Simplicity seems easy but it is difficult; very difficult. To specialize in the creation of a single, relatively uncomplicated dish, particularly one that is familiar to diners, requires perfect execution. I have great admiration for small menus.
L’Assiette, on Melrose Avenue, is an example of a restaurant built on the premise of perfection. The name itself means, “the dish.” And what is that dish around which this establishment is centered? It’s the iconic French favorite, steak frites. Meat and potatoes — what could be simpler? And simultaneously, what could be more daunting?
Three elements are all that the dish requires: steak, pommes frites and sauce. L’Assiette’s sauce is a trade secret of French-born chef/owner, Jacques Fiorentino, and good luck getting him to spill the beans (hint — there’s probably no beans). If you have allergies, they’ll answer yes/no questions to let you know if you’re safe, but that’s about it.
As for the steak, only the perfect cut of beef will do; something tender and bursting with flavor. The choice: the Coulotte cut, aka, the sirloin cap. This is an exceptionally lean piece of meat, grizzle-free and with little if any marbling (unlike the people usually found wearing coulottes, but I snarkily digress). It is as flavorful a cut as you’ll find without reliance on fat, and was traditionally the cut the butcher would take home to his family.
That steak is cooked sous-vide, a process that ensures the meat is cooked evenly throughout. Translated, “under vacuum,” this method involves vacuum-sealing the steak in a plastic bag and bathing it in hot — but not excessively hot — water for about four hours. The result is a tender piece of evenly cooked flesh that has retained all of its juices. From there, it is quickly pan-seared, giving it a nice crusty outer layer and then sliced.
The fries are classically skinny and cooked in beef tallow, giving them a deep, rich flavor. They are an ideal tool for mopping up the gravy-like sauce of the dish. You’re getting hungry, admit it.
The ideal way to enjoy the dish, in my humble opinion, is with foie gras and black truffles (for an additional fee, of course). And for starters, do not miss the sorrel soup — it is on a short list of the most delightful surprises I’ve tasted this year.
But being that this is L.A., L’Assiette offers a variety of vegetarian- and pescetarian-friendly options, as well, e.g., a salmon salad and sandwich, as well as a portobello frites with peanut oil pommes frites, rather than beef tallow.
The wine list is exceptional, of course, the service impeccable and the space gorgeous.
7166 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Open seven days a week
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m
Dinner: 5:30 p.m. to midnight
Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and Bizjournals.com, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.
All photos courtesy of Scott Bridges.