sauce was lime accented instead of lemon, it might have benefited the beef more. At least it would've offered something sweeter to cut through the fat.

Sauteed sweetbread, port wine sauce

Here was the reason I came, those two cripy nuggets on a lake of port reduction. When I say nuggets, I mean McDonald's chicken McNuggets. These resembled them in form; I was actually quite surprised. I've seen raw sweetbreads, but never breaded and fried as they are commonly prepared. Taking a bite, I couldn't keep that thought of chicken nuggets out of my head, and rightly so. These flavors were the same ones I encountered in my Happy Meals as a kid, except much more intense. They were incredibly juicy and the texture was much creamier than that of the mechanically processed chicken. I would best decribe these sweetbreads as super nuggets, or what nuggets would taste like if you paid $10 a plate. I was not exactly disappointed, but I felt like there are many more things you can do sweetbreads.

Overall, Restaurant 2117 is actually a great place to go for some simple French food at an affordable price. The Kobe style meatloaf was delicious, although I still believe that's a waste of good beef. And if it was waste meat anyway, as common in ground beef, would you want to eat a loaf of it? Next time I come, I will try the pastas.

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