I’m back from tying on the feedbag in Los Angeles and can report that Mason jars are all the rage on the best tabletops. Mason jars usually filled with duck pâté or duck confit. Big Mason jars, little Mason jars. I have no idea how or when this trend developed, but there it is.
On my last blog posting in surveying a few LA restaurants last May, I was pleasantly surprised at the three places I wrote up. But this visit, things started slowly.
I really wanted to like newly opened Caché. I really, really did. I wanted to like it because it’s helmed by Josiah Citrin, who 10 years ago opened one of my favorite Santa Monica restaurants, JiRaffe. Not only that, The Los Angeles Times dining critic waxed enthusiastically about Caché, Citrin’s latest Santa Monica venture on the site of the old Shatzi restaurant on Main Street in downtown.
Plus, the space is mostly beautiful. Guests enter by walking up a few steps past greenery and then step inside. However, thanks to inventive ceiling coverings, you’re really back outside in good weather with the sky above you. For cocktails, there’s a long bar or a seating area with big cushions and a fire pit. Dining tables are scattered around in the dimly lit front part of the restaurant. A more formal, ceilinged dining room takes off to the left in the rear, and we were given the far table, which turned out to have little air movement and was too warm. A request to be seated in the open-air section up front was granted immediately, and our table of six was happier for it.
We ordered pâté and duck confit for the table, and the obligatory Mason jars arrived. (I’d had pâté in a Mason jar that day for lunch at a Houston’s—wannabe called Westside Tavern in the Westside Pavilion.) Both the pâté and the confit were rich, though the texture of the pâté was surprisingly thin. (The Times reviewer called it “silky,” which is a much kinder word.) I’d go for the confit.
One of my dining companions ordered the calamari as a main course and found it inedible, as appealing as a fat rubber band. Interestingly, the server did not comment on the fact that all but one bite of the dish remained on the plate when she removed it. I began with the bone marrow offering, which I found clumsy, with a mushroom foam topping that added little. Maybe I was just unlucky to have so many small bits of bones on my tiny spoon each time I scooped out a bite of marrow. The appetizer made me remember fondly the bone marrow plate I’ve enjoyed much more at Wolfgang Puck's CUT steakhouse at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. However, Caché’s flatbread offerings—another popular trend at LA restaurants these days—were very, very good.
To be fair, this was my first visit, and I’d like to give Caché another chance, especially in light of the very positive review from the Times critic. Maybe we just hit the place on an off night.
Next week, two more LA eaterie—one that made me sort of happy, another that made me VERY happy.