Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Before I delve into an attempt to catch up on some more home cooking, soufflés, and a couple short trips to Chicago and New York, I want to take a moment to remember a great meal I treated my parents to in celebration of their 30th anniversary last August.

The meal was at Providence. Providence...providence...not prudence...not prominence...province...provincial. Wait. What does providence mean?

Well, providence is supposedly a noun. It is the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power. It is God or nature as providing such care.

That's a ways away from what I thought it meant, which, let's be honest, was nothing. I had no idea what it meant, but after eating my way through an excellent night with my parents, the word attained a whole lot of meaning. And while the word may seem pretentious, the natural and calm manner in which everything flowed, from the waitstaff to the beautifully composed dishes, absolved the word, and the restaurant, of any pretention.

The exterior of the restaurant is relatively unassuming as far as two-star Michelin restaurants go. With only a small valet stand and a simple restaurant logo to guide excited diners, finding the entrance was just a tad confusing.

Entering the restaurant felt like entering an aquarium. From floor to ceiling, the restaurant is decorated with installments that allude to corals and waves. The waitstaff weaves its way like a well-run school and the diners' smiles float throughout the room like bubbles. Nothing too obvious, but not entirely subtle either. Providence is famous for its seafood, after all.

The menu offers a la carte options, but with main courses starting at $43, its multi-course options didn't seem so bad. Out of the five-course, full tasting, chef's, and market menu, my parents and I opted for the market menu.

First up, a couple of cocktails. The Screwdriver Bubble glowed like a separated egg yolk and bursted with the familiar flavors of spiked orange juice. The Mojito Gelee screamed of mint and lime and had a noticeable kick of alcohol and sugar. Nothing to get anyone buzzed, but more than enough to start off the night on a fun note.

Next up was a quartet of crunchy bites. At the top-left was Fried Salmon Skin, which pretty much tasted like any other salmon skin: oily, crispy, salty, and delicious. At its opposite corner were a couple Rice and Sesame Crackers that had the texture and flavor of Korean puffed rice and sesame crackers. Again, nothing special, but enough to get my taste buds going. At the bottom-left were three round Caprese Puffs filled with creamy mozzarella and topped with a sweet tomato jam.

At its opposite corner were three identical Salmon Puffs filled with delicious orbs of salmon roe that bursted with briny flavor and topped with a mix of tuna, creme fraiche, and more roe. Of the four, this was definitely my favorite.

Our last amuse bouche was another play on a caprese salad. The Tomato Consomme with Fennel Foam was beautiful, rich, and pure, accented only slightly by the airy fennel foam. The Basil Mozzarella Bubble exploded with basil-infused liquid and left my mouth with a small cube of straightforward mozzarella.

Before our first course, we enjoyed a selection of four different breads. My favorite was the aromatic and savory Bacon Bread, because, let's be honest, how could that not be amazing, especially with little bits of bacon in every bite.

Our first course (finally!) was Kanpachi served as a crudo with Munak Ranch celebrity tomato, Australian finger lime, red onion, and crispy buckwheat.

The texture and cut of the fish were the most notable when this first came out. The toothsome pieces of fish tasted similar to a cut of yellowtail, but with less buttery goodness. The lean texture of the fish was brightened up by the clear tomato, lime, and red onion dressing, while the buckwheat added a nice crunch similar to, say, Rice Krispies.

Course number two featured a Santa Barbara Sea Urchin underneath a bed of soft scrambled eggs, which somewhat reminded me of the Hot & Cold Foie Soup with Corn and Tortilla de Patatas "New Way" in flavors, presentation, and textures at The Bazaar.

I could have eaten a good gallon of this stuff. The creamy eggs melted in my mouth, followed by a rush of fatty, sweet, and briny uni. The bread crumbs on top added some neutral texture to the first few spoonfuls, but melted with everything else by the last. So, so good, and the optional addition of caviar makes me wonder just how much more delicious this could possibly get. This was easily my favorite of the night.

