My family took me out for dinner at Providence for my birthday. Michael Cimarusti (of the Top Chef Masters fame for those of you foodie reality show-aholics) is the co-owner and executive chef of the restaurant. As demonstrated by his appearance on Top Chef Masters, he must have had quite a reputation.
This was easily understood when I arrived and saw that Providence has also garnered 2 stars from the Michelin folks. All this aside, admittedly, I had never heard of him prior to Top Chef Masters. I wonder how many non-hard core foodies had. Considering his brief appearance on the show, he didn’t make much of an impression on me, so I actually didn’t have a very high level of expectation going in.

We started off with an amuse bouche trio. Starting from the left, there is the Gin & Tonic in a gelatinous cube which is activated by the lime, then a Mojito in a thin skin that breaks in your mouth and lastly on the right is the Carrot soup with creme fraiche. They were all pretty interesting actually, especially the first two. It was a twist on “starting a meal with a cocktail.” Instead of a sip of Grey Goose & Tonic, you got a burst of gin & tonic and a mojito in the form of gelatinous cubes and bubbles bursting in your mouth. It was kind of fun. 🙂 The carrot soup was fine. It wasn’t as memorable as the other two, but it truly cleansed the palate in preparation for the first course.

The first course was the Japanese Kanpachi served with a soy creme fraiche and crispy rice crackers. The kanpachi was very fresh, and I loved the contrast in textures that the rice crackers and creme fraiche added…. a little crunch and a little fluff.

No fancy meal would be totally complete without some dish being plated or prepared table side. It makes for a feast for not just the tummy, but the eyes as well. In this case, we ordered the Santa Barbara Salt-Roasted Spot Prawns. This was an addition to the prix fixe menu, because the waiter’s description seemed to make all of us salivate so much that we couldn’t resist.
They rolled out a cart with a couple pans piled high with salt. They proceeded to fish out all the prawns from the mounds of salt and cut them open like so. The prawn was simply drizzled with some olive oil and lemon, and it tasted so good. It was so sweet-tasting and fresh and so flavorful. I really liked it.

The next course was the Hokkaido Sea Scallops prepared with chanterelles, haricot vert, and applewood-smoked bacon. Scallops are my absolute favorite when they are fresh and well-cooked. I find the frozen scallops always have a funny taste. Frozen seafood usually has a funny taste, but scallops are one that I personally can’t stand. Anyways, this scallop was very well-prepared. It was cooked just right. The bacon added a smoky flavor to the sauce, and I liked the chanterelles. All in all, probably one of my favorite dishes of the night.

The wild alaskan halibut was prepared with some shiso, lemon and burdock. I was not expecting it to taste as moist and unctuous as it did. The creme fraiche was light, and the raspberry offered a nice fruity flavor.

The last coarse was a nice piece of Roasted Tenderloin of Veal which was served with crushed butterball potatoes, spring onions, hazelnuts, and spring garlic confit. It was very well-cooked, and the crushed butterball potatoes was a little bit of a cross between au gratin potatoes and a potato pancake. It was very good.

I’ve never been big on desserts, but all the prix fixe menus comes with them. The dessert was a cheesecake with a gingerbread crust and cranberry puree on top. It was served with a pear sorbet and coffee flavored ice cream. I really liked the cheesecake. It was pretty light but very tasty. My mom somehow told them she didn’t like cheese, and they misinterpreted it as her being allergic to dairy. It was very nice how accommodating they were about it. So as a result, they brought her some chocolate-type dessert. I remember it being pretty good, but like I said, the desserts are usually just an after thought for me. I’m too full by this point to ever truly appreciate it. Hehe!

I come from a family of foodies. We all like to eat. So much so that our get togethers, vacations, etc always revolve around food. My sister-in-law, JL, and sister’s boyfriend, Bongky, also joined the party.

All in all, Providence is a very good restaurant, and I definitely have to rank it near the top of my smaller, but growing list of top restaurants in Southern California. As far as fine dining goes, the ambiance of the restaurant is on par, but it is a little bit on the dark side. However, considering its proximity to LA/Hollywood, maybe they keep it dimly lit on purpose to avoid any paparazzi/star sightings. On this note, Miguel Ferrer (as in George Clooney’s cousin and star of Crossing Jordan) was actually sitting at the table across from ours. The service was very attentive which is no surprise for Michelin-rated restaurants. They get kudos for attempting to remedy my Mom’s non-existent dairy allergy. Haha! It was a very nice night, and I have to thank my family for another wonderful birthday meal.

PAFO Ratings for Providence:
Price 4 ½ stars
Ambiance 3 ½ stars
Food 4 ½ stars
Overall rating 4 stars


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