Next was a plate featuring a Bobby's Block Island Scallop sitting on a bed of crushed almonds and nori, and flanked by several leaves of tatsoi spinach and a baby beet pur
ée. The foam tasted of almonds, which added just enough nuttiness to each bite of scallop. The beets added a sweet, earthy tang to the mix, while the nori brought some familiar Japanese flavor to the plate. Thankfully, the other components on the plate did not take away from the beautiful scallop. The scallop itself, really, stood on its own. Perfectly seared, perfectly toothsome, and perfectly seasoned.

The fourth course was a Wild Black Sea Bass. As if the picture wasn't enough to convince you, let me reassure you, the fish was perfectly cooked and had an addictive, crispy skin. The fish itself was juicy and fatty, and melted in my mouth with each chew. The generous slab of sea bass sat on top of a bed of cranberry beans, squid, mussels, and clams. Each piece of seafood was to die for, and the beans were cooked al dente to add some textural contrast.

The penultimate savory course was a Wild King Salmon tightly hugged by a crepe-like layer. Again, the fish was perfectly cooked, filled with fatty goodness complemented by the crepe's buttery starch. The plate also flaunted some distinctly flavored and slightly saut
éed maitake mushrooms, a scant portion of pork belly to add even more fat to the dish, and some corn. The overall effect was an unexpected approach to a perfectly constructed surf and turf. The earthy flavors of the mushroom balanced the fattiness of the pork, while the sweet bits of corn complemented the rich salmon wellington.

Our final savory course was a Marcho Farms Veal Tenderloin. I thought that this course would be my least favorite of the night, only because it had nothing to do with seafood. But no. This dish was just as good as every other seafood-centric course I had that night. It also helps that this dish used my favorite mushroom, chanterelles. I mean, look at how bright, meaty, and delicious that chanterelle looks up front. The veal melted in my mouth, which I'm guessing was a product of probably being sous vide. The roasted sweet grapes were just sweet enough to make a traditional jus unnecessary, and the fennel balanced out any excess sweetness with some of that distinctive black licorice flavor. What a great plate of meat.

Before dessert was a selection of Market Cheeses chosen from a cheese cart. We got a sottocenere, a creamy and not-so-pungent bleu, a soft brie-like cow's milk, and a hard manchego-like cheese (sorry I didn't get a chance to catch all of the names). This came next to apricot preserves, blueberry jam, and roasted walnuts and hazelnuts.

The palate cleanser, a Cucumber-Mint Frozen Yogurt in Melon Soup was simple, but memorable. The frozen yogurt had just enough tartness and the bright flavors of cucumber and mint were unmistakable.

The melon soup was clean and came with small, tapioca-like balls of cantaloupe and honeydew. Palate very cleansed.

The final course featured a Regier Farms White Nectarine, which hung out next to some almond cake, raspberry pur
ée, a raspberry foam, micro basil, a strudel and olive oil crumble, a merengue cigarette with raspberry dust, and a burrata ice cream. If this dessert only had the crumble, the ice cream, and the nectarine, I would've ordered another three plates of the stuff. The nectarine was incredibly sweet and refreshing, the crumble was buttery and salty, and the burrata ice cream was creamy and was simply addictive when eaten with the crumble.

The meal ended with a tablet of mignardises. From left to right, there was a habanero mint gel
ée, a strawberry macaron, and a ginger chocolate marshmallow. All three were delicious, but the gelée was my favorite. Spicy, refreshing, and just enough sweetness. The strawberry macaron was beautiful, until I broke the shell before I took this picture. The marshmallow had the nice bitterness of dark chocolate and a solid spunk from the ginger. Ginger and dark chocolate. One of those awesomely delicious couples.

As I left the restaurant, I took one last look at the small, unambitious logo. Although I have no idea what the logo means, a lot of the dishes my parents and I ate were just that--a whirlwind of seemingly unrelated lines and directions that eventually came together to create a round, well-balanced circle of flavor.

The bill was rough, but not insulting. The three of us left entirely satisfied and happy, but Providence is definitely a place for special occasions. Providence not only fits the financial bill, but also the unforgettable-experience bill, both of which should add at least some palpable, or palatable, form of grandeur to that special occasion.

5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 460-4170

GET: The Market Menu.


  1. I hate the wall barnacles, but the food is great. I love the bubbles, and I want the uni egg...

  2. Omg these photos are amazing. I particularly like the one of the final course! So solid.


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